Uber Tales (35)

I should write, I think as I walk. Not writing makes me morose, but what should I write? Could I resuscitate the boring piece about Uber Architecture that is sticking in my inner writer’s craw? Nah, besides being boring, it’s going nowhere.

I’ll write about what I think as I walk. I’ve just been to have my police clearance renewed. I’m slightly apprehensive because the last time I went for the same, it turned out that I committed fraud from the Cape to Koekenaap and many faraway places in between. It took six weeks to clear my good name and I had to go all the way to the Pretoria CBD to do the same, yes, the Pretoria CBD. I also had to stand in a queue with other suspected criminals. I shudder at the mere thought.

I walk past the Greenside Shul and think back to the time I was a Jew in the army. “Visser! How can you be a Jew with a surname like fucking Visser? The corporal shouts in my face. His breath has a hint of death or garbage truck. I recoil but keep my cool. I’m sorry he put the expletive where he did, otherwise the Jewish Board of Deputies would have been all over his ass. Yet, it also has a bit of unintended alliteration to it. In the army you take aesthetics where you can find it.

“My mother was a lass Cohen, sir and in Judaism you can’t be sure you’re Jewish unless your mother is Jewish. You know what we men are like, sir?” My use of the words ‘lass’ and ‘sir’ are designed to annoy him. I succeed. “Don’t you be calling me fucking sir! You can call the PFs and the officers sir, but not me! Call me corporal! “Right corporal, can I board the bakkie now, lest I be late for Shul?” My Jewish co-conscripts are generous in their support of my Jewishness. “He’s Halaal, Kosher and Sushi, corporal,“ they shout. He is on the verge of apoplexy, saving me another whiff of his breath as he motions me in with his head.

My weekend pass has begun. On Fridays I go out to the Sunnyside Shul in Pretoria, a mere block away from my flat and on Sundays I march back into camp with the good souls of the Free Church of St John. It pays to be a Jew in the army. You get to eat in the Kosher mess to boot. The food is better and there are no queues. Praise the Lord.

Many years later I tell a stupid and innocent girl who regrets that her fiancé will not be conscripted ‘to become a man’ that the only thing I learnt in the army was to lie with a straight face.

I walk past the Parkview golf course and think of the time H (Eish!) booted me out of the long white limousine she hired for the Gay Pride parade. My offence had something to do with a lesbian and her boob. H caught me unawares when she came down from the sunroof where she was distributing long-stemmed red roses to promote her gay bar.

As I leave the vehicle with the gentle assistance of H, my one slip-on shoe stays behind. So much for free love and a bit of decadence, I sigh. There’s no way I’m going to walk anywhere with only one shoe. Eish! There was no Uber back then, so I limp along.

Today I walk on bravely to shorten any Uber trip I might be tempted to take. If I was merely averse to spending money before, I am now fully allergic.

“These short trips are killing us,’ I tell my Uber driver when I finally call an Uber with 2.6km to go. “I’m sorry for the short trip,” I say and I mean it. “The other day I had a record-breaking 27 trips in one day and didn’t even sniff my target’s backside. It’s death.” My driver agrees. “And garbage,” I add. He agrees. “We’re cheaper than fucking tuk-tuks!” He agrees.

“The problem is that those 20-buck specials also make you wait and call them before they show themselves. People can be real assholes.” My driver agrees. I also always agree, in a kind of a limited way, with what my passengers say in my car. It saves a lot of bother.

“God is great,” a passenger says out of the blue and shoots a pointed glance in my direction to see if I agree. “It would appear so,” I say, making a slow movement with my head as if to nod. “Pastor Sprays Doom,” says the newspaper poster on the pole. “Just look at the beautiful autumnal colours in the trees,” I say. She is convinced.

With me no longer walking and thus having very few thoughts at Nuno’s where the Uber drops me off for a beer since my car is in for a service, I’m forced to return to the piece about Uber Architecture, if only to remove the obstruction from my inner writer’s craw.

A beautiful sight…

“Architecture as far as the eye can see,” I tell myself. “Yep,’ he agrees, ‘Uber Architecture, but is it the right hour for this type of architecture?” “Enough of your negative vibes, it is always the right hour for this type of architecture,” I say firmly. My device goes ping-ping-ping. I give myself my best ‘I told you so’ look.

Now, I look to my right and left and see lone standing, suburban residential houses. That’s not Uber Architecture. Behind me there’s a mosque. It can be Uber Architecture, but only at a specific hour on Fridays.

I like the futuristic architecture of the Sandton CBD. I know it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I like it. Is it Uber Architecture though? It is and it isn’t, at least not for me. You get a lot of trips, but they’re short and you have to locate the asshole standing behind a pillar looking out for you on his phone, getting irritated. An irritation he will soon visit upon my person by giving me a low rating.

Since there’s nowhere to park near the pillar he chose behind which to wait, I have to drive around the block twice before he realises that his chances of finding me would be greatly enhanced if he looked for me on the street in an easily recognisable car instead of looking at a small icon on his phone. I drop him off at his destination on the other side of the block, which I passed twice. I then use language loudly in the inner sanctum of my car as I accept my next FUCKING SHORT TRIP! I sigh.

Incidentally, what have they done to the Benmore Centre in Parkmore, or is it in Benmore? Is less more? I suspect the architects thought so. I mean, after many months of giving it a ‘facelift’ it now looks like a dry-docked tugboat from the one side and a jack-knifed truck from the other. They must have spent millions on the project to get that result.

Julius Malema and the EFF would still like to have it though. They can replace the H&M shop they trashed recently with something that sells cheap sweets and airtime. There are many who would enjoy the good address and the cheap rentals.

A passenger, who lives in the area, meekly tries to defend it until I point the tugboat out to him. He laughs and agrees. I do this deliberately to amuse my passengers. When last did your Uber driver have an opinion about architecture?

Whenever I drop off somebody, my first impulse is to assess the architecture around me. As I said, lone standing suburban houses do not crack it unless they are very opulent. Then, I’m in with a chance.

The architecture I’m looking for is cluster housing. Cluster housing as far as the eye can see brings me trips untold, but as this story unfolds it is clear it is heading nowhere, apart from being boring.

By the way, a strange thought occurred to me of late, even on my morning walk today: “I don’t trust myself driving under the influence any longer, especially when I’m asleep.” I thus hide my car keys from myself when I go to bed. It’s a bit of a bother to find them when I get going again in the morning, but much less so than trying to explain a new little kvetch on my car to myself. Be smart and take an Uber, even for short trips when you go out drinking.

You can still give me money to make up for the short trips you take. Donate to: Capitec Savings Account: 1463736582.

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