Uber Tales (36)

Uber Moments

Martin (43), the millionaire from Middelburg has a meeting at 10am in Midrand. It is about building another mall. He knows about it and all. He gets off to a slight late start and is irritated by that. He guns his Mercedes AMG 500 down the N4 at 195km/h, then sometimes at 210.

He gains some minutes. His GPS tells him that the 10-minute argument about nothing he had with his wife Karen (35), delaying his start by the same number of minutes, would soon be wiped out.

He regrets he had to leave his son Simon (7) crying, but this meeting can make him a billionaire and he’ll make it up to Simon over the weekend. Simon should also toughen up. His calling Karen a ‘gold-digging cunt’ should not upset the boy so much.

At exactly 3 minutes to 10am, Martin takes his foot off the pedal and smiles on the M1S just before the New Road exit. He will be there at 09:59. He slows down to 110km/h.

A bridge collapses at 09:58,07 on the M1S. Martin is exactly under it. That takes some timing.

“Moments, moments, moments, that’s life. Most are regrettably forgettable and some are regrettably unforgettable, but all together they constitute life and quite random at that.” Chuck is hungover and therefore in a philosophical frame of mind.

“I bet you’re thinking of the R1100 a night free government accommodation?” I tease him because I know what he is thinking. “Or is it the R1000 drop of fruit juice?” His reply is a sigh.

“You’re basically thinking of money again, but since you’re too proud to admit that, you’re trying to shroud it in a philosophical cloud. You’re always thinking of money, that’s why you can’t write, you tell me?”

“You’ve got me,’ he says with a rueful smile in a rare moment of frankness.

“I was thinking of the free government accommodation at R1100 a night and the opportunity cost of a further R1000 when I couldn’t work the next day and then the R1000 drop of fruit juice the next day and then the damn R2400 brake pads the next day and the opportunity lost while I waited for them to be fitted and so it fucking goes on. Of course I’m always fucking thinking of money because we always have a lack of it

“Tell me about the R1100 free government accommodation,” I say.

“I take an Uber from Hell’s Kitchen on 7th Street, Melville to Marks Park and Shirley says who’s gonna pay my bill and I says: “YOU.”

I’m away.

I drink some more with #NotMyJax at Marks Park. We do this often, #NotMyJax and I. It is for the peace of it.

It is a clean non-affair. We drink two drinks together and I rub her back. Then we go our separate ways, as always.

I take an Uber as I came. It is a Friday night and when I get home, I forget this and only remember a slight hunger, a pesky little peckishness. I take my car to Nando’s, 500m up the drag. Nando’s is closed. McDonalds is just 500m further. I forget it is Friday night. Across the hill and down the slope a host of cops awaits me in the dark. I swerve into a side street and they are there too. My goose is properly cooked.

I blow into their pipes and I soon find I qualify for a chauffeur. My chauffeur is hard of hearing. He ignores my instruction to go through the McDonalds drive-thru and proceeds to the Brixton cop shop drive-in instead.

I’m impressed by the efficiency with which the nurses take my blood into little bottles. I compliment them on this. They are efficiently unimpressed.

I see the cell. It is one big cell. I’m one of the first in, second in fact. I take four gym mats and make myself a bed, deliberately not thinking of the French proverb about how you make your bed, you’ll sleep.

I take gym mats and six coarse, but clean, blankets. I sleep. Four blankets over my body, one under my head and another over my ear, but I can still hear.


The soon to be silent new inmates are noisy when they arrive. They’re fresh from the bars they left. They laugh and swap stories about how they got caught. Then they go silent. But new ones come into the night, keeping the noise up. They interfere with my intention to sleep through the whole ordeal using all the skills I acquired during my long spells of unemployment. A sleeping man does not consume much.

The morning comes cold and clear. The 28 other inmates and I are quiet in our reflection on the mess we’re in. They are mostly black and I can’t understand when they speak among themselves. I hear the number 66 and a ripple of laughter spread among them with glances in my direction.

I think of the old joke about the new inmate asking the old-timer why the other inmates burst out laughing whenever one of them shouts out a number. The old-timer says each number represents a joke all of them know, hence no need to retell it. The rookie decides to try his luck and shouts out ‘26’. He is greeted with a surly silence. “What did I do wrong?” he asks the old guy. “It’s a lame joke AND you told it poorly.”

The ‘66’ refers to how far I was over the limit. I gain the respect of my fellows. I’m also the only one with an extra packet of smokes.

We get ‘processed’ two-by-two. I eagerly await my turn. After all, I was second in. Surely the FIFO principle must apply? In the end, as the day drags on it becomes clear that it’s going to be FILO, First In, Last Out. Is it because I’m white? Thoughts about my race didn’t occur to me before. Now they’re racing through my mind.

Everybody is out. Everybody, except me. They are keeping me in solitary for I don’t know how long. I have no way of telling the time. My cellphone is dead. I don’t know if they want to extort a bribe.

George and Vince came to pay the bail (bless their souls) and George even slips the Sarge in Charge a 100 extra. I frown upon that, but can’t bring myself to stop him.

I’m thirsty and hungry. The waterspout is in an alcove and there’s no vessel to drink from. I finally fill up an empty cigarette pack and drink from that. Now I’m just hungry. The solitary toilet is overflowing in a stinky way.

The minutes drag by with an hourly sway. I’m going crazy. What do they want from me? Kafka comes to mind.

There’s an old banana-cradle phone on the desk. It is nicotine stain yellow. I worked in the public service 100 years ago. I dial ‘9’ for the switchboard. It still works!

I ask to speak to the young coloured lieutenant who ‘processed’ me. He’s very busy, says the switchboard. I dial ‘9’ often after that. The lieutenant remains very busy. I keep the switchboard busy. Finally the Sarge in Charge comes for me. He mutters something dark about my lack of gratitude for him having escorted me to my car to get my dead phone. I sign off on my bail application in the lieutenant’s office.

The Brixton cop shop is deserted but for one ‘client’ on that Saturday afternoon. She’s a pretty girl forlornly filling out a form.

On Monday I eat a green square of spanspek. I see the drop form in slow motion on one corner. Time stands still. My laptop is on my lap. I will my hand to move. The movement is too fast or slow. The drop dislodges, drops and disappears into my keyboard. Another blow. My laptop dies on my lap. My brakes neigh a noise. I sigh. Later I tell #NotMyJax that I’m broke but happy. Another moment, you see.”



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September 4th



September 2018
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