‘Whiinbeyeg, Cluirmoont, Mobree, Caaap Toooon. ‘Whiinbeyeg, Cluirmoont, Mobree,
To you that’s – Wynberg, Claremont, Mowbray, Cape Town, but it sounds lot more melodic with the taxi-style rap. Minibuses known as taxis to the local Cape Town population are an extremely popular mode of transport.
It’s an experience not to be missed although some people might disagree. And as you travel through the streets of Cape Town with me don’t visualize the stylish taxi which you might treat yourself to once in a blue moon.
No words can truly describe this alternative mode of transport, but stylish they are not! Disregard safety throw caution to the wind and take the rollercoaster ride of your life. After all, it only costs a few Rand.
SARDINES IN A TIN
The eternal chant of Cape Town’s suburban names carry on the wind as the taxis hurtle through the streets, stopping and starting, hauling willing and unwilling passengers aboard. And if you weren’t intending to go to Wynberg or Mowbray, tough, you go anyway. Stuffed in like sardines in a tin you concertina up and arrive at your destination a much flatter version than when you started out.
Some of you might say ‘wonderful’ and think it’s a great way to lose all the excess padding, but I assure you it soon pops out again after you’ve been ejected out onto the pavement. Sometimes you’ve been so squashed you have merged into the bodies near you and have taken on someone’s else’s aura, someone’s else’s shape, someone’s else’s bag.
(Ag no man! I didn’t mean to tief your beg. It slipped onto my arm.’) As you tumble out you ask yourself – ‘Why am I wearing one white sandal and one tackie? (Alternative trainer).’ You see some men emerge from these taxis wearing skirts and blouses, looking bemused and some of them looking relieved, happy to say – ‘Ag bru, this dress lekker.’ Time to come out of the closet as well as the taxi.
Stop! Start! Stop! Haul in twenty passengers and only one gets out. Stop! Start! Haul in thirty more passengers and only two get out. Arrive in Mowbray and twenty five more get in and ONLY two get out. Finally, arrive in the city centre and no-one gets out.
All mummified like stuffed animals with a glazed look in their eyes, skew limbs back to front and forever held in that position, mouths agape, last words, last thoughts, motionless and emotionless. Surprised in their final journey from wherever they came from to…..! And as the taxis full of inert bodies hurtle through the streets, we occasionally see one lone passenger and we wonder!
HOOKED AND COOKED
Waiting for a bus? Beware! Tie yourself to the nearest lamp post or the bus stop. Find something to weight you down, preferably not money or cell phones, your worries might be sufficient.
Why? Just in case you are accidentally sucked into the taxi. It has been known to happen as the taxi’s speed creates G force NASA would be proud of. And if you are brave enough to venture into the taxidermist’s world then don’t take your shopping with you. You ask me ‘why’. I’ll tell you why.
You get in with a bag of fruit and you come out with fruit salad. You get in with a bag of vegetables and you come out with soup. You get in with bread and you come out coated in breadcrumbs and cooked!
‘No extra charge, ma’am.’ Everything is ‘squashied’. You get in fat and you come out thin. That’s my taxi and I charge extra for that service. You want fat free you pay me! As for the meat you are IT, hooked and cooked taxi-style.
A TRUE STORY
Some pedestrians choose to ignore the taxis working on the assumption that if they don’t look or acknowledge them then they won’t be accosted. Forget it. Recently passing through Rondebosch in a taxi the driver veered sharply into the kerb and slowed down alongside an unsuspecting pedestrian.
‘Sir, you want a lift to Caaap Toooon?’ No response. The pedestrian walked briskly ahead the taxi continued stalking him. Then more sarcastically as we passed by the University of Cape Town, he shouted, ‘Sir, you want a lift to UCT?’ Still no response. The passengers were enjoying the fun.
The taxi continued to cruise along determined to get a response from the pedestrian. ‘Sir, you want a lift to Mitchell’s Plain?’ Still no response. ‘Sir, I’m on my way to heaven. Do you want a lift?’ Some wag inside the taxi said to the driver – ‘Hey Bru, you sure you’ll get into heaven?’
No worries if the taxi is full. They always have a spare plank of wood which fits between the seats. My husband’s reaction to that isn’t suitable for gentrified ears.
If you drive your own car in Cape Town be extra vigilant as these taxis will cut across you if they spot a passenger on the pavement. And if you hoot at them they’ll wave and throw a gap toothed smile your way.
They are fearless drivers, no doubt with time constraints set by whoever owns the vehicle. Regardless of all that, I think it’s a great mode of transport. You rarely have to wait long. They’ll stop for you ANYWHERE and will get you to your destination, usually, in one piece. What that one piece is I’ll leave up to your imagination.
But I must gloat here. I was driving along sedately when a taxi swerved in front of me, crossing over two lanes. I braked on time. He picked up his passengers and drove on after he had returned to the fast lane amidst a cacophony of hoots. I was staying well behind him in the middle lane when the car in front of me sped ahead. The taxi spotted a few more passengers on the pavement, cut across me again not even leaving room for me to veer around him.
A very welcome sound almost blasted my ears of. Waahh! Wee-oww! Waahh! Wee-oww! And that was the police car not the taxi driver. I sat and smiled and gloated. The police officer came over to me. ‘Thank you, Officer. You’ve been a great help,’ I said. ‘Step out of the car, ma’am.’ I could feel a look of stupidity on my face.
You know, when your whole face metamorphs into dull incomprehension, moth agape like a guppy. ‘Step out, ma’am,’ he repeated more aggressively. ‘It took a while as my legs are short, but eventually I managed to get out of the car.
My head reached his navel. I got vertigo looking up at him. ‘Ma’am we are arresting you. You do not have to say anything…….la la la la la. ‘Why am I being arrested?’ I squawked. He pointed to the taxi driver. ‘The driver of that taxi says you’re stalking him and trying to take his business away.’ ‘You’re joking! He laughed. ‘Yes, man! That’s my bru,’ he said pointing to the taxi driver. ‘Have a good day, ma’am.’ They all drove off having had the last laugh.
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
I am left with the burning question. If I’m walking to Rondebosch and a taxi going in the opposite direction passes by, why does it slow down? Why does the driver or gaatjie greet me in their effervescent tones with: ‘Caaap Toooon! Caaap Toooon!’ Are they hoping I’ll have a change of direction in life? There’s only one change I’m going through and that’s the change in my pocket, if I have any left!
Looks like you missing Cape Town!🤣
‘ I got vertigo looking up at him’🤣🤣🤣
Cape Town is so unique. I do miss it especially all of you my family, but Sleepy Hollow probably has more benefits, if one can ignore the bad weather.
Loved this story.Felt I was in that mini bus Helena.You have a great way with language and painting the picture.
Thank you, Mary. I’m amused they are called taxis. no comparison to black taxis in UK.