Something happened to me yesterday and I still cannot bring myself to forget it or the nastiness that it entailed.
We had left work and arrived at a well known college in Westville with the intention of fetching a first year student who travels home with us. I arrived, slowed down, my hazards were already switched on and I was out of the way of other vehicles. I anticipated a quick pick up as usual.
I must have been there all of thirty seconds when I heard an incessant, impatient hoot. The driver of a big blue car had his hand on the horn and wanted me out of the way. His impatience and upset was evident. The student had already slipped in, horrified at being the centre of controversy. As I prepared to leave, one hand up in apology and supplication, he moved across and blocked my exit and my little car was dwarfed. I thought he was going to alight, march towards me and do his worst. In a quiet panic, I hastily locked the doors which were already locked, fearing the worst. My companion quietly advised me to remain silent which was unnecessary as I was struck dumb. The irate driver rolled down his passenger window and what followed was a barrage of insults, profanity and disgust hurled in my direction. It was an unexpected racist onslaught and my first experience of road rage. After what seemed like an eternit y when it lasted all of two minutes, he sped off, still protesting and venting his anger on the hooter.
Almost numb, I realised I had to turn to join the next lane. The owner of the white vehicle behind me moved forward at the same time, He had an unfathomable look at his face and a half smile. Again, I pleaded with my hand and made a quick exit to the next lane and passed other cars who had lined up to wait behind the white car, Chagrined at having been in that situation and a victim of road rage, even when I had clearly done no wrong and publicly embarrassed too, I focussed on the road whilst the occupants of the car where silent.
En-route home, there was silence, the episode had cast a pall on the trip.
THIS was my new South Africa? This was what Nelson Mandela fought against all his life? For a short while, the image of our Rainbow Nation was tarnished in my mind. Where was the patience? Was chivalry dead? Although I had a “Learner” sign on the rear window (for my children when they began their driving lessons), was a good, capable driver, where was HIS tolerance? Where was the milk of human kindness that I practiced and preached? Is this what the future held for us? Did he attack because I was a “Learner” driver or a Woman? Twenty years ago, my daughter and I were almost struck down by a white motorist in a previously “white” owned area.
Lately, there was been many racist issues of note, Penny Sparrow with her rants. Who cannot forget the much tweeted episode in the Spur eatery? I mentioned the upset to a colleague who advised that I should have had the presence of mind to whip out my mobile and record the episode. It could have been a deterrent and he would have driven away without further ado. On the other hand, his reaction could have been physical and could have worsened an already volatile situation. As it was, I had a challenging day and his vulgar rant was the cherry on the top.
Still shaken, at home, I remembered all my special people, amongst them, Black, Whites and Indians, and I concluded, that he must have had a bad day. I hoped that he would feel remorse and resolve not to subject another person to that sort of behaviour.
Life is tough for all of us. We are all battling demons in some manner or the other. What do we take with us when we leave this earth? Not our fancy cars, inflated egos or chips on our shoulders. We take nothing besides, hopefully a good name and a legacy of having lived a good, decent and honourable life.
Let us give the other the benefit of the doubt.
Let us continue to be shining examples as Nelson Mandela’s South African children.