Clown car to hell
I was prepared for adventure. I had hoped it might involve wildlife.
Today, half of the Canadian media contingent made its way back to the Jo'burg airport to pick up our rental car. Easy peasy. No, actually not. What rhymes with 'incredibly difficult'?
First, the Gautrain - the showpiece infrastructure addition to Jo'burg's public transportation system. It was supposed to go all the way to Pretoria. It doesn't. But it does go to the airport.
Chaos when we arrived at the Sandton Gau station to buy our tickets. There were five self-help kiosks. At any given point, one worked. A crowd roiled. The attendants - all young new hires - smiled through the bickering and the complaining. An impressive show of restraint on both sides, actually.
We five - Young and I from the Star, George Johnston from the Calgary Herald, Mike Zeisberger and Morris Dalla Costa from the Sun papers - poured off the train relatively none the worse for wear.
Gettting the car was simple - 45 minutes in a line four people deep, par for the course here.
Then the horrible moment when we saw the car. Some sort of miniature Volkswagen (ed.: It's a Polo, which is Zulu for 'short man'). In a perfect world, it might fit two. Zeis - who stands 6-foot-5 - called shotgun. Watching him wedge himself into the front seat was a little too much for me.
"I can't hear you laughing," Zeis said. "The sound of my ligaments snapping is too loud. George, what's the difference between an MCL and an ACL? Cuz I need one of them replaced."
The three in the back were even worse off.
We were smart enough to hire a GPS system. We were not smart enough to hire one that works. So as we sped out into the chaos of the Jo'burg highway system, we had no idea where we were going (or where to plug the freaking thing in).
I'm screaming at Zeis. Zeis is screaming at me. Everybody in the back is just screaming. We're careening down the road - which wasn't much different from anyone else swerving beside us.
Did you know that South Africans drive on the left side of the road? Yeah, it surprised me, too.
Finally, Zeis got the GPS to kick in. Then it was twenty terrible minutes of silence as Chris yelled out things like, "Right in 200 metres."
Me: "Right, right?"
Chris: "Yeah, right. Right."
Meanwhile, Morris is on the phone home saying 'right' intermittently.
Zeis: "Maybe we should switch from 'right' to 'correct'"
Finally, we recognized where we were - about a block from where we live. I nearly wept.
We unfolded ourselves out of the car, which involved Dukes of Hazzard style hood-gripping and frantic pulling. Morris' knee locked up. We pried him out. I kissed the ground a la Schiavone.
A couple of minutes later, George announced that he was headed up the street to pick up a power adaptor.
"Wanna drive?" I asked.
I thought George was going to hit me. I would've understood if he had.