The non-V.I.P. treatment
So I was telling you about our bus adventures yesterday. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Until this morning.
Morris (Sun), George (CanWest) and I set off to the Jo'burg hotel where the media shuttle picks you up and ferries you to the stadium. We were headed to downtown Ellis Park and the Italy-Slovakia game. Right - fun. High spirits. All that. We get on the bus around 11. It sets off.
We're trading war stories. Until we hit the big traffic jam. All the traffic at the other side of the road is at a standstill. A police helicopter is landing on the highway. Directly, in front of it - a body wrapped in a tarp. Grim. No more war stories.
We're about a half hour into our journey when it occurs to me that the bus seems awfully crowded with Asian and Scandanavian types.
"This is going to Ellis Park, isn't it?" I ask George. Like he would know.
No, it's headed toward Soccer City in Soweto, ahead of the Denmark-Japan game. We're on the wrong bus.
No stopping it now. So we strap in for the ride. At the park, we ask the drive if he might, please, take us back to Ellis Park. No go. It is about this point that Morris has a psychotic break. Morris has been asked to do a daily video for his chain. The video thing is time consuming. Morris is on a deadline. That deadline is now a fond memory.
Morris begins zipping around the car park, bellowing "Elllllllis Park!" at the top of his lungs. No more joy this time. Morris is leaning in car windows. He looks dangerously like he might climb in and take over.
Eventually, someone agrees to bring us back to hotel where our adventure started. We've now wasted about an hour and a half.
On the bus, we realize that we're on a different route than the one we're used to. Where are we going?
"I'm in soccer hell," Morris moans.
Eventually, we do wind our way back to the hotel. We start piling on the second bus. It occurs to us to ask this time. It's going to the airport. We pile back off the bus. Morris is now darting around like a carnival barker. He says something so funny - and so unprintable - that George and I nearly wet our pants.
Eventually, Morris corrals a citizen who is willing to take us to Ellis Park for 150 Rand ($20). We get into what I charitably call his 'automobile'. The windshield appears to have been hit by a meteor. All the windows are rolled up, but there is a strong breeze hitting us in the back seat. The air conditioning is off. I believe a gusting wind is leaking in through the dashboard. I'm not sure how that is possible.
We are driven through the teeming streets of downtown Jo'burg, which are a bit grim - like the rougher parts of Philadelphia, we've agreed. Morris is now nearing entry into the sixth-dimension of reality. The driver is growing concerned.
We pass a lovely house in the middle of the diliapidated skyscrapers. There's a sign out front: "Blasting to take place on _____". The blank part is probably important to local residents.
"Why are they blowing that house up," Morris wonders.
The driver shrugs.
"Probably to plant grass. And then burn it," says Morris. George and I nearly wet our pants again. Morris has lost it. The driver speeds up.
We hit the first roadblock. Morris' hair is now standing on end. He looks like the middle-aged Italian Bride of Frankenstein. He starts shrieking about being in "a terrible hurry." The terrified security staff let us through.
We get to another roadblock. This time it's a cop. Where's the V.I.P-lady when we need her? Morris turns on the charm. He really is a charming fellow. Morris has his hand on the driver's shoulder, trying to push him, us, himself and the car through the roadblock while he continues negotiating with the cop. Eventually, he promises that it will be "our little secret" if he lets us crash through the stadium's security cordon. The cop relents.
We get to immovable concrete blast barriers and then de-car. We walk down the wrong road and are refused entry to the fan entrance. Morris is letting out a long, dangerous, low moan. We finally reach the gates - three hours after we started.
As we enter the media courtyard, an Italian film crew is in the midst of a bit. One of the guys is wearing a blond wig and pretending to be, as best I can tell it, a crazed woman who has crashed the news broadcast.
Suddenly, things don't seem so irritating.