I wrote to you recently speaking about my traumatizing automotive experiences here in South Africa. I may have sounded a little hysterical. Sorry about that.
I've decided to take the bus instead. With mixed results.
It worked out great last night in Pretoria. They ferry us around on media shuttles here - big Greyhound-esque coaches. It was the Sun papers' Morris Dalla Costa and I again. No, I won't be signing him up as a dependent, but now that you mention it I might ... never mind.
We zipped out of the stadium after the great USA-Algeria match. The bus was pulling away. We got in front of it all Tiananmen Square style and waved our credentials. They stopped and let us on. We were the only media on the bus.
Along with the driver were a man and woman talking in one of the native languages. Nice people. They asked us if we were American. We said, 'No. Canadian.' Then they asked us when Canada played. Something tell me they weren't big soccer fans.
So the bus is moving slowly through streets clogged with fans leaving the game. Then we hit a roadblock. As I may have mentioned, things are a bit chaotic here organization-wise. Some roadblocks you zip right through. Some won't let you through for any amount of begging and swagger. And which is which depends to change every 15 minutes.
This one wasn't going to let us through. The bus driver moved to juke off into a side street, but the woman on board jumped up. She began screaming through the windshield at the private security staff manning the roadblock. In most cases, you can't hear someone when they're screaming inside a sealed bus with vuvuzelas going off everywhere outside. In this case, you could.
She began to scream - again in the local language. The only word Morris and I could understand was 'V.I.P.s'. We looked at each other, and back at her, and realized she was talking about us.
"V.I.P.s!!!" she hollered. Her voice was an awesome force. It nearly blew the roadblock open. When she threatened to dismount the bus and remove the roadblock herself, the cowed security staff hopped to it.
The bus proceeded through. She retook her seat and restarted her soft conversation with the man sitting beside her.
A few hundred metres up the road, another roadblock. This time staffed by paramilitary police. One of them stepped in front of the bus. Again, the bus driver went to make a detour. Again our protector leaped from her seat and began haranguing them through the windscreen. This time it didn't work. She motioned to the driver to open the door. Morris and I looked at each other. Uh oh.
She descended to the bottom step and began hellaciously waving her finger in front of the cop's face. Once again, the only word we understood was "V.I.P.s" - pronounced "VEEEE!-EYYYYE!-PEEEEES!" She looked on the verge of hitting him - seriously. She was on our side, and I was afraid of her. For a terrible moment, I thought it might actually descend into a physical confrontation. And the despite all his weaponry, the cop wouldn't have stood a chance.
So I went up to the front and said, "We're happy to walk from here."
She didn't even turn. She just waved her hand back, said "NOOO!!!!" and began screaming at the cop again.
"No, really, our car is parked about a half block from here. We're perfect."
She turned back to look at me. She was a very handsome middle aged woman.
"Are you sure?" she said.
"Really, this is great."
So she turned around and tore some more of the cop's face off for a few seconds. Then she turned back to us, smiled and said, "Have a wonderful evening."
Morris and I piled off. The copy looked horrified. He may have been trembling. Who was this woman? We started to walk off. The cop abandoned his roadblock post and followed.
I stopped. He stopped. I started again. He started again.
I looked at him, and shrugged.
"She told me to escort you to your car," he said.
"There's no need, really we ..."
He interrupted me.
"I'm escorting you to your car."
Alright. And he did. I think he would've driven us back to Jo'burg if we'd asked.
The nameless woman on the bus is now my second favourite South African. After Charlize Theron.