Thursday, 19 June 2008

Singing on the bus

All those taxi memories have gotten me thinking about my other public transport experiences in Cape Town. All in all, I survived 5 years relying on public transport because I couldn't drive, couldn't afford a car anyway, boyfriend went to Antarctica for two years, when boyfriend came back his car got stolen, they found it but it didn't move, and he sold it for parts. It is (or was, I don't know how safe it is now, I left in 2003) possible for a SWF to survive public transport unscathed. (There were always these urban legends about the trains though, never go on them things aloooooone, the train tokoloshes will get yoooou, so I always took someone along with me on them. Only a few nasty incidents, but we all survived to tell the tales.)

My best public transport experiences EVER were during the 3 months that I worked at Kirstenbosch. There is a bus route that goes through Bishopscourt, and I took the same bus with the same bus driver every day for those 3 months.

The exact same cast of passengers took this bus every morning: me, the token whitey (we must be politically correct), my friend who worked with me, a lone man who worked in the gardens (he was merely an extra, playing a similar role to me), and all of the ladies who worked as domestics in the uber-posh houses in the area.

These ladies were, well, wonderful! They talked and laughed and shouted and all knew each other and played tricks on each other the whole way to work. There was a ringleader, I think her name was Jo, who brought us all sweets, and chooned everyone and caused constant nonsense. Most of this nonsense went on in isiXhosa, much to my frustration, cos I couldn't follow what was going on, but occasionally they would break out into English. I remember her once declaring "I am a spy" and looking around at all of us, finding things that she could report to her "bosses". She also chooned the poor driver, a quiet, serious man, who in the presence of a bus FULL of women looked frankly terrified. She organised a collection on the bus for him at Christmas, poor man.

The best part of the trip, which was a rare treat, was when the ladies would suddenly break into song, these beautiful deep, rumbling Xhosa hymns, which they would harmonise and everything, as if they were all part of some bus-choir. That really gave me goose bumps.

My friend and I both agreed that the highlight of our Kirstenbosch working experience was the busride each morning.

Taking the bus in England is, well, not the same. The only songs that get sung are unintelligibly screeched out by drunken students, cos I think us European types are too inhibited to sing in public unless we are very very inelegantly wasted. Those songs can induce headaches and nothing more.

Otherwise we look forward, try not to touch, see, or notice anyone else, and there are no sweeties either!

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