Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Fates have a giggle with me in Cape Town’s morning rush hour

I didn’t really like the actress Sharon Stone until I read an article about her in which she said, ‘I like to drive with my knees. Otherwise, how can I put on my lipstick and talk on the phone?’ Then I loved her.

I was thinking about Sharon this morning while I was stuck in Cape Town rush-hour traffic, although I wasn’t actually driving and I wasn’t putting on my lipstick and I wasn’t talking on the phone. The traffic, two lanes of it heading in the same direction (I was in the left one), was at a dead stop and had been for about 15 minutes (bless our World Cup preparations, bless them).

Because I am unaccustomed to waking up before dawn and then leaving the house as the first sparrow farts, my at-home preparations had been particularly shambolic and, between begging (really, begging) the dogs not to eat the sofa or the outside cushions, pouring coffee down my gullet and finding clothes to wear that were (a) clean, (b) not too terribly wrinkled and (c) made after 1980, I’d done nothing with my hair except wash it.

My hair is long and tends to berserkness, and since I was en route to present a professional workshop, for which I was being paid good money, I thought the least I could do would be to turn up not looking like the Wild Woman of Borneo (which is what my late sainted mother called me practically my entire life, and not always only because of my hair).

Anyway, as I say, the traffic was at a standstill, so, keeping a close eye on the car in front of me in case it began to move, I started the laborious process of plaiting the longer, wispier pieces of hair around my face so I could pin them up at the back.

Which, for reasons that still elude me, absolutely infuriated the man behind me. Perhaps he’s not a fan of Sharon Stone. Maybe he, too, hadn’t been able to find his favourite pair of pants because his daughter had expropriated them. Perchance he’d had an argument the night before with his wife, who similarly has long, unkempt hair, and the sight of me plaiting mine brought back unpleasant memories. Whatever the cause, he became very agitated, and started making aggressive hand motions around his head while mouthing angry words at me. His meaning was obvious: I was to stop messing with my hair, and right now.

Weird, I thought, but since the traffic was still stationary and showing not the slightest inclination not to be, I continued with my impromptu hairdressing.

The man became utterly enraged. He put his car – a very smart new little Renault – into gear and edged it forward, jerking the steering wheel this way and that, and making it clear that his dearest wish was to ram into me from behind.

I am a little nervous of driving in the city as I have long since lost the ability to push dangerously into long queues of cars, neglect to indicate, tailgate people driving at the speed limit and hoot feverishly at drivers who don’t leap from the traffic lights like Olympic sprinters the nanosecond the light turns green – all vital skills for surviving city traffic. So, rather than have the man beat me to death with the baseball bat he doubtless had stashed under his passenger seat, I stopped doing my hair.

Just then, the right-hand lane of traffic – the lane we weren’t in – began moving, very slowly. The Renault driver spotted his chance. Neglecting to indicate (of course), he wrenched his wheel to the right and charged (honestly, there is no other word for it), motor revving, into the tiny gap that opened up between the car next to me and the one behind it. Dementedly racing his motor, he pulled up alongside me. My windows were closed and so were his, so I didn’t hear what he was screaming at me, but I didn’t need to: the purplish tint to his face and his mouth, opening and closing like a cartoon vampire’s, was plenty message enough.

But, silly Renault man, he was so busy shrieking invective at me that he didn’t notice that the car in front of him had suddenly stopped, and he ploughed right into it with a bang that I felt through my feet.

With the kind of timing that can only be attributed to divine intervention, the left-hand lane – the one I was in – began moving at that moment, and I drove slowly past Renault man, waving in a friendly manner. The last I saw, in my rearview mirror, was the man whose car he’d tail-ended climbing out, waving a baseball bat. (Not really, but one can dream.)

This experience buoyed me up through the entire day, and even when I got home to find the dogs had eaten the outside lamp (including stand, shade, bulb and about 10 metres of flex), my mood remained upbeat. Poetic justice can do that to you.

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ali g said...

Totally delicious story. I laughed so much that tears came.
Made my day that.

ali g said...

meant to say also..was walking out of the shopping area car park in town this morning when a woman in a car suddenly reversed out of her space and knocked me I got slowly to my feet she wound down her window and was expecting a worried 'Are you all right' but got a very nasty 'why don't you watch where you're going you f**king idiot.
Was too stunned to say anything back like
'your mother wears army boots' or something pithy like that and just slunk away & scuttled home to get some sympathy from my righteously outraged better half.
Since then have thought of all the clever replies I could have made but of course the horse has now bolted.
Glad you at least had some poetic justice. makes me feel better about my little episode today

Juno said...

Oh, serve him right, the little twat. SO serve him right. How I wish I had been there to see this.

Ali, there have been so many times that I've wished I'd made a stinging retort that I've actually memorised about six of the best ones. ('Do I know you?' ['No'.] Well, why are you talking to me?' is my favourite.) Trouble is, no one has been spectacularly rude to me since I came up with this list.

Anonymous said...

He was obviously a French hairdresser (a small Renault?). And you were probably doing your French plait ALL WRONG!

Mad scientist chef! said...

I cringed while reading that, and laughed. Cape Town drivers are the pits, really the pits. The men mostly but watch out for those women! I've been in Pretoria for almost 6 years now after having lived in Cape Town all my life and everytime I go back I feel like I need a baseball bat under my seat.

Karen Bessey Pease said...

I've just read your story at Ali g's recommendation and am grinning from ear to ear. I am a country girl from the moutains of Maine (USA) and I deplore city driving. Give me a 4WD, a dirt road and some four-foot snowbanks over obnoxious little men in little cars, any day! Glad it all worked out for you!

Only once have I had a clever come-back at an appropriate time. I was in the '10 items or less' checkout line in the grocery store one day...two little kids driving me nuts, long lines everywhere, and the man behind me in line leaned past me and peered into my cart. He scowled at me and said, 'You have eleven items in your cart, and you shouldn't be in this line! Can't you count?'

I said, 'You have a big booger on your upper lip and you shouldn't be out in public! Can't you blow?'

Hehehe. He wiped frantically as people glanced surreptitiously at his lip... it really was quite amusing, and I felt all my stress dissipate as I paid for my groceries and herded the kids outside.

The moral of this story? Ali g needs to watch where he's going!

That was my one shining moment

Muriel said...

Thanks, all, for sharing your stories (Ali G, I hope that woman's bum grows closed). Coming up with fabulous retorts after the fact is so annoying, isn't it? I think that's why the Renault man's comeuppance (delivered by the Fates, not me) was so satisfying.

Kazza said...

Now THAT is an excellent retort! Hehehe...

'I hope your bum grows closed!'

Can you remember that one for the next time you get run down, Ali g?

Muriel said...

Look what Johann found! A 'mini lifsetyle hair straightener' that plugs right into your car's cigarette lighter! Available in 'luscious pink or executive black', it is, apparently, 'ideal for the busy executive, time-pressed mom or everyday diva'. It comes complete with a 'dash-mounted holder' for 'ease of use, storage and safety'! As Johann wrote in his email to me, 'Next time you want to drive a man completely nuts in traffic, you could use this!'