Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Road Angels are on duty

South Africa is known for its lawlessness on the roads. While ordinary law-abiding citizens are expected to (and do!) queue for hours and pay repeatedly for our driver’s licences and roadworthy certificates, the vast majority of drivers speed along the country’s highways and byways in vehicles held together with spit and string, without licences, arrogantly breaking all known traffic laws and continually putting the lives of their fellow road-users at risk.

So two recent road experiences, on consecutive days, made me realise that the Road Angels are hovering close by.

The first one was when my daughter and I, returning from a weekend at my fab flat in Yzerfontein, hit a pothole, which decimated the wheel rim and flattened the tyre. (For non South Africans, potholes are endemic in this country.) We pulled over, then opened the boot and emptied it of our weekend baggage to get at the spare tyre. I wasn’t looking forward to the slog of changing a tyre on the roadside, so you can imagine my delight when a bakkie containing two men pulled up behind us. They hopped out, greeted us cheerily, and quickly and efficiently changed the tyre. Five minutes later, with an equally cheery bye-bye, they hopped back in their little bakkie, then (get this) turned around and drove away.

The fact that they drove off in the direction from which they’d come, so clearly hadn’t just happened upon us on their way to some other destination, made us draw the obvious conclusion that they were sent by the Road Angels.

The second incident, which happened yesterday, was in its own way even more delicious. This time, my daughter was at the wheel. She’s a newly licensed driver and is still gaining confidence, and we were on a long blind rise, in a 60kph zone, with a double white line demarcating the middle of the road (ie, no overtaking allowed from either side).

Suddenly a large truck roared up behind us and, in true South African style, the driver left a matter of a few centimetres between his vehicle and ours. He was so close that in the rearview mirror you could see the whites of his eyes.

My daughter didn’t want to pull over onto the hard shoulder (a peculiarly South African habit, apparently) to let the bully past, as the blind rise prevented her from seeing what was ahead, and hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist would obviously have ruined our (and their) day. So she stuck her ground and kept to the speed limit, while the truck driver revved impatiently behind her, keeping dangerously close and mouthing obscenities.

Finally (and, again, in true South African style), the truck driver, ignoring both the blind rise and the double white line, simply swerved out to try to overtake. We were cresting the rise as he did so, and – surprise, surprise! – an oncoming car suddenly appeared on the other side of the road. My daughter swerved towards the hard shoulder; the truck driver panicked and pulled back in, narrowly avoiding colliding with both us and the oncoming car.

We were shaken and furious. It’s fuckwits like these who cause the carnage that happens on South African roads on a daily basis, and it often appears that traffic authorities either just can’t or won’t do anything about it.


The next minute, a Metro police van came racing up from behind, siren blaring and lights flashing. Oh joy! The police had been travelling behind the bullying truck driver, who was clearly so intent on getting past us that he hadn’t bothered to look in his rearview mirror!

We slowed down to give the Metro guys a huge thumbs-up, and watched, whooping with delight, while he pulled the truck over.

Thanks, Road Angels! You’re doing a great job!

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MzHartz said...

Ah, I love sweet, sweet, immediate justice.

Muriel said...

I know, isn't it fab?? And it happens so seldom that when it does, it really makes your day!

ali g said...

A guy tried to terrorize Lady Chatterley once like that but he didn't realize I was behind him in another car...his mistake...