the 67 (part II)

It turns out that the man spitting fs and ks at the window yesterday was in a foul mood despite it being his birthday. I heard him talking to another passenger this morning, on the seven-ten. He said he used to work for C&A, and they killed Kennedy. She said she’s in advertising, and he said That’s interesting. The seven-ten is much more crowded than the seven-thirty. Full of people – children going to school, adults going to work, or going home from night shifts. There’s a woman who does a night-shift in a private house. I notice her when she goes into work at five-ish. She leaves at seven in the morning. Who needs a maid for the night? What does she do? The ironing? The washing-up? Is there someone ill inside the house? My assumptions, here, tend towards the negative: I assume her boss is exploiting her and making her work at night for no particular reason, other than possibly that she wants company at night because she’s afraid of being alone. The maid is quiet, self-conscious and a bit jumpy. There’s someone else I notice on my way to the bus, a guard who sits outside the architects’ place from seven until seven. He sits on a solid plastic chair, his legs apart, elbows on knees, looking down at the pavement. You always look sad, looking down like that, I said. No, he said, not sad. I’m tired, he said. He has to be up at four in the morning to wash and breakfast, catch the train, take the ‘taxi’ (small minibus bus) and then walk to work. And then he sits all day outside the architects’ until seven in the evening when he makes the journey home again. It’s a bit quicker, he said, I get home at about nine. That’s four in the morning until nine at night – devoted to work. Seventeen hours. And he’s paid badly, he said. I didn’t ask how much, but I have no reason to doubt him. And people want the crime to stop here…

Another guard, a man who wears a blue uniform, belted, and a blue short-pillar-shaped hat, black laced boots and carries a cellphone, does a daily shift on the block where I live. He’s self-employed. He charges households to keep an eye on things. He’s not armed, but he’s another pair of eyes and ears. He has a shed, with a kettle, and a small cupboard, and a chair. It’s a sentry box, if you like, with a door. He works seven until five, I think, and then another man does the night shift. Not all the houses on our block pay – some simply freeload. I’ve seen the list so I know which people don’t pay, but no doubt hope to get a bit of free security. It’s only 150 Rand a month. That’s about £11 in English terms, or $20 in American. Not a lot to pay for round-the-clock security. But here, in my neighbourhood, where people own Mercs and Beemers, it’s too much for some. Instead, they can buy four nice bottles of wine. Anyway, I know the other security men a little, but I know this particular man, the boss, N, the best. He’s the most optimistic South African I know – I’ve been waiting for Zuma to come in for years, finally we Zulus will get what we deserve, we’ve been treated so badly by Mbeki who gives everything to the Xhosas, the Zulus are neglected, you’ll see if you come to K-Z-N, Zuma is good for this country, he’s a man of the people, like us – and because of that, I like his company. He works hard, he says, because he has six children, some in Soweto, some in Kwazulu Natal, and he has to put them through school, feed them, help them support their own children, his grandchildren. He calls us up regularly on his cellphone, sometimes he calls us from just outside the garage where we live. Are you alright? he shouts. Yes, we’re fine. What are you doing today? he shouts back. Oh, this and that, we say. And then I notice I can hear the dog bark echoing down the phone, the same dog that’s barking in our garden. N, I shout, Are you outside? Why don’t you come in? Why don’t you bang on the door? Oh, I don’t want to disturb you he says, People around here like to rest. Ah, yes, N gets the northern suburbs neighbourhood down to a T. He understands it, observes it, masters it, and feeds it back. He’s a mine of information. Yesterday, he gave me a present, a CD. He’s a musician, you see: not just the man in blue who strolls the streets to protect the middle-classes from their fear and their fate. He’s got a whole world outside of our block. Does he compose his songs as he strolls our streets? Does he sing about us? His fearful flock? More from N to come…


One thought on “the 67 (part II)

  1. […] preachermattharris wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptFull of people – children going to school, adults going to work, or going home from night shifts. There’sa woman who does a night-shift in a private house. I notice her when she goes into work at five-ish. She leaves at seven in the … […]

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