against the clock

With cold sweats breaking out for lack of daily mainlined Barbara Campbell dose, deadlines are now self-imposed. Thirty-three minutes before the 1400 (local South African time) power cut slices into action, sweeping the East Campus of Wits into some sort of darkness (they say). The neighbourhood where I live (Melville) is on the same timetable, so no point going there. Thirty-one minutes.

I was reading this…

Ciak was created in 2001. A small capsule safely locked by an innovative, exclusive and patented closure. Thirty minutes. Ciak is the true friend of one’s daily adventures in life. Every human being has single moments of times which are worth capturing and hidden away [sic]. Ciak is a strong box for those moments but when needed, can be unleasehd simply by unbinding the embrace of the elastic. Twenty nine minutes.

… when a large young man, with tobacco breath and sweat, walked into my office. ‘I’m from the bank. I’ve got the money.’ Ah, I said, I was expecting a suited-helmeted figure with a gun. The man – suited with a thick leather satchel hanging from a shoulder – laughed. ‘No,’ he said, ‘just me, like this.’ He looked down at his body, blushing. ‘It makes me less likely to be targeted. It’s only when I’m carrying more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars that they give me a security guard.’ I asked him how he got here. ‘In a non-identified vehicle. It’s actually safer like that. But the people who organise the hits on people like me are normally former employees who have done the job. They know the form.’ I asked him if he was scared. ‘I’m a family man,’ he said, ‘I need to put bread on the table.’ He handed me a large wad of dollars. ‘You’d better count it.’ He showed me how to check the authenticity of the notes.

Twenty-four minutes.

He told me which job he’d really like to do, and how much money he’d really like to earn. He is keen to get out of his current job as soon as possible because of the risks attached.

Twenty-three minutes.

An email in my inbox, sent from a friend and titled ‘advice for new arrivals’ warns:

Visitors and residents are advised of ongoing criminal activity involving organized crime gangs targeting individuals at shopping centers and in particular at the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg. Once a victim has been identified, he/she is followed back to his/her residence and robbed, usually at gunpoint, although the use of force is generally reserved for those offering some form of resistance. These gangs tend to target more “affluent” individuals, including people driving expensive cars, wearing eye-catching jewelry, flashing large amounts of cash, and/or making high-value purchases. Criminals also gravitate towards “soft” targets – people who appear preoccupied and do not pay attention to their immediate surroundings. Tourists are being targeted in a similar fashion at the airport. It appears some airport personnel may be involved in the activity, apparently tipping off criminals waiting outside the airport once tourists have declared valuables and cash.

Twenty minutes.

We talk a bit about my trip. Where I’m going. He says he’s never been outside South Africa, ever, ‘apart from Lesotho and Swaziland’. He says he’d love to see Angola. I show him a photo of a truck, half of which has disappeared into a pothole in Luanda. I carry on counting the money. He warns me to put it somewhere safe. And to lock my door incase someone comes to steal it.

Nineteen minutes.

Before he leaves, I squash something thick and papery into his hand. ‘We’re not supposed to accept that,’ he says. But I remind him he has risked his life for me. They should protect you properly, I say. The act makes me feel seedy and exploitative, I think.

Eighteen minutes. He leaves.

Then, as desired, it can be closed again with the sharp release of the elastic on the cover producing the sound that gave this journal its name… Ciak. Young and sexy, Ciak slips quickly into peoples’ pockets and bags everyday. It is the status symbol of today’s writer and traveller and has no age discrimination. Sixteen minutes. Thanks to trendy colours and materials, stylish paper, and to its innovative closure, Ciak has become the journal of modern artists who love its touch and its feel and its versatility for sketching. It has become the journal of students who find it perfect for teenage secrets and dreams. It has become the journal of professionals who have found a concise structure to its pages and an intelligence in its size. It has become the journal for businesspeople who find it a sleek and compact file for all those complicated notes. It simply has become the journal for home and for office, for work and for play,

Twelve minutes

for good times and for bad. What people find in Ciak is a book, a diary, an address book or a journal, but they also find a friend for every moment and every situation in life.

Power will be cut in seven minutes.