MANY years ago I wrote a column for some weekly paper and shared with the readers my moment of paralytic stupidity in the face of what could have been racism - or plain inter-racial camaraderie.
Indulge me again.
It was in the heady days when white people in this country swore their undying love for former "terrorist" Nelson Mandela, and blacks and whites discovered they had all along had a crush on one another after decades of trying to obliterate one another.
I had recently discovered a butchery in my (then) conservative neighbourhood that sold mouth-watering pork knuckles.
Soon I was a regular, and the (white) female owner got to know my order even before I spoke.
I think God has endowed blacks with the inexplicable talent of spotting whites who dislike us even if they say or do nothing, and I could tell just by looking at her that once upon a time this woman had in all probability been an AWB cheerleader.
But damn it, these were the days of uhuru and she was trying to do the fashionable ubuntu thing - smiling, small talk, the whole shebang.
That was until one day she took it too far. I walked in, beaming peace a la new South Africa.
"Hello, Meneer Varkie..."
I lie if I say I threatened to break every bone in her body. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time, hence my momentary paralysis.
I stood there grinning like an idiot, wondering if I should do my race proud and chant "one settler, one bullet" or if that would be "small" of me and misunderstanding of an innocent, jocular remark.
I could not make out if she was being offensive or just "nice" but by the time I decided she was being nasty, I had long left the shop and cooked and eaten the "varkie".
I am reminded of this tragi-comical episode by some of the responses I got to last week's piece about blacks who like to gossip about whites, thinking (wrongly) that they do not understand.
It seems as if we do not wholly understand one another.
A storyteller friend who read the piece tells me of an incident he witnessed in Pretoria, when a white man sneaked into a parking bay ahead of a black driver who had arrived first.
I don't know if I believe my mate or not and leave it to you to decide the truthfulness or otherwise of his tale.
He says the hapless black fellow stormed out of the car and confronted the white guy, flailing his hands in the air in anger and demanding furiously: "I came here first. Kanti, how are you?"
In any African language, that is confrontational. It actually means "where the bloody hell are your manners?"
It can also mean: "You were badly brought up, you swine!"
But to the white(s) it means something altogether different.
Hence the cool, calm response from the white motorist: "Fine thanks."