They saw through my cover and zipped their lips

A usually lively taxi ride turned into a dead-quiet journey on Monday. I sat next to the driver and was the designated accountant - I collected the fares and dispensed small change.

A usually lively taxi ride turned into a dead-quiet journey on Monday. I sat next to the driver and was the designated accountant - I collected the fares and dispensed small change.

It took me some time to notice that there was no chit- chat. At first I thought that everyone was sleepy because it was hot and muggy. But I had a funny feeling at the back of my neck.

I was slightly apprehensive, as if something dreadful was about to happen. I looked back and saw someone hastily fold a copy of Sowetan. It was only then that I understood why the day's ride was so unusual.

No one was talking because they thought they were in the presence of the enemy. They had seen my picture on the front page of Sowetan and a note that I would write about the goings-on in the taxi. They did not want to attract the attention of mmaditaba, that is, a journalist.

I was stumped. I did not know whether to tell them that I was not interested in who switched their meagre grocery bag for a fatter one. Or that so-and-so wears the same dress for a week (or was I?).

I debated with myself whether or not to tell them that I was more interested in the resurrection of Jeff Radebe, the minister of transport, and their take on it.

I mean, the man is awake after a long hibernation, he is in the news, selling us the taxi recapitalisation programme. What a laugh!

Radebe certainly did not consult me. If he had I would have told him that the seats in the new taxis are tortuously painful.

They were designed for skinny models who never use taxis. South Africans are built on an ample scale and need big-bodied seats, if you get my drift.

I mean, you see the beauty babes whizzing everywhere in glitzy BMWs and Mini Coopers. Not one of them would stoop to take a taxi ride. Besides, some of these taxis have already been converted to carry extra seats by their enterprising owners.

Aside from the baby seats, the proposed taxis do not have enough windows that open. I know modern vehicles have air-conditioning, but no self-respecting driver will ever switch it on, not even in 2010.

That suggestion would have commuters rolling around with laughter. They know the score: air-conditioning chows petrol. We are lucky if heaters are switched on in winter.

But no one wanted to talk to me, let alone look me in the eye. It was as though I were in a glass cocoon - no speaking, no rustling, no coughing, absolutely no connection.

I now know what a lion feels like, feared and respected but lonely as hell. Anyway, time might melt their hearts and then they will regain their natural African ebullience.

l PS: Remember Abea, the subject of this column last week? She called to say she did not enter the Soweto Marathon. It seems I was the only member who ran it, albeit on my couch in front of the television.

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