Taxi rides can end with dry-mouth prayers if you have the strength

I literally had a taxi ride to hell last Friday. Because many companies close early on Fridays, taxis run erratically after 3pm. So I am sometimes forced to use another route to get to town.

I literally had a taxi ride to hell last Friday. Because many companies close early on Fridays, taxis run erratically after 3pm. So I am sometimes forced to use another route to get to town.

I boarded a taxi at the Highgate robots to the Johannesburg inner city. The taxi had already stopped - binding - so I did not notice that it was a total wreck.

The driver failed to get more than three passengers. Apparently a lot of people already know that his vehicle is a serious health risk and a road hazard.

He tried to start the taxi. It made ominous noises before it grudgingly set off. That's when the nightmare began.

It seemed as if the body of the combi was not properly welded to the chassis. It was as stubborn as a donkey. The combi weaved from side to side as if in a heavy wind. The steering wheel had a mind of its own.

The ignition was located somewhere in the middle of the dashboard. It needed the touch of fingers to get it going.

The taxi died several times right in the middle of fast- flowing traffic. When the driver was boxed in, he could not turn left or right because the gears did not work.

At some point they worked alright, just not the way the manufacturers had originally made them. The brakes did not work, so the driver used the gears to stop the taxi. The taxi could also not reverse, but that is another long story.

The seats were not bolted down properly so we swayed, bumped, swerved and came to jolting, abrupt stops.

But the last straw was when the driver had to lean half out of the window, almost like a giraffe, to judge the traffic flow. The side and rear mirrors were the wrong size and were badly placed.

There we were, facing forward, while the driver leaned out of the window like an amateur trapeze artist and glanced back at the cars behind us.

The minibus taxi danced from lane to lane and the one young lady screamed for her life.

I had long given up on calling for help.

There was a joke doing the rounds a few years ago about Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the taxi driver. It is said that St Peter allowed the taxi driver into heaven without hesitation but delayed the good Reverend while he perused the book of judgment.

When Tutu questioned this, St Peter said that the taxi driver, while he speeded and broke every traffic code, had led many sinners to pray to their God every morning.

My ride was in the afternoon and all I had was a greatly upset stomach. At first I was indignant, then furious and finally too frightened to talk or pray. A lady boarded the taxi near the Oriental Plaza.

She shrieked and called the driver names. She begged him to reduce speed or else to stop and let her off. The driver ignored her the same way he had ignored us.

She asked me why I did not say something. I told her that I had climbed aboard at Highgate and was dried out, and really I had nothing to say anymore. She understood.

We both got off with wobbly knees and dry mouths.

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