An old, bad habit makes an unwelcome comeback

The bad old days are here again. The price of petrol has brought back a bad practice that we thought had gone the way of the dodo.

The bad old days are here again. The price of petrol has brought back a bad practice that we thought had gone the way of the dodo.

Taxi drivers used to pick up a load at the taxi rank and then drive off the route to a particular garage. The driver would fill the tank, check the batteries, water and tyres.

The driver would shoot the breeze with the petrol attendants and make plans for a bit of weekend fun, while his passengers fumed impotently in silence.

In those days no one would have dared to correct the driver's behaviour because they had sjamboks and knobkerries especially meant to keep passengers docile.

The taxi driver would donner you before throwing you out of the taxi. He would inform his colleagues and you would have to walk home since no other taxi would take you.

Those fearful practices are over these days since Madiba liberated us from a lot of bad things. Taxi drivers are mellow and if you are lucky you might even get a chatty one.

Other drivers specialise in playing gospel music to calm down their passengers. The soporific message sends a lot of passengers off to sleep and there are seldom any loud conversations.

But the petrol stopover has reared its ugly head again. The drivers have taken to buying a R100 worth of petrol at a time. It seems that each load must pay for its energy needs.

The stopover stretches because drivers want a receipt to keep track of their expenses.

I remarked about this to Auntie Emma, and also about the new tortoise speed that is now common.

In the old days taxi drivers used to boast that they could drive a full load of passengers from Germiston to Johannesburg in seven minutes.

This feat has become a myth, what with the perpetual traffic jam on the M2 East. Now drivers travel well below the speed limit to conserve fuel.

Auntie Emma, who knows these things, explained that reduced fuel intake leads to low speed. She said this was good for the environment even if that means we would all arrive late at work.

She explained a lot about air combustion and free flow or some such science. It made sense when she told me, but it went in one ear and out the other. The result is that drivers go slow to save petrol.

Another practice that has come back via the back door is the four-four a seat. The drivers are not responsible for this one.

It is the passengers who cheekily overload the taxi because they suspect that they will have to wait a long time for the tortoise to cross the finish line and come back for another load.

Auntie Emma says the petrol price will go down once the Olympics are over. She says it took a lot of petrol to build the stadiums, athletics villages and to transport participants to the end of the world.