Life can be unfair to good guys

Some people have rotten luck.

Some people have rotten luck.

They do every single thing according to the legendary book and choose to traverse the straight and narrow in life, hoping to reap the benefits.

Take my former schoolmate Simon (not his real name). When most of us kids strayed off the rails at every excuse, he chose to be, and do, good. When his peers started ogling girls, drinking, and smoking he chose celibacy, abstinence and every imaginable life trait that went against the impulses of youth.

I will never forget the early winter morning when I and a carload of mates were driving home from a wild night out. We saw him standing at a bus stop to catch the first bus to go to work. I felt sorry for the bugger, considering that he was almost always top of the class at school - not because he was particularly intelligent.

I wondered what it was he had done wrong to have landed in a job that required him to wake up and go and wait for a bus while we, the miscreants who did everything wrong in their childhood, were still quaffing booze in the shebeens.

Life had not been fair. Simon put his all into his work and was the square idiot who asked the teacher to punish him when he had done wrong, even if the teacher had not seen him. For example, he would join the queue of the kids to be spanked for noise making even if he was not on the class monitor's list.

He was so "correct" that when he grew up, he started talking in proverbs, a la "make hay while the sun shines ... the earliest bird catches the fattest worm ... Rome was not built in a day".

A few years after I saw him waiting for the bus long before sunrise, he was retrenched from his job, and his life went into free fall.

He tried selling insurance but many of us just fobbed him off when he presented his product to us. Nobody wanted to hear much of his "when-you-die" stories. That apparently did not work, so when the laws were relaxed and informal trading was somewhat allowed, he opened a spaza shop, but that too did not last long and he had to shut down.

He then donned a suit, clutched a dignity bag under his armpit and went back to selling insurance and investment products. This time he added cosmetics, clothing and furniture. He went around the township showing his catalogfues to anybody who cared to look and listen. Not much luck there either.

By then he was almost walking next to his worn-out shoes, and talk was that if his investment products were that good, why were they not working for him?

Every time you met Simon and asked him how things were going, he would look down, shake his head and mutter with reassurance: "Getting there brother. Soldiering on, soldiering on!"

I was, therefore, genuinely hurt for the brother when I met him at a supermarket recently, beaming with confidence, but patently down and out on his luck. He was standing in a Lotto queue and felt embarrassed. (Damn it, who except Patrice Motsepe does not play the Lotto?)

He was neat as always, but the sun had turned the colour of his navy jersey to an ugly shade of brown. The big pay day had clearly not come.

I asked him how he was ... as if I did not know: "Getting there brother. Soldiering on, soldiering on."

Life is not fair.