‘Try not to tender more than R50 in Taxi fare’ - A guide to using local taxis

Commuters getting into a taxi: Image: File Photo
Commuters getting into a taxi: Image: File Photo
Image: Image: File Photo

With petrol prices overtaking those of gold and platinum, you may be thinking about using public transport. I feel duty bound to provide a basic user guide for first-time minibus taxi passengers.

If you think Robert de Niro was something else in Taxi Driver, wait until you meet our guys. I think Robert's famous line, ' You talking to me?' came from research conducted right here in Johannesburg.

Of course, if he'd dug deeper, he would have learned such traditional greetings as 'fuseki' and  'ms..u we..a. I don't know what the latter means but assume it's one of those cheery exchanges like 'have a nice day.' Delivered in a New York accent, it would have spiced up the dialogue considerably. 

To basics: Should you ever contemplate sitting up front in a minibus taxi, please be sure that your math is sounder than that of a former government head (or the woodwork results of a popular leader).

Or else carry a good, simple calculator. Once in the front seat, you automatically become taxi cashier - unopposed. On a good day, you answer to some sixteen passengers and the driver for fares and change; on a bad day thirty or so. Heaven help you if the books don't balance.

Sit in the back seat only if you have the slender form of a sixties model. Back seats of minibus taxis are God's revenge on us for what we do to sardines. Do make sure that you have everything you need in your hands. Trying to reach your pockets once wedged in is an exercise in futility. It is excruciatingly embarrassing to have a lady yell: Stop touching my thighs.' Worse still if it's a man yelling.

If you need to ask the driver anything, expect replies of no more than one syllable. If you greet him and he grunts in reply, be content. That's about as friendly as your average Jozi taxi driver gets. He's probably the sort of whom his colleagues say: 'Gumede's okay but he talks too much.'

Try not to tender more than fifty rands in Taxi fare. Drivers are intensely superstitious about carrying change. You could find yourself alone on a cold, dark Jozi street that is straight out of the set of Mad Max.

Do take along a book or have some interesting content on your cell phone or iPad. Unless of course you are the sort of masochist who enjoys watching his life flash before his eyes - several times; mind you, it could be handy for recalling forgotten things (like where you left your cell phone).

Don't be too surprised at the condition of the vehicle. It costs a lot to maintain the sound system so that it can blast out the latest hits at top volume. There's little left to maintain anything else. Many taxies pump out gospel music or lively sermons. You may think this odd when contrasting choice of content with driver behaviour and demeanour. Hey, nobody's perfect. 

These minor issues aside, you can sit back and enjoy the adventure with those magnificent men in their flying machines. Believe me, you are guaranteed adventure every time. 

Yours in the struggle to keep moving on.

Richard J Mann

This post first appeared on Richardjmann - Visit the blog for more 

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