Rules and ques­tions on hunt­ing for spares

The Star Late Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - are DE­NIS BECK­ETT In­spi­ra­tion strikes hard dur­ing a mis­sion on the Reef Con­tact Stoep: E-mail: dbeck­ett@global.co.za

ONCE a decade this is, I find, up comes a day of ir­ri­tat­ing runaround, catch­ing up on over­due chores and chas­ing wild geese in the form of in­de­fin­able spare parts for out­moded do­mes­tic ma­chin­ery.

Strict rules ap­ply to this kind of day: Rule 1: Your miss­ing part doesn’t have a se­rial num­ber, your sup­plier has to see it. Rule 2: Your most likely sup­plier mirac­u­lously hap­pens to be a five-minute drive away. Rule 3: When he un­earths the back of his store­room, he finds only the ver­sion that is 4mm too big and the ver­sion that is 3mm too small. Rule 4: He’s pretty sure that his cousin’s step­mom’s brother-in-law, Piet, has your ver­sion. Rule 5: Piet is in Rand­fontein. Rule 6: Piet has ex­actly the right size but in Bri­tish Stan­dard Fine thread where your fit­ting is Amer­i­can Na­tional Coarse. He gets on the phone and, af­ter a se­ries of ex­changes in a for­eign lan­guage called Sithifrican Squashed­vowel Techno­greek, whoops in tri­umph; yes, Im­raan has the con­nec­tor, ready and wait­ing for you at his place in Benoni.

There al­ways used to be a Rule 7, that teeth grind in­creas­ingly fe­ro­ciously and tem­per pushes ever higher into the red zone.

But this time, no. The first half of the odyssey, I’m too dis­tracted. Col­umn dead­line is im­mi­nent and no be­gin­ning of a sub­ject is in mind.

Then in­spi­ra­tion strikes like a huge red car­toon ex­cla­ma­tion mark. For the sec­ond half I re­joice in hav­ing found col­umn fod­der – in my mis­sion around the Reef.

Ac­cord­ingly I ask: Ques­tion 1: Aren’t these Piet/Im­raan net­works that cover the Reef beau­ti­ful? And 1(a): Do they some­day be­come Piet/ Im­raan/Sipho net­works? Ques­tion 2: What masochists South Africans on roads? To de­fend our right of way we squeeze up tight, pre­vent­ing a side-street ap­pli­cant from join­ing the stream. Then when ta­bles are turned and some de­cent cit­i­zen lets us in, he makes our day, and our wave of thank you makes his, and we think well of him and his tribe and his up­bring­ing and his val­ues and his chil­dren.

Two min­utes later we’re block­ing some­one again, of­ten even though we risk none of our own time. Some­times we as­ton­ish our­selves: “Why did I not let that guy in?!” I’d blame our mind­set’s de­fault – push, push.

In New York re­cently I was stunned that what had been a push-push mind­set has switched.

Es­pe­cially to pedes­tri­ans, it’s su­per gen­tle now. Do we come to a switch­ing time? This cen­tury? Ques­tion 3: The posters are ex­cited about the end­ing of Stan­dard Bank’s brief reign of co-MDs. Sim Tsha­bal­ala has the hotspot to him­self.

Some posters say: “Stan­dard Sim rules alone.” Oth­ers: “Stan­dard’s black CEO flies solo.”

One must ask (or at any rate I do ask), why the “black”? Yes, it was rel­e­vant in his­tory and pre­sum­ably even to this du­al­ity. But are we or are we not carv­ing a na­tion of plain South Africans, un­en­cum­bered by the ad­jec­tives of old? Ques­tion 4: The car-guard in­dus­try is im­mense. Ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing places where it seems un­nec­es­sary. A rid­dle ques­tion: Is it be­cause it ex­ists that it seems un­nec­es­sary; should we pay up hap­pily for it be­ing so suc­cess­ful that we think we don’t need it?

And, 4(a), A moral ques­tion be­cause it’s con­ven­tion to pay the car guard, the aris­to­crat provider of a ser­vice you didn’t ask for: Do we get un­fair on se­ri­ously sad cases who have no bar­gain­ing chip?

Is our at­ti­tude to­wards them: For­get it, Sad Case, I’ve done my Third World taxes for the day?

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