Pa­tience is a virtue for poor bat­tling to find work and make liv­ing

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION - Sher­lin Barends

MY late grand­fa­ther was a pa­tient man. Per­haps he was just liv­ing up to his name, Geduld (the Afrikaans word for what the dic­tionary de­fines as “the ca­pac­ity to ac­cept or tol­er­ate de­lay, prob­lems, or suf­fer­ing with­out be­com­ing an­noyed or anx­ious”).

Or per­haps Oupa was pa­tient, be­cause poorer peo­ple gen­er­ally are, or are forced to be more pa­tient.

Pub­lic trans­port is a great ex­am­ple of this.

In mid-Novem­ber last year, a Ja­panese rail com­pany made in­ter­na­tional head­lines. It apol­o­gised af­ter one of its trains de­parted 20 sec­onds ahead of sched­ule.

Though none of the pas­sen­gers com­plained, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Tsukuba Ex­press line re­leased a state­ment to “sin­cerely apologise for the in­con­ve­nience”. The train left at 9:44:20 and not 9:44:40.

A cou­ple of weeks later, at the end of Novem­ber, ev­ery­one was talk­ing about our be­lea­guered Metro­rail. More specif­i­cally we were talk­ing about may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for trans­port in the City of Cape Town, Brett Her­ron, and his “ter­ri­ble” three­hour train ride from Khayelit­sha to the CBD.

Who could for­get those live tweets and his “pained and emo­tional” cries to cam­era be­fore he walked out of the frame.

There’s no time for tears and tantrums when get­ting to the train sta­tion at five in the morn­ing is your daily re­al­ity. In­stead you’re pa­tiently im­pa­tient, hop­ing that you’ll get to work on time and that your pay won’t be docked.

“Metro­rail’s cen­tral line ser­vice re­mains sus­pended.” This sen­tence has been part of my traf­fic re­ports over the past four weeks. To many, those six words mean noth­ing. Yet, there are thou­sands who de­pend on Metro­rail’s busiest route. Work­ers from Mitchells Plain, Khayelit­sha, Bon­te­heuwel and Langa, etc, are now forced to make use of al­ter­na­tive trans­port.

I spoke to some whose lives and liveli­hood have been af­fected.

Mishka has al­ways opted for the Golden Ar­row Bus Ser­vices in­stead of the train. The 29-year-old copy­writer sim­ply can’t af­ford to live close to work in Green Point so she com­mutes from Athlone.

Usu­ally this would take her 45 min­utes to an hour, but in the ab­sence of a work­ing cen­tral line, her trav­el­ling time has dou­bled.

“The lines are ex­tremely long. Some­times there are no lines, sim­ply a stam­pede where peo­ple fight for lim­ited seat­ing. Some of the older buses have re­ally strong side mir­rors, which peo­ple hang on to as the bus moves, all to en­sure that they’ll be first in line.”

Her life has been im­pacted in other ways, too. “I’ve been late for work prac­ti­cally ev­ery day. When it’s time to go home I of­ten can’t find a space and need to wait for the next bus. It’s a ter­ri­ble waste of time. When I get home I’m ex­hausted, but I only get to go to bed once I’ve cooked and cleaned.”

But don’t think the train is­sue just af­fects the buses. Taxi queues are just as long.

Glo­ria knows this. The mid­dleaged do­mes­tic worker from Langa ser­vices five homes in Vre­de­hoek (she walks the dogs too).

“I need to take two ex­tra taxis ev­ery day now. That’s R20 per day. That’s R100 per week and R400 per month,” she says mat­ter of factly.

She’s clearly made this cal­cu­la­tion be­fore.

“If I’m late, a por­tion of my ex­pected R250 gets cut.” And it’s more than just her pocket that’s af­fected, it’s her safety too: “I came home later than usual and was robbed 20m from my house. Metro­rail must sort out their stuff.”

The sus­pended cen­tral line means more clients for taxi driver An­war. “I’m trans­port­ing a lot more peo­ple to town in the morn­ing,” says the driver from Bon­te­heuwel.

“Traf­fic is heav­ier dur­ing the early hours of the day and dur­ing the af­ter­noon. At least fill­ing up the taxi takes a lot less time.

“Peo­ple walk around in Hei­de­veld and Ma­nen­berg look­ing for taxis, which makes our jobs easy. We (the taxi driv­ers) can’t keep up. We’re win­ning. It’s nice,” says the mid­dle-aged man who has been in the taxi busi­ness for 15 years.

A trip from Bon­te­heuwel costs R12. An­war isn’t shy to say that he has al­ready made R2 000 that day. “Metro­fail is not an is­sue for me. As long as I make my money it’s fine.”

Pa­tience is a virtue. If you’re poor it’s part of the pack­age.

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