Sunday Times

Every black household has ‘that’ drawer


Black people are the most environmen­tally friendly humans on planet Earth. And I’m talking about all black people of African descent across the entire spectrum of the African diaspora. Yes, that includes Cubans. Pop quiz: what does every black household in the world have, regardless of economic status, class, nation, religion or creed (whatever creed is because that confuses the hell out of me)? Music? That’s a good guess. Expensive branded sneakers? Also a decent guess. And if they’re South African, a picture of a white, blue-eyed, blonde Bjorn Borg lookalike from the Middle East, with a name from Tijuana. All great guesses. But no! That’s not what I’m talking about.

Here’s a not-so-secret secret among black people, universall­y. Let’s say you see a €20m house on Clifton Beach and you’re told it’s owned by a black family. I’m willing to bet this house has one feature with a random structure made of plywood, corrugated iron and ANC election posters from 2009, with Jacob Zuma smiling creepily at you. That feature is a drawer stuffed with supermarke­t plastic bags: Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers, Boxer, Quality Save etc.

Yes. Black people don’t buy plastic bags and use them once. That bag will be recycled at least four to five times before it ends up on the head of a homeless guy under the Mooi Street Bridge off the M2 (more about that later).

If you go looking through the houses of Beyoncé and Jigga, Oprah and Steadman, or even Cyril (next to the couch with $20m), they’ll have one thing in common: a drawer stuffed with Checkers plastic bags

Yes, I just told you that if you have a look through Beyoncé and Jigga’s house, Oprah and Steadman’s apartment, or Cyril’s house (next to the couch with the $20m), there’ sa drawer full of plastic bags. It’s a black thing. On the morning of the “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King yelled at Coretta: “Woman, you move the plastic bags to another drawer one more time and I’m joining the

Klu Klux Klan!” I swear to God, even God had a plastic bag drawer in his house. And by God, I mean Morgan Freeman. I bet God narrates the eulogy to a plastic bag that’s served him well: “The first time I laid eyes on that Checkers, I didn’t think much of it. Yet here we are, three months later. The Checkers plastic bag swam through a river of Umlazi acid rain and came out smelling like steamed bread on the other side.”

That’s a convenient segue into my next point. Within the borders of Mzansi, the supermarke­t is called “a Checkers”. In my home province, that translates to uShekasi. And for the rest of this column, we shall talk about uShekasi. So, let’s break down the Transforme­rs level of versatilit­y of the word. For expediency’s sake, we’ll ignore the most obvious use which is to carry more stuff from point A to point B.

Any black person of good standing knows the only exception to the re-use rule is when you were ferrying raw tripe or a live chicken in the plastic bag. And yes, these two items are regular occupants of plastic bags of any black person worthy of being classified as part of the negroid race. It gets decidedly more creative from here onwards. Steamed bread, or ujeqe among the Zulus, is an unachievab­le feat without the yellow Shoprite plastic bag.

Yes, black Gautengers, I’m referring to the bread you’ve been erroneousl­y calling a dombolo (dumpling) all your life. What you do is simply place your dough in a plastic bag, tie a knot, dunk it in water and let Kobus Wiese do the rest. I can neither confirm nor deny that for best results, the filthy, soiled undergarme­nts of a female senior citizen are placed in the water. I’m not a superstiti­ous man unless it involves Bafana Bafana, for whom I bring out the tattered boxer shorts I wore on that fateful January afternoon when we lifted the Afcon trophy.

I remember walking into a Ranchoplus in Nairobi a few years ago and discoverin­g they’re on some Woolies trip and don’t provide plastic bags. Instead, they use a flimsy, biodegrada­ble net of sorts. If you’re not from Africa, this should make you understand immediatel­y why we don’t regard Kenyans as bona fide black Africans. Well, that and the accent. Anyway, I asked the fellow at the till what the Shoprite ladies place on their heads to save their Indian hair wigs during a rainstorm. The guy looked ready to answer me but the “move it along” look on the missus’s face convinced me to push the trolley and keep it moving.

It remains a mystery to me just what people in Kenya use to cover their heads in the rain without uShekasi. And how do the men keep their Carvela shoes dry in the rain? When they go to a funeral, what do they use to steal mounds of meat from the bereaved? What kind of Africans are these? Where is the Ubuntu? After all, there’s a limited number of Nestlé Country Fresh ice-cream containers any black household can have to put Tupperware out of business.

If Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had been Tyrone Washington and Maisha Brown from South Central LA, it would been “A giant leap for my homies. Peace out!” with a Checkers plastic bag waving in the background. If you’re still not sold on the versatilit­y of uShekasi, listen up. A friend I shall refer to as “The Dark Lord” on account of his features, once had a minor mishap while driving from Durban to Joburg one Sunday afternoon. That was back when you didn’t need to sell a full-grown cow to raise money for a return drive (do the calculatio­ns, I’m not being facetious).

Anyway, he stopped at the Nando’s in Bergview, Harrismith, for chicken. He didn’t know if it was undercooke­d chicken or a reaction to the spices, but by Warden he was stopping every 10km to play “squat in the bushes”. By the time he got to Paulshof he was wearing only his boxer shorts. He didn’t have loo paper in the car, see? The most interestin­g response to this story was from my mother. She listened intently and responded, “He should have had at least uShekasi for all those pitstops.” On an unrelated matter; I keep a folded uShekasi in my cubby hole. You never know.

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