Archive for the ‘Metrorail Mondays’ Category

Making A Clean Living

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A guy in his early twenties leans on a broom while he waits for all the commuters to pass by. His demeanour is pleasant and friendly. Everyone passing by is greeted with a: ‘Good morning. Have a blessed day.’ Not everyone returns his friendly gesture but he continues nonetheless.

A lady is overcome by a sneeze and she hurriedly grabs a tissue from her bag. “Bless you ma’am,” the sweeper quips. She smiles and nods in his direction with tearful, bloodshot eyes.

“It must be the change in weather irritating you,” he says sympathetically.

“Uhmmm…” she responds, not really in a talkative mood.

“Here’s the bin ma’am,” the sweeper says, quickly dragging the container closer. “You can’t put that back in your bag. The viruses are going to jump right back up into your nose,” he continues with a naughty look in his eyes. She laughs, clears her throat and disposes of the tissue saying: “Thank you!” in a soft voice.

“My pleasure,” he replies, bowing his head and smiling back at her. He puts the bin down, whistles a tune, quickly walks a few metres and starts sweeping again.

Meanwhile a few metres away a middle-aged guy is quietly observing this joyful character. The sweeper disappears into a carriage, sweeps under the seats, and appears again to collect the dirt bin. The middle-aged guy is following all of his movements with interest.

“Chips pakkies, cool drink blikkies, lekke papietjies; Denzil makes it all disappear,” he happily rhymes trying to put a hip hop beat together.

A smile appears on the middle-aged guy’s face. “Ek sê Denzil, you have time for a chat?” he asks as the broom loudly thuds against the steel frames of the seating.

“Just a minute Grootman,” he shouts back from inside the carriage. “The dirt is so happy to see me today, it somma jumps into the bin,” he says, looking out the window. The middle-aged guy shakes his head and can’t help laughing at the antics of the sweeper.

After a few seconds Denzil appears with a leap from the carriage. He makes a few dance moves, using the broom as a microphone stand.

“War is not the answer; fall in love and conquer hate,” he sings, quoting a line from a Marvyn Gaye’s classic song entitled ‘What’s Going On’.
“Yes die grootman; hoe help ek?” he asks the middle-aged guy.

The guy looks at him for a moment with admiration evident in his eyes. He leans back, looks at the sweeper standing in front of him for a moment, then says: “I’ve been travelling on this line for many years but this is the first time I’m seeing you here.”

The sweeper whistles in surprise. “Grootman you are right. I’m a new kid on the block but I enjoy it. Cape Town station is number one,” he replies with both thumps up.

The middle-aged guy’s eyes go narrow. “Where are you from Denzil; if I may ask?” he enquires.

“Auw die grootman, I’m from a little town called Warrington. It’s too small for me; has little or no opportunities for a young guy like me, so I left in search of a better life,” he explains for a moment, dropping his eyes.

The middle-aged guy keeps his gaze fixed on Denzil. “So what are you doing here?” he asks with curious tone.

“Die grootman sien… Ek kan choose between either loaf at the traffic lights, be a drug addict and a gangster and die young, or make something with my life. Ek vat maa die laaste een,” he says, looking at a piece of paper blown across the platform by a gentle breeze.

“So you work here?” the middle-aged guy asks, sounding even more curious.

“Yes sir, this is Denzil’s Clean and Care Services. I used to sleep at the taxi rank on the upper deck. In the morning at 5 am my job was to clean the taxis in order to make a living. One fine day the owner of this cleaning business just happened to start talking and he offered me a job cleaning the station, ma’ ek gooi soe nou en dan ’n waentjie as ’n pasella in.
“That good guy arranged accommodation for me at a lodge and he helped me get enrolled to obtain my Matric certificate. Die grootman sien, attitude determines altitude. I’m grateful and thankful. So I keep my feet on the ground and reach for the stars… but I must go; ôs praat wee. Blessed day to you sir,” he wraps up his life story and rushes off to the carriages in need of his broom and bucket.

The middle-aged guy watches him in silence and wipes away a tear.

Urban Dictionary
die grootman The Afrikaans term for “the grown man” or “the big man” which on the Cape Flats is used as a form of respect when addressing an older man.
pakkies The Afrikaans word for “packets”.
blikkies The Afrikaans word for “tin cans”.
papeitjies The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word “papiertjies” which means “small papers”.
waentjie The Cape Flats slang word for “train or train carriage” which is from the same Afrikaans word which means “little wagon”.
passela An Afrikaans word for “free of charge” which comes from an Indo-Malay expression.

A Lost Tradition

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“Did you hear that Metrorail is on the brink of a collapse?” A young commuter turns to his fellow passenger.

“What do you mean a collapse?” The fellow passenger asks.

“Well, it’s financially ruined.” The younger commuter is obviously shocked.

“Oh, isn’t that old news? I thought that happened a long time ago,” his fellow passenger answers with a ‘whatever’ expression. He wears a T-shirt with the words ‘I survived’ printed on it. His younger, fellow commuter, scratches the back of his head looking confused and then asks:

“What do you mean a long time ago? My parents never told me anything.”

Mr ‘I Survived’ replies: “Parents normally tell you what you need to know not what you want to know,” and continues running his eyes over the page of the morning tabloid.

The younger commuter goes quiet, processing the statement of the older guy before firing back: “Our family discusses many things around the dinner table even newspaper articles, sport, politics and just about anything.”

Mr ‘I Survived’ looks up from the newspaper with a surprised expression. “Sit jou family ommie tafel innie aand?” His voice is controlled; almost as if trying to hide his surprise.

“Yes we do. Why are you surprised? Is there anything wrong with that?” the younger commuter asks, looking curious.

“No, I thought that tradition died out long ago,” Mr I Survived answers, before turning his eyes to the newspaper again.

“Do you call that a tradition? That’s the only practise I know. My dad says that’s the time we all are in the operating theatre. He can tell what’s bothering us or what is different in our demeanour,” the younger commuter explains with a smile on his face.

I need to bring back that tradition; my kids are becoming strangers to me, Mr ‘I Survived’ thinks quietly.

“Even when my sister and I have friends visiting, they need to join us at the dinner table. The toppie reckons it’s the perfect opportunity to check them out,” the younger guy goes on to explain.

Mr ‘I Survived’ looks at him attentively. Jirre, wanne laas het ek daai gehoor? he thinks with a sense of shock at how surprised he is. The thoughts of his childhood days growing up at his grandparents rush through his mind.

He sees his grandfather in his mind’s eye; a big man with a stern look.

In the evening at 6h00 pm exactly they all had to be at the dinner table and beware if you are not there.
‘Maria, I’ll have a second portion. Donovan isn’t in need of it. If he was then he would be present,’ he can hear his grandfather saying (Donovan is his older brother).

It is because of the discipline I received at that house that I never became a gangster. That discipline took me through my school career. It took me through my days at technical college, his thoughts continue to wander.

He hears the younger guy talking in the distance but his mind is not present. He sees himself way back in the past some thirty years ago. He remembers how many times he came to a crossroads in his life. The times he should have buckled under peer-pressure. Then it dawns on him; it was not luck. It has nothing to do with his intelligence nor the gods or the alignment of the stars. It was the values his grandparents taught him. How did he get so caught up in the trends of the ‘modern times’?

“Hello, excuse me, did you hear what I just said?” the younger guy interrupts his train of thought.

“Sorry guy, but I was not here for a moment,” he confesses.

“Where were you?” the younger guy enquires, inquisitively.

Mr ‘I Survived’ folds up the newspaper and shoves it in his bag; looks at the younger guy and says: “You took me back to a chapter in my life which I’ve completely forgotten about. I think it’s a good time to introduce my family to a period in my life which shaped me and made me the person I am today. I must thank you for reminding me.”

The younger guy has a bewildered look on his face. “Me? What did I do?” he asks pointing to himself.

“Yes, you buddy. I owe you.”

The young guy looks at Mr ‘I Survived’ and then looks around.

“Are you ok dude?” he asks.

Mr ‘I Survived’ smiles and says: “I couldn’t be better.”

Urban Dictionary
toppie An Afrikaans slang word for “old man” or “father/dad”.

jirre The Afrikaaps word for “here” which means “lord(s)”.

“Sit jou family ommie tafel innie aand?”

“Does your family sit around the table at night?”

“Jirre, wanne laas het ek daai gehoor?”

“Lord, when last did I hear that?”

Appreciating Life

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Finally it’s here; not the train, but bright sunny mornings with clear blue skies. The train is five minutes away according to the voicemail lady.
Five minutes feel like forever when you’re in a hurry.

“Excuse me, what is the right time? Please I think my watch is either fast or behind,” a guy asks a fellow commuter.

“Sure, metrorail can make you feel like time is standing still; it’s now 7h30 exactly,” the guy replies.

“Oh, so my watch is running perfectly. Thanks,” he says looking at the time in disbelief.

“I can relate to your moment of doubt. I often think I’m going crazy due to the train either being delayed or cancelled,” his fellow commuter, sporting a Euro hairstyle, replies.

With a sigh Doubting Thomas confesses: “I’m completely new to this. The last time I used public transport was in my student days.”

“My girlfriend is more clued up to this. She actually warned me to leave my Android at home and rather use a low budget phone.” The phone appears from his pocket resembling a dated version popular in the late nineties. “I don’t wanna be seen dead with this thing,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“Welcome to the club bru; look at mine,” Euro-hair says with a grin on his face. It is almost similar in style to the one Doubting Thomas has.

“What is this, why do we have to suffer this discomfort to accommodate criminals?” Thomas says with a raised tone and a frown on his face.

“Unemployment; poverty,” Euro-hair replies shrugging his shoulders.

“And obviously a market for stolen goods; It’s becoming a lucrative industry on top of it,” Doubting Thomas adds.

“Well people got to live bru; put food on the table,” Euro-hair says nonchalantly.

Thomas looks at him surprised. “Are you perhaps sympathetic towards the situation we find ourselves in? Just checking,” he asks in one breath.

Euro-hair is quiet for a second or two; cautiously gathering his thoughts.
“After your car gets stolen… that’s why I’m using public transport by the way… your house broken into…They took everything, they even took a shower. I just decided it’s useless being angry and bitter. I’m just more aware and careful how. It’s part of life’s lessons. Maybe I made bad Karma who knows?” he answers, again shrugging his shoulders.

Doubting Thomas is staring at him with wide eyes, speechless. “I can’t believe this. You lost your possessions and you’re not mad?” Doubting Thomas asks with the veins in his necks pulsing.

“No, why?” Euro-hair replies, looking at him surprised. Thomas is visibly taken aback by his calmness.

“Here is the thing pal,” Euro-hair starts by saying in a soft tone. “When you come face to face with death, when you are holding on, when every second counts and slowly but surely your life is given back to you, then every day is a blessing. Nothing is more important than appreciating the beauty and gift of life. Just to breathe and enjoy the beauty around us is more important than all the glitz and glamour we so dearly accumulate and treasure. I think I said enough. I should stop,” Euro-hair concludes in a soft voice. I won’t tell him that I’m a cancer survivor. Let him rather just wrap his mind around what I’ve said now, he thinks to himself.

Doubting Thomas looks at him in silence. I wonder what the near death experience was, crosses his mind.

The siren of the train approaching in the distance interrupts their thoughts. As they turn to face the oncoming train, Euro-hair touches Doubting Thomas on the shoulder and says: “I’ll share my story with you when the train is on time, deal?” He extends his hand, to wish Doubting Thomas well.

Doubting Thomas smiles, and softly says: “Deal.”

Four Seasons Day

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It feels like spring is playing hide and seek. It’s getting us excited with glimpses of what’s to come. Perhaps it knows something that we are not aware of.

The subconscious awareness triggered a conversation between a vendor and a commuter.

“Ek se girl djy’s darem kot gekap. Spring is nog biesag om haa yt te rek na ’n lang slaap,” the vendor teases. She can’t help giggling, but is ready with a quick response.

“Half past five vanoggend toe sê die son tieng in Worcester; djy het nog geslaap.”

“Wie ek? No ways, die taxis hoot al van five o’clock af, soe there’s no rest for the wicked,” the vendor retaliates.

He’s not done yet: “Dan kô kry djy four seasons in one hour mettie South Easter in the mix, soe watch ma jou skirtjie sweetheart.”

“By the way, ek is Jerome ma djy kan my Rompie noem. My wife won’t mind… Married once; divorced twice; djy kry?”

She giggles again but the question in her eyes says: Is that now true or what?

“Believe it or not we can fall in love,” he continues to tease.

She blushes looks down and hides her face in her hands. After a few seconds she looks up but he has moved three seats away attending to a customer.

“Moettie worry nie girl, I’ve got something special vir jou,” he comforts her as she looks in his direction.

“Hey Rompie come on! Djy likes aanlê by nuwe mense. Ou tricks van jou,” another commuter shouts from the opposite side.

“Ja en man wag lank. Ek soek cheese and onions,” another commuter shouts.

“Wait guys, just a minute. ’n Man moet focus,” Rompie replies. “Julle is wys; gie ek te veel change, no complaints, but gie ek te min, all hell breaks loose,” he adds as he tries to balance himself.

“Check jou change while I’m around,” he reminds the commuter as he walks toward the guys on the opposite side.

“Nou eeste,” the two of them say in harmony.

“Moenie nog check ’ie guys but it’s my duty to make the young lady feel welcome. After all n man is al vyftien jaa’ oppie waentjie.”

“I saw many come and go but amal ken vi’ Rompie, right?”

The two nod in silence while at the same time perusing the different flavours in the sack of chips. In one slick movement Rompie’s hand appears with the packets of smoked beef and cheese and onion.

“Hie’s julle nannas,” he says as he takes the ten rand note from one of the guys

“Ek moet nog innie IT class kom voo’os in Town land,” he says with a grin referring to Metro Plus.

“Tyd vir n price increase of wat?” one of the guys asks while he opens the packet of chips.

“I ma wait for a cabinet reshuffle; daai ou speel mos klawerjas in Parliament,” Rompie quips as the train reduces speed.

“Watch broe daai girl gaan nou spat,” the guy warns Rompie.

“Hey wag ouens ek soek ha ID; praat wee,” he says as he turns on his heels.

The train dramatically reduces speed as it enters the station. The lady from Worcester is making her way to the door.

“Oooh girl… I’ll be in trouble if you let me down,” he serenades her as they walk to the door. She smiles and blushes again. Politely he offers her a chocolate.

“Rompie se tradition om nuwe mense oppi waentjie te welcome. First one is free second one is a must; moenie nog checkie girl.”

Almost reluctantly she accepts his gesture.

“Wees maar versigtig Tracy,” her mother’s words echo in her head.

“Moettie worry nie. Sê vir jou ma djy ry op Rompie se trein,” he says as if he had read her mind.

“Ek is op Facebook onne Rompie. Check my yt, ek’s for real,” he assures her.

“Oh my word!” she manages to utter, surprised as the train comes to a halt.

The wind tugs on her skirt as she sets foot on the platform.

It strikes her that the Afrikaans word for skirtjie happens to be rompie, she thinks to herself in amusement.

It’s another four seasons day.

Urban Dictionary

kot The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word “kort”
which means “short”.

biesag The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word “besig”
which means “busy”.

skirtjie The Afrikaaps word for a “short / small skirt” . The
formal Afrikaans word for “skirt” is “romp” and the
word for a small or short skirt is a “rompie” .

nannas A playful Afrikaaps word that can loosely be
translated as someone’s “weakness”

waentjie The Afrikaaps word for a “train” which is also the
Afrikaans word for “a small wagon” .

New Voices

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A train arrives with a sad expression on its face. Apart from being five minutes late, it seems something else is bothering it.

As it enters the station, slows down, and comes to a standstill, the problem becomes evident. The third carriage is riddled with bullet holes. Even the windows bear evidence of a lunatic who has no regard for life or limb. Some commuters pay no attention to the damage while others are visibly upset.

“Wat hettie trein nou gemaak om dit te ve’dien?” a guy asks, shrugging his shoulders and holding his upturned palms to the air.

“You ask me?” A lady in her late twenties interjects.

“Really now,” another lady adds.

Reluctantly the train leaves the station; its mood clearly downtrodden.

“Obviously was die nou wee target practice vi iemand,” the guy says.

“I just don’t get it,” the lady in her twenties comments with disdain in her voice.

She continues: “Yes, Metrorail is unreliable but still, it’s a public asset. We depend on it for daily transportation. Why vandalise it when we have to pick up the bill?”

She shakes her head in disbelief.

“And it’s the poorest of the poor who are causing this damage,” the other lady adds to the conversation.

“Kyk hoe lyk ôs skole, ôs sports en recreational facilities; afgebriek en weggedra,” the guy comments again.

“I’m sorry, but I blame community leaders for this mess,” the young lady interjects.

“Explain?” the guy asks her curiously.

“Nothing is done to empower and educate the marginalised. We need sustainable programmes to educate people about taking responsibility. Nothing has been done to teach the previously disadvantaged that collectively we need to build a new South Africa. Each citizen must play their part. It’s no longer ‘theirs’; it’s ours now.”

“But everyone from top structure right down to the guy in the street are out to loot, plunder, steal and demolish whatever possible. At this rate, what is this country going to look like in five years’ time? It’s like there’s no plan, no remedy; the same methodology for the past twenty three years with the expectation to get a different result. That is termed madness in my book,” the young lady ends her criticism almost out of breath.

“Ummm… I agree with you,” the guy says, adjusting his baseball cap. “Instead of canvassing for votes, rather educate our people to make informed decisions and not depend on politicians to make a difference. Politics is dividing our communities even further, right?” he asks looking at the young lady.

She doesn’t affirm his statement.

“Our people’s hope is misplaced and misdirected. We need to rebuild their self-respect in themselves and their respect for their fellow man and the country.”

“It’s a shame that I don’t feel safe in my own country. Crime against toddlers; I mean toddlers!” she emphasises, “and against women is escalating. Teachers are being attacked in their classrooms and the list goes on and on!” she exclaims, visibly upset.

The motion and rhythm of the train is like somebody dragging their feet. The conversation comes to a short, awkward silence.

“Did you listen to the interview of Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh the other night on TV?” the guy asks breaking the silence.

She shakes her head gently from side to side without uttering a word.

“That was the new South Africa speaking; a new generation of leaders with radical ideas. Amongst the things he said was that for far too long young people never had a voice and that it’s time we must let our voices be heard. We’ve given the old politicians enough time to prove themselves and they’ve failed us. We must rise again and realise this country’s true potential. Google him. Check him out on YouTube,” he advises. “My faith in this country is restored when I listen to these young bright minds,” he says with pride.

“I’ll check him out,” the young lady confirms.

The train suddenly accelerates and, after a minute, reduces speed.

“Wait, this is my station. I must go. Be safe people,” the guy greets as he makes his way to the door.

“Enjoy the day,” the young lady returns his gesture.

“Aluta Continua,” the other lady greets him as the doors open.

Urban Dictionary
ve’dien The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word “verdien”
ve’dien The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word “verdien”
which means “deserve / earn”.
afgebriek The Afrikaaps version of the Afrikaans word
“afgebreuk” which means “broken down”.
weggedra The Afrikaans word for “carried away”.

“Wat hettie trein nou gemaak om dit te ve’dien?”
“Now what did the train do to deserve this?”

“Kyk hoe lyk ôs skole, ôs sports en recreational facilities; afgebriek en weggedra.”
“Look at how our schools look, our sports and recreational facilities; broken down and carried away.”