In the absence of Car Share users going my way (and considering we're going to be a one-car / two-driver household for a bit), I've been pondering alternative transport methods to get to work.

Yes, I could join the lycra-clad cyclists up and down some pretty hectic hills, but while carrying a laptop, a handbag and a tray of cheese muffins...? I think not.

I could get a scooter - but cash is in short supply.

I could walk - and get really fit every day - but I need my time for other things like sleeping, eating and working.

Which leaves public transport. And the only option on this route is taxi.

If you're not South African, you won't understand what the big deal is about taking a taxi from one place to another. But these are not your first-world transport vehicles. They generally come with one unlicensed driver, a spotter (who eyeballs roadside loiterers for potential customers to add to the load), a soundsystem that you can hear coming miles away, bald tyres, a shotgun in case another taxi owner tries to steal his regulars / route / looks at him funny, and about 20 people in a 10-seater space.

Taxi ranks are a whole other world. I'm not entirely sure how the traffic rules work (if at all), but the mini-busses are generally parked nose to tail with centimetres to spare - how do they get in or out? Along the periphery are stalls with things for sale. Litter fills the gutters and unless you know which taxi to head for and who is going where, it can become extremely confusing.

Yet our office kitchen & cleaning lady negotiates this lot every morning - and if she's 5ft tall she's lucky. She takes on the masses and successfully makes it to work at the same time every day, for a lot cheaper than I do.

So I had a chat to her yesterday about "Taking a Taxi 101". Although I've grown up in South Africa, I've never learned how to hold your hand out when you want a ride, how to find the taxi that goes where you need to, what route numbers relate to which roads, how much it costs to go somewhere, or what the etiquette is when hailing a taxi, getting into/out of one, or sitting squashed up against your fellow-travelers.

I've been told it's dangerous - that a white chick carrying a laptop is not going to get out of there alive. Miriam the kitchen lady says "ai, no!" when I suggest it, that the drivers will crash because they don't have a license. But she did tell me where to go and what to ask for - at least to get to work. Dunno about back!

But perhaps every South African needs to ride a taxi at least once in their life?

And perhaps my time has come to do so.

Would you?

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