Monday, March 2, 2009

Stress in the city.

I know I am able to handle deadline pressure, cover the most traumatic of stories without getting too rattled, walk past blood and bodies without flinching and view bodies in the morgue without gagging. But I have now discovered that it takes only a bit of unco-ordinated city traffic to crack me to the core and bring me to my knees.
I purposely work the early bird shift. It's tedious in winter when I begin my day in the dark and cold, but it affords me the luxury of spending a good chunk of my afternoons with Little One on the days I leave on time and means that I don't generally sit in traffic like most other Joburgers suffering the ongoing roadworks currently uplifting the city.
But alas. On Friday we were detained at the office for a newsroom strategy meeting which ended at 4pm. Coincidentally the same moment that, heralded by the sounding of taxi sirens from the streets below, the Jozi CBD turned into complete and utter chaos.
After a quick drink and a bit of social chit chat I decided to head home at 4,30pm. It took me 5 whole minutes to edge my little chariot out of the parkade and into the street. And then began the process of edging forward, little bit by little bit, and realised I was literally trapped and had no option but to continue with the flow. After 30 minutes I had travelled less than half a block.
Insanity prevailed. It was as though everyone had abandoned all traffic rules and regulations, as though all street lights and signs were invisible as the streets became a surreal free-for-all. Not one Metro police officer was anywhere to be seen. Pedestrians pushed their way into jammed intersections to try and guide traffic across from one side at a time with little success.
I have never seen such blatant lawlessness compounded by neglect by traffic authorities. It was actually scary. I listened to the radio for a traffic report or news flash to say what was going on. And it came: the CBD is gridlocked, the cause of it all being bad driving.
As I sat helplessly I fretted and steamed. I tried deep breathing and meditation. I phoned my mother. And then I settled into helpless resignation.
Now I know the Joburg City Council has spent millions and millions on scores of CCTV cameras which are now perched all around the CBD. I went to the launch of this State*Of*The*Art facility that is designed to bring law and order back to the city. Like other journos, I was fed all the PR bumpf about how a vigilant camera operator can zoom into a registration plate and detect a hijacker cruising in a stolen car. And so I know that without a doubt that chaos had to have at the very least been witnessed by those manning the control room they are linked to. Yet nothing was done about it.
After an hour-and-a-half I had moved a full two blocks and was able to turn off and head home freely. It was only a few minutes later that I encountered my next Metro cop horror. At a major intersection where cars were backed up, waiting for a filter arrow allowing them to turn into a side street, four Metro cars were parked as officers sat in wait to pounce on anyone daring to jump the light. FOUR Metro cars. None of them anywhere near the ongoing chaos in the CBD.
This, in my mind, is an outrage. It is beyond unacceptable. It has become my mission to work out a way to cover this story. I shall vent in print!!


  1. Pull them to pieces! That's ridiculous!

  2. now why on earth would the metro cops wanna be gridlocked right along with the rest of us plebs!!??

  3. Oh my word. There is nothing I hate more than traffic ... I also do the early shift to try missing as much of it as possible - but it's getting so hard now that it's still dark at 6am :(