Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A bus strike and a broken window

This past long weekend break - a very much needed, hard-earned bit of timeout following last week's manic elections - was quickly shattered early this morning by a Metrobus strike.
I got into work early this morning, rested and ready to run. Very quickly Supergirl and I were put onto the story. For some or other reason a crippling bus striked destined to leave thousands of commuters stranded all over the city this morning had been slashed into a brief in the early edition. But a whole lot more information was needed for the afternoon edition.
We started on the phones - but as is often the case in the very early morning, people didn't answer. We left messages, we sent e-mails, we Googled up a storm. The striked story started coming together.
I managed to get hold of a call centre operator at Joburg Connect who seemed to know a little bit. She knew that Metrobus normally had over 500 buses driving all over the city every morning, but today there were none. If I wanted more info than that, I had to phone Metrobus head office which did not open until 8am. A time that, as fortune would have it, coincided with my very deadline!
Then one of my many early efforts paid out when the Metrobus spokesperson responded to one of the messages I had left. Yes, there was indeed a strike on the go he said. The courts had ruled on Friday that they could legally go ahead with a bit of strike action. All 510 bus drivers employed by the city were not working today.
"They belong to two different unions. The guys from the one union said they were happy to work as long as we could offer them protection. Obviously we couldn't do that, so nobody's driving buses today," he said. Hmmmmmm. Obviously! Last year three diligent non-strikers got killed, so I figured he had a point.
So what's happening? Is there any kind of trouble or violence anywhere?
"Erm ... ja. There are some guys who are blockading the street to my office. They aren't letting Metrobus people through. I had to do a helluva fast u-turn and now I am parked in some side street in Braamfontein talking to you while my phone battery goes flat because people haven't stopped calling me for hours," he said.
Oooookay. I took what info he could give me and offered him a desk in our newsroom to work from for the day. He chose not to take me up on it. I suspect he realised intuitively that I might possibly harass him constantly. *Sigh* At least I tried.
The story was done quickly. Supergirl had charged out to bus stops all around and spoke to commuters. Diva had paired up with a photographer and managed to get some cool stuff with the blokes at the barricades. We were THE team!
By 9am we were all done and seated in the newsroom for the day's genteel diary meeting. The peace was shattered - literally - when a missile of sorts came crashing through the window, sending glass shards hurtling down mere metres away from us. We jumped up and figured that a towering crane and busy builders on the high-rise construction site across the road were the cause of this mysterious distraction.
We peered down to the street below and saw a guy with a bakkie looking seriously perplexed by the serious dent in the roof of his vehicle. Discussions mounted as we tried to figure out what had smashed our large tinted window, leaving a hole bigger than a tennis racquet. And how had it come hurtling at such a speed, a good three storeys above ground? We failed to work it out. A chilly wind now whistles through our newsroom.
Life can indeed be strange.

1 comment:

  1. Holy crap- so what broke the window!?!!??!