Joburg Expat: This is ALSO Africa

May 8, 2011

This is ALSO Africa

So your water gets cut off and you ask your neighbors what's happening, and they just shrug their shoulders and tell you "This is Africa." As you know, I've had numerous such experiences. But it wouldn't be fair if I didn't share with you the other side of that, if and when it happens.

The other day Noisette and I were driving home form Madame Zingara, a sort of Cirque-du-Soleil-cum-magic-plus-dinner show that's been touring around South Africa and has currently pitched its tent in Johannesburg. Or rather, I was driving, because Noisette had had a few glasses of wine. I myself had one too, but I'm such a slow drinker that I never get much past the first one. We were barely out of the parking lot and pulling onto the M1 when I got waved over by a policeman. Another roadblock! There is nothing I could do but stop, roll down my window, and give a friendly smile. He demanded my drivers' license. Which, you'll remember, I keep in my car, just for such an eventuality. But this wasn't my car, it was Noisette's. I had neither my purse nor  my drivers' license on me.

"You see, there is a slight problem, because this is my husband's car and I have the license in my car," I offered.

"Are you coming from Madame Zingara?" he wanted to know.

My heart sank even lower as I told him that yes, we were, because surely he must have known that people drink at Madame Zingara, and that it's a long evening. But inexplicably, he nodded understandingly and told us to drive on. That's it. No ticket, no threat of taking me in, not even the plea for "coffee" or anything else I might have brought for him today. 

I will never understand what went on in this policeman's head that night. Surely he had grounds to write me up for driving without a license, get me to blow into a breathalyser, or at least ask for a nice big bribe, but he did none of that. Maybe he just wanted to be nice. This, you should know, is ALSO Africa.

By the way, Madame Zingara was lots of fun.