Getting taken for a ride

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

I recently took part in the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. After a long, hot and windy day out, all I wanted to do after crossing the finish line was head home. That, and take a bulldozer to Chapman’s Peak. Running over a mountain pass in intense heat is no fun.

We caught a shuttle bus to the start and planned to take a cab back to the hotel. We met a few other runners and decided to share a taxi. Had I known what lay ahead, I might have walked back to the hotel. While runners were jostling for a taxi, out the corner of my eye I spotted an empty one. I even though to myself, “Buy a Lotto ticket Shaun. It must be your lucky day.”

Four of us hopped in and set off. In the wrong direction. You’d think that someone who makes a living from driving would get to know his way around. This, as it turns out, was only the start of a trip that would leave me longing for the brutal inclines of Chappies.

I’m no automotive expert but I do know one thing about cars – when you drive over speed bumps or expansion plates on bridges, the rear end shouldn’t slide out. Our driver didn’t seem concerned. Perhaps he was more worried about the conversation he had on his cell phone while driving.

You often hear about the camaraderie that runners share. To be honest, I wanted to stab my fellow passengers. One of them was an amiable guy who didn’t know where his hotel was. He didn’t know the street name, the suburb or nearby landmarks. He knew that one of the roads nearby was Long Street.

Hotel hell

When we eventually found his hotel he asked that we wait outside because he hadn’t brought any money and couldn’t pay his split of the cab fare. After making us wait in a sweltering cab, he came downstairs and sheepishly admitted that he had no money upstairs but knew that there was an ATM nearby. Somewhere.

We told him that we’d cough up his share of the fare. All we wanted to do was get back to out hotel. Our other passenger was a German tourist who mistakenly thought we were German too. She was happy to get dropped off somewhere on Long Street so that she could get an ice cream. In fact, she was so desperate to get that ice cream that she climbed out of the car while it was still moving. Our driver, going in the wrong direction, attempted a u-turn. She took the opportunity to jump out, focusing more on a cold treat that oncoming traffic.

Our hotel was near the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The driver had no idea where it was but luckily we could guide him. He treated us to a few tunes from his MP3 player. Usually, cab and shuttle drivers play the most bland and inoffensive music when passengers are in the car. The dials are set to commercial radio stations with smarmy presenters playing paint-by-numbers pop. This guy’s collection included a song about taking part in an orgy while wearing a Halloween mask.

The lesson learned? An empty cab is probably empty for a reason.

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