Hail that taxi!


Copyrighted to Karen Payze

I was driving home yesterday, after a very busy day when I turned a corner and found myself behind what I can only refer to as a South African taxi!  Actually, it was a Toyota Hi-ace but anyone who has ever been to South Africa will know that Toyota Hi-ace’s are taxis 😀

Now you know when you see something from your past or your youth, nostalgia kicks in.  For a moment there, yesterday, I really felt like I was back in South Africa, driving behind a taxi.  It was even a good colour (plum) and had tinted back windows.  But I was quickly drawn back to reality when I realised that this taxi did not have a hundred arms waving about out the windows, it did not have that swollen, ready-to-burst kind of look to it and my car did not vibrate from the pumping music.  Oh, and no tape anywhere to hold bits together.  No, I am not exaggerating!

I think it must actually be very hard to be a taxi driver in South Africa.  There is so much going on and so much you have to deal with and think about as a taxi driver.  So, if you are considering a career as a taxi driver in South Africa, here are a few things you will have to learn.

  1. You have to learn the best way to pack at least fifty people into a vehicle with a carrying capacity of eighteen.  Make certain that there are not too many heavyweights on one side of the vehicle as they may cause it to turn on its side whilst driving. Also, allow the small and skinny into the taxi last, so they can sit on the laps of the rest.
  2. You will have to learn all the signals used to hail a taxi (I will get to that in a moment).
  3. You have to know the various whistles announcing the destination of your taxi.  For example, one long whistle for town, two short for the local village up the road, etc.  Now, if you cannot whistle, you may as well give up now.  this is a prerequisite – and your whistle has to be loud enough for the commuters to be able to check it over the din of the other taxi drivers.  In some cases, it is okay to have an assistant do this job for you, but then you must remember that you are sacrificing a seat on your taxi (which means less money coming in and you have to pay said assistant).
  4. Driving.  Now it is obvious that as a taxi driver, you will have to drive.  But as a South African taxi driver, you must have special driving abilities.  You have to know how to drive an overloaded taxi as fast as the vehicle will go.  The reason for this is obvious.  The faster you get people to their destination, the faster you get them off your taxi and the faster you can load more people in.  It’s all about the amount of money you can make, after all.  Part of getting people to their destination as quickly as possible is knowing where to drive, and that includes mounting pavements to get around those annoying cars blocking your way.  Working together as a team to go through red traffic lights.  Now that one is important because people will hoot and swear at you if you are a lone taxi driver going through a red light but if you are part of a group of – say – twenty, everyone will sit quietly and let you go.  On freeways it is important to know when to drive in the yellow lane reserved for emergency vehicles.  You can do it anytime, as long as the police aren’t sitting in one of these lanes, waiting for you to come roaring down past all the idiots sitting patiently in the rush hour traffic jam.  Then you may get a fine (or a warning, depending on how well you know the police).
  5. Counting money.  You have to be really good at this because your commuters will be giving you the fare as they get on the taxi.  Now the fare varies according to each commuter’s destination.  And the commuters are handing the money to you as they walk past you so you have about five seconds to count the money of each commuter.  You can, of course, avoid delays by spreading the word that commuters for your taxi need to have the right amount of money before getting in or you could hire that assistant mentioned earlier.
  6. Know your local area very well.  This is very important because not all commuters know the address of their destination so when you ask someone where they want to go, they might tell you they are going to KFC in town or they might say they are going to Aunty’s house.  You have to know where these destinations are in order to get your passengers to the right place.
  7. As a driver, you have to be able to concentrate.  And anyone who has ever driven anything will know that it is quite difficult to concentrate when fifty people are all talking at the same time behind you, and they are all talking extra loud so they can hear each other over the four double bass speakers jammed in the back of the taxi, whose music is pumping so wildly that the entire taxi is jumping around with every beat but it is imperative to have those speakers pumping as they are a sign that you are a real taxi.  If you want to test that your speakers are loud enough, have a look around you as you drive past people and other cars.  If the people on the side of the road hold their hands to their heads and collapse in a heap on the floor, then your speakers are loud enough.  And if the cars in front of you and behind you (at least three to four cars front and back) are vibrating to your taxi’s beat, then the music is loud enough.  Oh, and if your passengers are jostling for seats at the front, rather than the back, then you know your music is loud enough.

If you think you possess these qualities, then you will do very well as a taxi driver in South Africa.  If not, you may want to still commute via a taxi.  This has its own set of special skills.

  1. Ensure you have the right amount of money for your journey.  If you are not sure how much it costs, ask another commuter, they will tell you.
  2. Jostling.  You have to have good jostling skills to get to the front of the taxi.  Unless, of course, you want someone sitting on your lap or you don’t mind sitting on someone else’s lap or if your hearing is not great.  Then you will be fine if you lack this particular skill.
  3. Knowing the hand signals.  Now, those of you who live in UK (sorry I cannot comment on other countries as I have not been to  any!) will know that when waiting for a bus, you must stick your hand out to signal that you want it to stop.  In South Africa, when waiting for a taxi, you do something similar, except it is more complicated.  There are different hand signals for different destinations. (Now, if you are at a taxi rank – which is like a bus terminal, you will only have to know the different whistles of the taxi man.  I am now referring to regular taxi stops.)  So two fingers pointing down means something, one means something else, a thumbs up is another destination and a finger up something else.  There are many more but I don’t know any of them.  You have to do the right signal or a) the wrong taxi will stop for you and you will go to the wrong place or b)your taxi won’t stop and you will be left standing there the whole day! You can always check hand signals with other commuters who are waiting and most taxi’s have the destination along with the matching hand signal printed on a sign on the back of their taxi.  And always be aware that you are not doing the wrong kind of finger signal.  You don’t really want to get on the bad side of a taxi 🙂
  4. Patience.  If a taxi happens to be late, you cannot moan and complain.  You smile nicely and thank the driver for stopping for you.  And if the taxi union decides to strike, well then you have a real problem.  You have to take (dare I say it) the bus.  What’s wrong with that, you may ask?  well, many things, if you are a dedicated taxi commuter. First off, you will have to pay the bus fare, which is at least three times cheaper than a taxi.  What an insult.  You have to travel in luxury (ie not crammed together), how weird is that?  And you wont be subjected to the excitement of taxi driving (ie going through red lights, driving up on pavements and roaring along in the yellow lane). Ridiculous, isn’t it 😀

So if you are ever wanting to take a taxi

in South Africa, bear these tips in mind and happy commuting!

Copyright  © 080812 by Karen Payze

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5 Comments

  1. There needs to be a rating higher than excellent for this one! It’s a gem! And I don’t even like to drive.

    • Thanks 😀

  2. Loved the drawing. A quick visit into the past can be fun.

    • Thanks 🙂

  3. wow, picture like my country

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