Last week was Friday the thirteenth, so what is a girl to do? Drive into the wild-wild west of course. Let me elaborate.
My friends Kerwin and Anna Marie have started a home industry business making and selling various baked goods, relishes and preserves. Sometime ago I had ordered some of their chili relish and have been threatening to go and pick it up for a few weeks. The only problem is that they are based in Krugersdorp some 30 kms and nearly an hour’s drive away (traffic). It is also somewhat out of my way as I very seldom head out that far west. Clearly this needed some organizing!
Anyway, Friday the thirteenth rolled around and the kids were collectively either all back at school or otherwise engaged for the day, so I had the day to be me without complication. I got up early, bathed and dressed warmly and sensibly. I went with the grey skinny jeans donated to me by my spouse, a nude shoulder black top, brown cowboy boots and my faux leather (plastic) jacket. Here are some selfies I took in a different location to the usual (I was bored with the usual background, so I am assuming you all were as well).
I spent the morning at my desk doing work and at lunch time I got in my car and headed west.
Fortunately, their house was really easy to find, and I just pointed my car down Ontdekkers Road and drove up to their house. So, a longish but easy drive ensued. What was surprising to me was the state of the roads and how quickly the urban scenery changed.
For my non-Johannesburg resident readers, please bear with me as I digress and explain what you need to know. Johannesburg was originally a mining town and was the point where the Witwatersrand gold bearing reef was discovered some 132 years ago. The reef is essentially an inverted ‘V’ shape. It comes out of the ground in Johannesburg and then descends back into the earth (deep into the earth spreading east and west). Mining began in Johannesburg but spread out on an east-west axis as prospectors followed the reef. This has influenced the urban geography of greater Johannesburg. As mining spread east and west of Johannesburg, smaller mining towns grew up and were connected to the larger city by arterial roads (if you must know Ontdekkers Road and Main Reef Road) running east-west and a larger freeway network running north-south connecting Johannesburg with the national capitals (we have three capital cities, none of which are Johannesburg) Pretoria (70 kms away), Bloemfontein (400kms away) and ultimately Cape Town (1 400kms away).
Johannesburg continued to develop and grow eventually these separate towns on the east-west axis merged into the larger metropolis dominated by Johannesburg. You can therefore pretty much drive from Springs (a town in the east) to Krugersdorp (in the west). A distance of around 125 km without ‘leaving’ the built up urban sprawl that makes up the metropolis of Johannesburg. Incidentally, you can also drive from the southern suburbs of Johannesburg to northern Pretoria (around 100 kms), again without leaving the urban area of greater Johannesburg/Pretoria. The metropolitan area is thus large, certainly as large a geographic area (if not larger) than many of the major metropolitan areas in the world (think London, Paris or New York).
The residents of Johannesburg tend to think of this entire sprawl as one area even though it is made up of different municipalities. The passage of time has seemed to unify us and our urban identity, although some people are still proud of their ‘small town heritage’ this is being steadily and constantly eroded.
As I was driving westwards and shortly after I left my ‘comfort zone’ of my normal radius I was struck at how quickly the road deteriorated. This may be simply have been the result of the heavy rainfalls that we have been experiencing of late, or the result of insufficient maintenance on a major arterial road that has a lot of traffic, but the fact is that there were a large number of fairly large potholes. Most of these seemed to be in the extreme left hand lane (Ontdekkers Road varies from one to three lanes of traffic in either direction), which would suggest that the potholes are more down to poor maintenance than heavy rains as trucks tend to drive mostly in the left hand lane (slow traffic keeps left in South Africa as we drive on the left hand side of the road here). I thought that this was all rather funny as our city council had just issued a statement saying (and I paraphrase) that whilst they were aware of the poor state of many roads they had no plans to deal with the problem in the short term. Useful. Especially when your car had just hit a large pothole at 60km/h.
Now, whilst roads in my usual stomping grounds are far from perfect and I can vouch for the fact that roads in western cities (Paris, Naples, Rome etc) are also far from perfect, I was surprised at the extent and the scale of the problem on this relatively short distance from the urban ‘centre’. The state of the roads and the disparity in maintenance is symptomatic to me (and perhaps illustrative of) the inequality we all know exists in South Africa is far more pronounced as you head away from the centre. It is clear that we have a long way to go in South Africa and I think more people should be less parochial and head out of their immediate circle of ‘normalcy’ and see just how most South Africans live…
Anyway, I adjusted my driving style slightly and drove with added caution. I also started thinking just how bad it would be if I was involved in an accident or damaged my car and needed a tow. The thought of explaining to a third party, the traffic police or a tow truck driver why I looked so different from my driver’s license was not appealing. I mean, how bad it could it be? It wasn’t like it was Friday the thirteenth or anything…
Nonetheless I soon arrived at my destination without incident. I parked my car and called my friend. He came out and I was introduced to a pack of very cute little dogs who were very interested in the various smells I carried with me (hamsters, cats, dogs and budgies must have bee of considerable interest to the dogs). It was lovely to see my friends who I had not seen for quite some time. Sadly, I couldn’t stay to chat. Not only was Anna Marie literally elbow deep in some very yummy looking biscuit dough and very busy, but I had a few errands to run before I had to be back at my desk. I paid for my chili relish (which was ready and waiting) before heading back home.
I stopped off at Cresta Mall to buy a few odds and ends and arrived back home after 2pm ready to put in a few hours work before transforming back before the rest of the family arrived home.
So, Friday the thirteenth? Nothing happened, apart from me having a not unpleasant drive to pick up some chili relish. If I can survive a trip to the wild west on a day as fraught as Friday the thirteenth, what is stopping those closeted girls from getting out and about? Also, I take this as proof that friggatriskaidekaphobia is really not a ‘thing’.