There are very few people in Cape Town who did not see my picture on the front page of The Daily Voice. I was famous, at the local Spar and in the park where we walk the dogs, for days. Much more famous than I have ever been for any of the theatre work I have ever done. People stopped me in the street to find out what had happened and how the situation had worked out for me, and gave me the thumbs up when I told them what had happened as a result.
For those of you who have no idea, let me go back to the beginning for a quick summary. The old man and his wife who live across the road, in the only house in the street with a driveway, have problems getting in and out into the narrow street. They painted their own yellow lines on either side of their driveway to prevent people parking too close to it, but they don’t always work. Last year I came home to find that they had organised their friends in the city council to come and paint yellow lines directly outside my house. I went berserk and confronted them. Then I started sending emails to the ward councillor, traffic department and city council, who all gave me the complete runaround before the whole thing slipped off the agenda. Until I came home one Saturday morning (almost a year later) to find that the neighbour had called the traffic cops to give a car parked outside his house a ticket and they gave my car, parked outside my house, on the illegal yellow lines, a R500 fine.
The story was resurrected. The new ward councillor took action, a cute and ambitious young journalist, Bertram Malgas, picked up the story and it hit The Daily Voice, the traffic department and city council looked embarrassed, and within two weeks the meeting outside my house had taken place and the next day the lines were neatly painted over. Now I am waiting to hear that my fine has been rescinded. I cannot imagine that it won’t be.
But there is something much bigger than this little domestic success story, and it is about access. I can get my city council to come (eventually) and paint over yellow lines in the road, so I can park my car outside my house. Three ‘my’s’ in that last sentence. This City Works for Me. Because of who I am and where I live. My sense of outrage over this domestic irritation needs perspective. Because, if I imagine, only for a brief moment, what it must be like to live on the Cape flats, or in any of the far-flung townships, informal settlements or even poor, non-white suburbs, I am sure that I would not have the same access. Not the same access to water, or roads, or electricity, or law enforcement, or medical services, or sanitation or even a ward councillor. Believe me, I am utterly grateful. And just a little more aware today of my white privilege than usual. Just saying.