Yesterday I was driven around. I Ubered to the airport with the lovely Ngoni, was transferred to my workshop in Durban by the charming Nhlanhla, who fetched me again to take me back to the airport once I was done, and then Tarisai Ubered me home. I wasn’t feeling well which made me doubly happy to hand myself over to all of these capable drivers to get me where I needed to go.
My very early morning trip to the airport was made a pleasure by Ngoni who is a gorgeous looking 31 year old Zimbabwean. We got chatting. He has been in Cape Town for 10 years. It took him four days to get here from Harare. His mom and dad and two youngest sisters are in the UK. His dad has become a British citizen and his mom is a permanent resident. Ngoni and his oldest sister have never been granted visas to go and visit their parents. They were over 18 when their parents left. That is why. My head explodes with that kind of information. His mom is coming to visit him in March. He told me, “I have not seen her since I was 21.” His eyes brimmed with tears and he turned away slightly.
Tarisai fetched me from the airport to take me home just before 5pm. I knew that we would be driving against the traffic, thankfully; it was still stinking hot. As Uber usual he was polite and friendly. We got chatting. He is Zimbabwean and has been in South Africa for ten years and has never gone back home. He told me that 80% of Cape Town’s Uber drivers are Zimbabwean. I knew the figure was high, but I didn’t realise how high it was. He was a lot more down at heel than Ngoni. He drives for Uber part time; the rest of the time he is a construction worker. I noticed from his clothes that here was a guy who made an enormous effort against all the odds to be clean and tidy. I was pretty desperate to get home so we lapsed into silence. As we got closer to Woodstock I started giving him directions for the best way to my house. We came over the bridge that traverses the highway and Tarisai gasped. He was looking at the harbour and the sea in golden light, and he said, “That is so beautiful. The sea. That huge boat.” It was. Then, as if more to himself than to me he said, “I have never been on a boat.” He paused. “I have never been on an airplane. My dream is to go on an airplane, and on the boat to visit Robben Island.”
There was no agenda to his statement. He said it absolutely unselfconsciously. And (not that I am unaware of it every day) it came crashing down on me how differently we experience this life, this world. I, who had been on a plane twice in one day. I, who had listened while people complained about the free damn croissant they were given. I, who watched as drunk men gave air hostesses grief. I, who wished the flight could go faster, come to an end.