This year I started to take public transport to and from work. Options in Cape Town are fairly limited: taxi (and die), bus (and die) or train (and be late). So I opted for not dying on my journey from the Southern Suburbs to the City Centre and took Metrorail, the ever dependable-to-not-be-dependable option that many Capetownians (I can never spell that) rely on. It’s been 5 months now, and I’ve had some fun times on those yellow and grey carriages.
On every ride, you’re guaranteed to meet a blind lady accompanied by a young man (rarely, a young lady) as they make their way up and down the carriages singing offkey hymns to collect money. I’ve begun to recognise the different ladies and different men, and kinda admire them. All day long they ride back and forth along the Southern Suburbs line, not openly begging, just singing and hoping for help. I’m not sure I’d be as brave or as resourceful.
I’ve only witness a few, fervent train preachers – you have to be pretty dedicated to be up with the early morning commuters. They usually have that American televangelist accent and way of speaking. You know, Law-ord instead of Lord. From anti-smoking to anti-gay rants, their sermons are many and varied. And loud.
Only once so far have I seen them, but they were – of course – white, male, student types. As they got off their train, they were followed by a group of ladies – obviously on their way to work – who took to singing (Christian hymns) and dancing with them as they went. It was magical.
Not sure how else to describe him, but every once in a while a young man gets on in Mowbray. He greets the entire train and asks everyone how they are. You’re expecting a sermon to come next but instead he says something like ‘You should greet the crazy people on the train, they’re just trying to make you smile.’ Today he had a full on debate with the business man next to me about the meaning of insanity, truth and reality. It was amazing.
It’s easy to get pissed off at Metrorail. They often run late. Trains get cancelled. They’re overcrowded and rickety. But I’ve been trying – and hope to continue to try – to find the joy in the strangeness of things that happen on public transport. From 7-year-olds training alone to the old ladies having a fat gossip, it’s actually an amazing place to watch and experience Cape Town.