On Riding the MyCiti Bus (and Being Just an Average Privileged White)
Some time ago a friend of mine shared what (in her own words) could be considered a racist blog post on Facebook titled “Just an Average Privileged White Capetonian in my Mid-Twenties“. (Read it now, you lazy fuck). She asked me if we would still be friends even though she shared it. It made me wonder if she considered me to be just an average privileged white Capetonian in my [late] twenties…
Because I sure didn’t. But I really am.
Two weeks ago I decided to go on a low car diet – hanging up my car keys for 30 days. Since then I have been tweeting and instagramming my way around town, making use of the MyCiti bus, my little legs and occasionally Uber, hashtagging the shit out of the whole ordeal.
This morning I woke up at 6am to catch a flight to Johannesburg departing at 09:40. Why the early start? Because I was determined to take the MyCiti bus to the airport – that seemed like the low car diet thing to do. Since it was a Sunday (and was very early) buses would only leave every half an hour and I like to get to the airport with time to spare. Something a 7am departure from Sea Point would ensure.
I wheeled my two wheely bags (one checked luggage and one hand luggage) through last night’s rain puddles, down to the main gate of our complex in the dark. I peered out at the darkness of Sea Point Main Road.
This section of Sea Point is usually buzzing with soccer moms looking for parking or hipsters sipping on gourmet coffee but this morning it was eerily quiet. Here and there a homeless person scratching in rubbish bins. And a single young black man standing at the bus stop.
I felt scared. I started digging in my bag, searching for my cellphone to order a Uber. Something in me said “I can’t do this!!!”
And then I stopped.
What am I scared of I wondered? That homeless man? Surely if he was some sort of violent criminal he would not be scratching around in wet rubbish bins in the dark. Sure, maybe he would come up to me and ask me for money. Because he has no money and I do. At which point I would have a choice to give him money or not. Because he is not a criminal simply because he is poor.
Or maybe I was scared of the young black man standing at the bus stop. He seemed suspicious. Why else would he be hanging around in the dark? Unless of course he was on his way to work. Or maybe he just finished working a night shift. Maybe he was standing there at the bus stop because he wanted to catch the bus – just like me.
Or maybe I was just scared of the dark. Because in the dark I start to believe all the scary stories about South Africa and crime. Because somehow the absence of light transforms what I consider the most beautiful, amazing city into a place of danger. Because there is a monster under my bed. But there isn’t.
And with that I put my cellphone back in my bag. I ramped both my wheely bags off the sidewalk, crossed the road and greeted the young black man standing at the bus stop. We stood there in silence. In a way he probably thought I looked suspicious too.
The MyCiti bus pulled up to the stop. On time. The doors jerked open. As I clumsily wheeled my bags towards the bus, the young black man insisted on helping me load my bags onto the bus.
So yes, I am just an average privileged white Capetonian in my [late] twenties. And yes, I feel like a bit of a fool making such a scene about giving up my car for 30 days when the larger part of South Africa’s population uses public transport everyday. And yes, I feel silly being scared of the dark but I was born in 1985 – many of my pre-1994 bedtime stories were about monsters under my bed.
But maybe that is kind of the point.
Maybe more of us need to admit that we are privileged. Not because we need to be ashamed of it but because we need to be grateful for it. I could just as easily have been born into a very different life and, even though I have worked hard to get to where I am now, I cannot disregard the massive head start I have been given.
Maybe more of us need to ride the bus. Not because we want to save the environment or even save money. But because driving in cars allows us to live in bubbles. It allows us to be scared of homeless people and suspicious of strangers when they are just people – people just like you with the same dreams as you do.
Maybe more of us need to go outside in the dark. Not because we need to take back the night but because it has always been ours.