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The taxi ride from hell

Today was by far the worst taxi trip I've had since coming to South Africa. The reasons were two drunk men, one so utterly wasted he could not stand. I sat in the far back corner with three young women, hiding behind a biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The men at first were only shouting randomly at everyone. To me they said, "Lekgowa! Put down your book! You read too much!" but then they started trying to grope the women on the taxi and to take things out of my bag. They were so drunk that these efforts were rather ineffectual and easily rebuffed by the other people—I didn't have to get involved which was probably for the best. Then the drunker one started puking everywhere. The smell was horrific and made the girl next to me retch, but luckily she managed to hold it in and I kept the window wide open. Throughout they continued to drink, sometimes between heaves even.

I was astonished at the amount of compassion shown to these two men. I suspect they were kin to someone on the taxi, perhaps the driver. Despite their antics people on the bus were shepherding them around like babies. I kept thinking what would have happened to someone that did that on a bus in New York City. They would have been booted right off, likely with a savage beating, to be picked up by the police and thrown in the drunk tank. Criminal charges would include drunk & disorderly conduct, being a public nuisance, and sexual harassment or assault.

The last one was the most trying for me—when one grabbed the breasts of the girl sitting next to me I had to restrain myself from punching loose the few teeth still clinging to his rotten gums. The girl, of course, did not need my help in the slightest. She slapped him so hard his head spun, and everyone in the taxi laughed. "Hey, wena!" she said, shaking her finger and sucking her cheeks. All in a day's work.

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