This is a hair raising story of what happened the day I found myself woman alone in a moving car on an unknown road with 3 young African men, one driving, one in the passenger seat and one in the back behind me, and nobody who loves me who knew where I was…
I was supposed to meet a client who had travelled up 2 hours on the plane from Cape Town for business and on this day he could fit me in between two meetings. I had to see him. We were at the beginning of the work relationship, so I needed to be on time and looking good.
The plan was that I would travel by bus from Bryanstone to Sandton where we would meet. The trip would take me 20 minutes. The busses go every 20 minutes, so I got to the stop with an easy 50 minutes to go before the meeting – 20 min if I had to wait +20 min for the ride + 10 min to spare.
Twenty minutes pass and no bus comes. I ask the first passing pedestrian which sign I should use to hail a minibus taxi to Sandton. “No”, he says, “I think they only go into Johannesburg from here.” He gives me the sign anyway: an Upward pointing finger – in contrast to the downward pointing finger that signifies going to Randburg.
I wait a few more minutes and a young woman walks up hailing a taxi. Santon? I ask her.
“No, Jo’burg, but we can ask the driver.”
“Sandton?” I ask the driver.
“No, Jo’burg” but I can drop you off to get another taxi.” I get in – only 26 minutes left.
I pay the driver with a R20 note. The fare is R11 and he does not have change. He will wait to see if another passenger get’s on so he can give me change. (This is not something he tells me, I know it from experience). Time ticks by. The young man next to me sees that we will get to my stop before I get my change: “What change have you got?”
“ 60 cents”
“Give me your 60 cents, I can give you R1 then the driver can give you the ten.”
I gladly accept: “Where will I meet you to give you back your 40c”, I joke. He smiles: “Some people meet in the mountains”. I do not know what he means, but I smile and say “I’ll seee you in the mountains, then.”
We reach my stop: a large intersection in the middle of a massive highway. I get off and walked to where they indicate I can get the next taxi. 12 min to spare.
If I am halfway and a taxi comes quickly, I will be fine. I am meeting the client at the train station where taxis and busses all go.
The road is deserted. Three minutes go by and not a single taxi. “Please , please. Please let one come”, I find myself pleading. . A minibus pulls up behind me, but no-one gets out and they do not seem to want to pick me up. I know that the taxi’s sometimes stop on the side of the road so the driver can take a nap, or eat a pie, so I walk over to the minibus and round the front to see if the sliding door was open. It was. Inside are three young African men.
“You a taxi?” I ask.
“No”, one guy says, “I just come here to pray”.
“Yeh right,” I think to myself, “in the middle of a large intersection?” I say nothing and walk back to the bus stop sign hoping against hope. “Please, please, please…”
After a minute or two the driver of the minibus come over to me: “you want to go to Sandton, we will give you a ride.” Seven minutes to go.
Now, please understand, at this point I am fully task oriented, all I can see is the client and the job of getting to him. We were building a mutually very beneficial relationship and I was enjoying the work. I could not let him down.
“Really? Thank you.” I get into the minibus and as I close the sliding door, my brain suddenly makes another sum: one Caucasian female, three African men, an unknown road and nobody knows where I am… I freeze and the blood leaves my face. My brain tells me that I must be afraid and run, so i lean over to open the sliding door. All three men do nothing.
“Relax,” one says, “just relax”. I let go the door.
“Why should I trust you?”
The one in the passenger seat takes out a business card from the compartment under the car radio and hands it to me.
“Thanks”, I say, “but I cannot read it, I don’t see well enough. Tell me what it says”. He explains that they have just started a shuttle service that couriers tourists and the like between the air port and other places of interest. I look out the window, we are driving by now, but I can’t identify any landmarks. How would I know if we are going the right way?
They come to pray in the spot I found them in, says the guy in the passenger seat..
“We thought maybe God was telling us to take you to Sandton today.” It is the driver speaking. But are we going to Sandton? Then I think of myself standing by the road going “Please, please, please” and I decide to follow their lead: “I think you heard right, I was pleading Him for a ride back there.”
They smile and we talk a bit more about their work. Where are we, shouldn’t I be scared? But I’m not.
Minutes later we pull up at the Sandton station. The one behind me slides open the door for me to get out.
“So what do I owe you for shuttling me?”
“No, we are just three guys giving you a ride.” They smile and wave as they drive away. I wave back, in wonderment.
As I turn away from the road, I think to myself: today I trusted these guys and they were worthy of my trust. Today chasms were crossed and rifts were mended. Age old wounds had begun to heal – but I will never ever do that again – not on purpose.
I look up to find my client waiting for me. It is one minute passed the deadline.