Things I love about Jo’burg
Things I love about Jo’burg
By Vanessa Northing
I ran away from Jo’burg with my life in my car as if a madman was chasing me (ok, a madman was really chasing me, but that’s a book on its own). I’ve been living in Cape Town, in all its glory, for about 15 years, but luckily still have the odd opportunity to visit Johannesburg. Whether for work or for a whirlwind stressed-out weekend of visiting family and throwing back shooters (that’s a Joburg thing) with friends, at least I get to visit the old place.
I’ve always sort of rushed in and rushed out of the city. Packed my days with meetings, people to see, and longed for the return flight ‘home’ to Cape Town. But on my most recent trip, I had to drive up to the Vaal and so had some think-time. I realised that (believe-it-or-not) there is still so much I love about what we now call Jozi.
You get to drive fast in the fast lane
I’m serious, this is a big thing. From the moment you leave the airport in your hired tin-can-on-wheels, you can tear down the fast lane at 150kmh! What’s even better is that other cars actually move out of the way for you, in well enough time for you to zoom right past. Driving bliss as you push your foot flat on the accelerator and realise – just as some bright blue BMW almost takes out your side mirror – that you do have to concentrate!
Jo’burgers take care of themselves
I know I’m going back to the airport now, but from the moment you set foot at OR Tambo, you can set aside those schloofing off an aeroplane in their comfy Cape flying outfit and those dressed to impress clippity clopping through the airport terminals. Jo’burg women are beautiful: flawless make-up, gym-fit bodies, style personified. The guys too, not those bicep curlers you catch flexing a muscle on the hangy handle thingy on the bus in their muscle tops, but the slick kind: the executives and up-and-coming Forbes 100 guys, turned out good, proud and proper.
Everything is new
Okay, not the roads or sidewalks or Cresta, I’m talking cars and mobile phones and handbags and gadgets. Capetonians actually go home and talk about the latest Porsche that drove past them on the Pretoria highway (after they moved out of the fast lane because the doos was flashing them). Or the bloke on the plane from Jo’burg who had the latest I-phone. We go back to the mountain and wonder if Cape Town is ever going to get a Hamleys. (It probably has one already but we don’t know because we’re too busy staring at the mountain.)
Jo’burg is the only true reflection of a progressive South Africa
You may not like to hear this, but this is important: Cape Town has NO idea about racial integration. Sheez, being a child of the eighties, I have longed for black friends and the opportunity to learn about other South African cultures that were previously kept from me. Johannesburg is progressive, integrated and beautifully rainbow. Just a stroll through Newtown or Sandton City exposes how far removed Cape Town is from fulfilling the dream. What’s wrong with us? We still stick to our ‘kind’ and the Woodstockers go Woodstocking, the Stellenboschers go Stellenbosching and the tourists go to Mzolis. Really. I wish we could take a snap-shot from Maboneng and get intermingling, learning and appreciating and eventually understanding our differences.
You get to shit yourself a little
I know it sounds weird, but any visitor to Jo’burg has little moments of fear. Fear in the fast lane, fear at the traffic light, fear that you’re underdressed, fear that car guard gets aggressive, fear of leaving the window open at the guest house, fear that you took the wrong off-ramp. But it doesn’t last long and the adrenalin makes you grateful to be alive. And at the end of it all, those little moments of shitting yourself are flippen fantastic, and face it, you are lucky to get out of there alive.
People talk on their phones while they drive
This is wonderful people! Keep doing that because since the Cape Town Traffic Department started confiscating phones of drivers who were yakking away, there’s this new trend. Texting, Facebooking, Tweeting and Instagramming from your lap behind the wheel. I’m serious, at first I thought everybody was drunk swaying between lanes and causing chaos on the road, but once you pass these culprits you realise that they are actually on their phones, way down there in the nether regions, having a social jol, smiling to themselves at the very clever chirp they just posted, and certainly not paying attention to the road at all. At least when you’re talking on a phone you are having almost human contact, you can watch the road, AND you have one hand free to do what you’re supposed to be doing in a car, behind the wheel on the freeway – driving.
So yes, we may have the mountain and the (freezing cold) ocean and the wine farms and the west coast, but you Jo’burg guys are so cool, we live in your shadow. I think I’ll be making those return flights a little later in the future, just to get a bigger dose of your Jozi. But I’ll still shout for Province tomorrow.