Judging Books by their Covers

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

A recent quora question “Have you ever had an experience that proves this adage?” got an answer telling of four shady-looking guys who stopped to help a lady stranded by the roadside one evening. Her heart lurched, but they turned out to be great, kind mensch’s, who got her car going and saw her safely on her way.

Reminded me of the winter evening I ran out of petrol in my VW Kombi on the N2 in Cato Manor. And of how people malign taxi drivers, who I happen to admire. They do a damned good job of getting most of the work force to work very day. Our economy would die without them.

It was getting dark, so I hopped out, got my tow rope out, attached it and started flagging down cars. Plenty whizzed past and it got darker. Suddenly there was a guy at my shoulder. “You’re in trouble” he said. With the traffic noise I hadn’t heard his taxi stop behind me.

Damn right I said.”Come, let’s hitch you up”, he said, hopping back in and catching a gap in the traffic, he drove round me, then reversed to where my tow rope lay on the ground.

We couldn’t find an attachment place on his Toyota Hi-Ace and as it was his Dad’s taxi he wouldn’t just attach it to an axle. It would have messed up the soft bumper had we done that anyway.

“Hop in” he said, “Let’s go and fetch petrol”. We roared off to the Engen near the Pavilion centre, bought two used 5l litre containers from the attendants, filled them, paid by card. I then drew cash for my taxi driver good samaritan unbeknown to him and we roared back to my car. We passed it on the south-bound side of the highway, went to the next exit, crossed and drove north, got to my car and emptied both containers into the tank (I had once put one 5l container in and the damn thing wouldn’t start until I’d added a second, hours later, which is why I had bought two this time. Yes, this was not the first time!).

On the drive he told me how he paid his Dad R600 a day (this was about ten years ago I guess) and got to keep whatever he could make over and above. Sometimes zero, but up to R600 on the busiest days. Life was a rush and they were all under constant pressure to keep moving people. He objected when I insisted on giving him some cash but he got over that. What a decent and pleasant chap. And what a relief to get my kombi going and get safely home!

I made (another) vow NEVER to run out of fuel again.


Taxi drivers are overwhelmingly good drivers who do a great job. There are around 250 000 taxis in South Africa, the industry employs about 600 000 people and they move about 15 million people daily. Yes, they stop anywhere. That’s because they are not buses. No-one wants to drive a kilometre past their nearest point and walk back, like you have to with bus stops. If you were in a taxi you would say “Please stop here”. Cos you’re human. Once you have said “They just stop anywhere!” tell yourself “They just stop anywhere” and then know that they just stop anywhere, expect it and don’t rant and rave when they do. Just give them space, wait politely if you have to and drive on, thinking “Thank you for keeping the economy going”. And if you’re feeling really ubuntu-ish “Sorry I’m all alone in my car”.


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