“Do not rush me. You are late. I am on time.” This bumper sticker quote on the rear window mashed against my face as I struggled into the back of the van. I attempted to cram my hips into the crevasse of space left on the bench, head now squishing against the fabric lining of the roof stereo. A remix of “Rude Boy” was all I needed to cure my morning drowsiness. With a furious rev of the engine, we soon rattled out of the Mowbray station.
Half of his body extended out of the window, the wind jittering his hair, the assistant driver belted out to passer byres, “Meanenberg!” To those less suspecting, and looking somewhat lost, he interrogated them and verified whether or not they heard him: “Brotha, where you goin’? Meanenberg? No?” Jumping out of the vehicle in mid-stop, he chased down families on the street side, ever sure they acknowledged a need for transportation. He finally lumbered back into his seat, disappointed by the loss, but satisfied by the mostly full taxi.
Wads of R7 packages flowed into his outstretched hand. Thrusting his other hand into his pocket, he fidgeted around to find the right change. In midst of the collection period, the driver turned to meet the assistant’s eyes and directed with the side of his head a new customer standing at the next station.
The vehicle swerved over and slung open its door. The burly fellow at the station flicked the bud of his cigarette to the asphalt and stamped it with his heal. He ambled into the front bench and spread to fill the final space of the vehicle. Handing over the proper coins, he grinned to the assistant, gold front teeth glimmering.
Justin Bieber soon made an appearance on the radio station with his revered “Baby, Baby, Baby, Oh!” song. The driver cranked up the volume on the headboard station. Gradually, the song permeated its way through the rather stagnant group, first starting with finger taps and progressing to head nods. The burly fellow did not make much of it until the chorus. Head rockin’ with a fresh cigarette in his mouth, he embraced the soulful whines of the song. Only the little boy next to me seemed uncomfortable: he complained, “Dontchya think the music is too loud?”
Everyday I take the kombi, I know I’m going to have an adventure. Whether it’s the cramped interior, the reckless driving, the bumping music or the fanatic assistant driver, I know I’m going to have a good time. Add to that some Justin Beaver, and you got yourself a combination out of this world.
It is not surprising that American hip-hop has a large presence on international radio; however, even in a nation outside the US, having such a big guy jam out to a little Justin Beaver was something quite profound. In Manenberg, much of one’s status is defined by whom one knows and the respect one has (also known as “street cred”). Maybe I am overly critical of a twelve-year-old who happens to sing love songs, but I feel like this guy would have lost major “street cred” in the US if he had been caught doing what he did. The little kid has my respect, even if he was just annoyed about the volume.
Yet, possibly this just speaks to the contagiousness of catchy music. Even as I emerged from my cramped position and wobbled down Manenberg Avenue to the SHAWCO center, I found myself humming those lyrics. Baby was I ready to start the day.