You’re trapped if you’ve chosen the Oxford Road off-ramp. There’s nowhere to go, no place to hide and no violation left secret. You’re the quarry, the butt, the clay pigeon and you’re snared. The only way is forward, netted in the increasingly single lane of traffic, heading towards the dreaded orange, white and blue truck.
Joburg has become a city of roadblocks – and a place of fear if you’ve ever faced a screed of fines as long and immoderate as a princess’s bridal train.
You might have had the experience. You’re angling out of the city around 5pm, down Market Street’s tight left or right lane to the sides of the Rea Vaya. You’re filtering the spirited cry of the furniture store DJ, belting out the specials, boxing-referee style. You’re glancing at the glistening pink and yellow frocks on the corner of Nugget, flounces spilling out of bustiers like lips filled with Botox.
You’ve got your mugger radar on low and your Oskido on high. And then, before you’ve even had the opportunity to consider a quick switch left towards President, you see the men and women in jackboots and Ponch sunglasses, nestled smugly at the city limits, just under the End Street bridge.
There’s no way out. It’s like Norman Mailer’s description of fear: laying on you like a slab of stone.
Once the officer has stepped into the road and put out their hand to usher you into their grip, you’re friendless. All you have is the three-point rush. Driver’s licence. Check. Car licence. Check. Innocent and servile attitude. Check.
You remember only too well the Aarto-stamped envelopes filled with little artworks of you cruising Joburg’s Möbius strip slightly over the speed limit, and you remember all too well stashing them on the dresser behind the box of fish food. You might have bought into the rumour that there are issues with Aarto, and that, as otherwise law-abiding citizens of our good city, we are not expected to actually pay our traffic fines. You would be wrong.
For the feckless urban wanderer, it can be a day’s mission avoiding your fate.
Try Oxford. It’s a favourite fishing spot for the gallant JMPD who know they’ve got you cornered. There are no right and left turns before you hit the nozzle, and it would take a most cunning manoeuvre, something like icing the puck, to get your car over the centre island and back towards the safety of the highway.
You might get noticed, especially if your little car doesn’t have the evasive ability of an SUV. So it’s tickets. They always have the truck.
Try getting on to the M1 just outside Braamfontein over the bridge, and you’ll find that’s also become a popular haunt of the men and women in tight navy trousers. Of course, if you’re coming down Jan Smuts Avenue from the Nelson Mandela Bridge side, you’ll be able to spot them at a distance and can select the option of the guilty, but virtuous sweep into Empire. If you choose to go right, beware the final turn towards Louis Botha with the Brenthurst Clinic on your left. That, too, can be a lonely place of attrition.
If you’ve avoided the dare of both the M1 and the Louis Botha roadblocks, your next formidable challenge is probably Houghton Drive, just before The Wilds. It’s the ultimate gambit, as no one with anything on their conscience gets out in one piece when the truck is there.
It’s a little like facing the Pearly Gates. You’ve been good, but you’ve also been a little bit bad. You’ve demanded an end to crime, but there’s the small matter of your own anarchy. There’s no turning back, and you must accept that if you’ve already outlasted four roadblocks in 90 minutes, your destiny simply precludes you from surviving another one.
You’re going down and you know that’s righteous.