Cost of not making a fuss
I tend to divide the human race into two distinct categories: those who “know my rights” and those who just want to get through life with as little fuss as possible.
I must confess that, rather wimpishly, I fall firmly into the latter category. I do not know my rights.
One day last week I was trundling along peacefully in my little bakkie, heading towards Stellenbosch, when I came across a whole nest of aggressive traffic officials, right there in the middle of the highway; there were flashing lights, official vehicles, traffic cones and a whole team of arm-waving uniformed officials gesticulating and pointing in all directions.
“Stop,” they shouted. "Go back. Park here! Pull, over!” Being an obedient citizen, I stopped, went back, parked where I was directed and wondered what the fuss was all about.
“Our computer shows you have an outstanding traffic fine,” one of the officials barked. I had no idea when I had incurred a traffic fine, but not wanting to cause trouble I asked what I was required to do to keep on the right side of the law.
“Pay your fine,” I was told, and an efficient traffic official extracted R600 from my bank account via my bank card. For me, R600 is rather a lot of money. Whenever or wherever it was, I must have been going at a hell of a speed but, according to their official computers, somewhere, some time ago, I had exceeded the speed limit by quite a lot.
I have no idea where or when. It all seemed rather random and arbitrary, but as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like to make a fuss, so I paid and went on my way, R600 poorer.
Later my friends scolded me for being a silly fool.
I should have taken the matter to court, they said. I should have demanded a discount for paying straight away. They had no proof that I had broken the law, they said. It was their word against mine. I should “know my rights”. But unfortunately I belong to the other half of the human race. I don’t know my rights.
The good news is that I heard the first whale in the bay that morning. As far as I am concerned that means spring is officially here. That’s far more important that traffic fines.
The doorbell rang in an exclusive Sea Point apartment at 2am and the occupant tottered to the door, half asleep.
A hobo was at the door and he demanded: “Give me five rand.”
“Are you mad?” said the resident. “You wake me at two o’clock in the morning to bum money?”
“Look,” said the hobo, “I don’t criticise the way you run your business, so don’t criticise mine.”
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.