We had post Heritage Day celebrations in our office today. Our HR department arranged for some traditional food for everyone to enjoy. It was a nice selection of what one could call South African food. Bobotie, Pap, Tripe and samp were some of the delights.
As an added extra we were treated to a traditional dance display by a “professional” troupe. Three young men and five even younger girls dressed in traditional wear danced and whistled to give us a taste of Venda heritage. The dances are interesting and the dancers clearly fit and coordinated. Despite seeing similar things a lot previously I enjoyed seeing these young people do their thing.
What struck me though was the entire scenario: Us, working in corporate Johannesburg, in a very affluent area, watching these performers in traditional dress dancing in the traditional way in our offices. It’s a loud and clearly visceral affair. The troupe were dressed in animal skins and accompanied by a drum and the dancing involves a lot of foot stamping and clapping of hands and ululating. It’s great but not what you would associate with the modern world. And yet, there they were. Amongst us professionals, in our expensive traditional ware (because we had to dress up for lunch) in the richest mile in Africa.
And so South Africa’s Heritage Day manifested itself and I know that my lamenting about us “only” being South African is something I will not live to see. Tradition and culture and heritage are impossibly important and what ultimately makes us a rainbow nation.
It’s a long story but I had to go fetch a courier parcel for work the other day. It was an important parcel which had been back and forth across the country (and possibly Swaziland) for over a month. So, when I heard it was in JHB I told the courier company to hold onto it and I’ll come pick it up.
Little did I know I would enter the twighlight zone in doing so. The courier warehouse is number 146 Such and Such Rd which is right next to number 15. Cuase that’s normal right? I have to go through three gates to get in while a very friendly very apologetic security gaurd had to search every part of my car. I’m not sure what on earth I could be smuggling into a courier depot but there you go. He did at least say ” you look veyr nice today” which is very sweet but does allude to the fact that he may have seen me before – which he hadn’t.
I eventaully end up at a deserted collection counter where someone finally spots me and ventures around a corner to find the correct person to assist me. Out comes a man with a toilet paper crown. Yes, a toilet paper crown wrapped around his head. I initially though it may be a bandage but as he got closer I saw the toilet paper bows that decorated his headgear and realised it truely was a crown. He too was very friendly but I had to wait while he went on a mission to find my poor parcel.
So I waited and this gave me a chance to look around the warehouse. It was practically empty except for a few empty cages and what looked like document storage along the one wall. There was also a lonely conveyor belt, being manned by one guy who constantly scanning or doing something to a single box as it came round him time and time again. I’m not kidding. One man, one box, Box goes round, man points scanner at it and then steps back. The same box, the same man, another motion to scan. ANd it was all strangely quiet. This carried on for several minutes before the man switched off the conveyor and left the lonely box just there. Twilight zone.
Eventually toilet paper crown guy brings me the box which looked like it had been to all corners of the universe considering how damged it was. But the contents was okay. SO after much signing and refering one waybill to the other to prove it was all the same package he loaded my car and off I went.
Back at the fort entrance, another security gaurd checked my smuggling finesse the first one stood in his little hut pounding his heart with his hand while looking in my direction with fluttering eyelids. I smiled sweetly and got out of there as quickly as I could. Back past number 15 and back to reality.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I don’t think there are many countries in the world where every one you meet at a warehouse is impossibly friendly and can get away with flirting with the customer and wearing toilet paper crowns. It’s a testiment to the wonders that are my country. We honour our people and we let you wear a crown if at all possible.
It was probably his birthday and I should have asked why he was wearing a crown, but at least I have immortalised this moment in writing.