It’s August 31, 2009 at 5:19pm and I am … I’m enough! I’m enough! I am SO enough of this! Zvakwana.
Let me explain. This afternoon I had a coffee date with a dear friend. It was nice. It had been a while since we’d seen each other so it was lovely to do some catching up. Post-coffee, I wait along 2nd Street Extension hoping a combi will soon come by. It’s getting hotter every day and as you can imagine waiting for public transport is not user-friendly in this kind of weather. I see a combi approaching, hand stuck out of the window pointing toward the city centre, and a voice shouting, “City! Copacabana!” I obligingly gesture that I want a ride in the death-trap into downtown Harare. I’m in and we’re off. I’m trying to remain very salala with the ‘hwindi’ (conductor) yelling to other passengers in my ear while straddling the poor man to my left. The poor guy also has the unwelcome privilege of having the hwindi’s armpit not too far from his nose.
I hand the hwindi a lovely crisp portrait of George Washington. For those of you who are unfamiliar or are new to ‘rolling’ in a combi, let me break it down for you quickly. For one trip, e.g. Mount Pleasant to downtown Harare, it costs US$0.50 or ZAR5.00 or Z$3 trillion (I don’t know how many zeroes are involved in that one!). I am yet to board a combi that takes Euros or pounds. However, I will keep you posted on any developments in that area. Remember how I gave the hwindi a dollar-bill? Yes? That means that he owes me change of US$0.50 or ZAR5.00 or Z$3 trillion, right? There are a couple of other passengers who are waiting for their change, too. Then lo and behold what befalls my ears? That awful, awful refrain of “handina change vabereki” (I don’t have change).
We arrive at my final stop and there are four of us who are still waiting on our change. The hwindi calmly and unapologetically hands us two one-dollar-bills and tells us to figure out how to split the bills between ourselves, on our own. I try to explain to him that I am going in the opposite direction of the chick with whom I’d be partnered to split the dollar. She Chitungwiza and me, Greendale. The hwindi blank-stares me, shrugs his shoulders and tells the driver to drive off. There I am on Park Street, seething about what just happened but this doesn’t help because I am still without my money!! I know, I know it seems a tad overboard to react so intensely about FIFTY cents. But people, let me tell you something: when you use public transit frequently, fifty cents is a BIG deal. Trust me. See, it’s not just `combis that are stealing from people and short-changing them. Think about how many times you’ve gone to the store and they ask you to purchase a sweet, a razor-blade or a box of matches just so they don’t have to give you change. Or credit notes! Oh my freaking gosh! There are more credit notes than cash in my wallet at any given time. How long have we been using Obama bucks in this country – officially and unofficially? It’s been a while, correct? Then explain to me HOW and WHY no one ever has change for me… and you… and you…and you, too! It’s unacceptable.
Let me tell you something: I worked for that 73 cents, and NO, I don’t want a handful of Dandy bubble gums or a mini Lunch Bar or a packet of peanut-centered Tumbles! How do you know that I’m not allergic to peanuts?! Huh? Or maybe I’m trying to lose weight and here you are TEMPTING me! Just give me my freaking 73 cents! Can I tell you the ultimate? I was at St Elmo’s on Saturday with a friend. Great conversation, great pizza and delicious chocolate brownie with ice-cream. Yummy. It’s time for the bill. We pay. We are owed change. Without missing a beat our server says, “I can write you a credit note.” Are you kidding me?!?! Seriously?! St Elmo’s is a restaurant that has hundreds of people patronizing it daily and our server wants me to take a credit note?!?! That’s ridiculous.
The whole “hatina change, credit note” song-and-dance is old. It’s unacceptable. It’s fueling resentment. It’s a 20 cents here, 68 cents there, ‘no-change-for-my-combi-fare’ reminder of how Zimbabweans are stolen from daily. Please stop the madness. Zvakwana. I’m enough now…
This is Black Orchid sounding off. I’m out.