Morning brave Mondayers. Here’s yesterday’s column, hope you enjoy.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
DATING A CAR GUARD
Do other countries have car guards too, or are they entirely unique to South Africa, like droe wors, Nik Naks, and Steve Hoffmeyer?
I seriously doubt that a guy in a luminous yellow vest would appear to guide you into an available parking space, in exchange for a couple of coins, if you pulled up outside Sainsbury’s in London, or nabbed a spot in front of The Guggenheim in New York City.
We’ve become so accustomed to them here, that we barely give them a second thought. Most of us even travel with a bit of spare change in our ashtrays, ready to hand out for services rendered.
But what are those services actually? These guys are mostly self-appointed so the job description is loose. It can be anything from finding you the perfect parking spot, to keeping an eye on the hood while you’re gone, or just appearing out of nowhere as you make your way back to your car and expecting a Purple Heart for their efforts.
I personally love it when you get painstakingly guided into a spot when there isn’t another car in sight for decades. The street can be lined with consecutive empty bays, in fact an army tank without power steering would be able to parallel park in its choice of spots, yet somehow car guard will make a big show of guiding you in. And then look at you like you’ve grown antennae on your head if you question why you owe him five bucks for his troubles. Who needs front and rear Park Assist when you have a car guard, who has probably never driven anything more than a hard bargain in his life.
But these guys aren’t just there for local colour, they’re part of South Africa’s huge informal economy, which provides work for about 2.1 million hangar salespeople, self-appointed windscreen washers, wire-trepreneurs and sunglasses or umbrella salesmen (depending on the weather) annually.
Most of them are friendly and helpful and many of them are highly educated, and might have once been accountants or presidents back where they come from. It’s not an ideal situation, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in right now. On the upside, the hours are negotiable, they get to be their own boss, work in a lively environment and meet lots of people, and of course its tax free.
A car guard in town asked me out on a date a few months ago. True story. He’s a regular fixture outside an office block I often visit for my day job, so he’s not just any random car guard I’d never set eyes on before. He’s always polite and friendly and over time we’ve gotten into the habit of greeting each other. He helps me find a parking spot, and then keeps an eye on my car in exchange for a couple of ronds.
Right up until the point where in a thick Nigerian-French accent he said; ‘Do you wanna get drink with me?’
I stuttered, entirely unprepared for the situation. In the minute or so it took me to find my tongue, I briefly considered it. Hey, he’s got a steady job and a friendly smile, that’s more than I can say for a lot of the dates I’ve been on recently.
I momentarily pictured introducing him to my friends and family down the line. ‘Friends and family,’ I would say, ‘I’d like you to meet my new boyfriend, Olumuyiwa Adebayo, he’s in the motor industry.’ But instead I politely declined due to urgent plans I had with my imaginary boyfriend.
As I waved him goodbye and drove off after my meeting, I couldn’t help wonder where he would have taken me? Where do parking guards go for drinks on first dates? And would he have worn the luminous vesty jacket? Also, wherever we ended up going, would I still have had to tip the car guard there, or do car guards have immunity from fellow car guards, as a professional courtesy of sorts.
Free parking must be a perk of dating a car guard. And I’m sure there are other perks too. I’m guessing he’d always make sure you had the best spot, and that nobody dings you, and he’d certainly be happy to wash your car for you too, on occasion. Which is a lot more than my current imaginary boyfriend does.