During my first week of job hunting in Johannesburg, my friend Saxon planned for an uber to be sent to my apartment in Auckland Park and have it drop me off at the Zone in Rosebank – where we would rendez-vous and then travel together, on to Sandton City via the Gautrain, (I’ll write a separate blog on my first Gautrain experience). I was elated and jumped at the opportunity to be chauffeured across Melville to Rosebank.
At precisely ten o’clock Saxon WhatsApped me for my location pindrop and told me that I was to expect a 2014 model white Toyota Corolla in two minutes – I smirked at his message; I come from Botswana where two minutes could mean hours, days or months. I reluctantly locked up the apartment and made for the boomed entrance, sure enough when I walked through the revolving gate the white Corolla was idling for me. I climbed into the backseat, the driver introduced himself, asked what music I preferred to listen to, confirmed the drop-off location and rolled over the engine.
Twenty-eight minutes later I was standing at the Burger King entrance with Saxon, we decided to bail on the bottomless all-American soft drinks and get brunch at Sandton instead. Saxon ushered me down into the Gautrain Rosebank station where I bought a Gold Gautrain card and after effortlessly tapping in we were streaked off to our next destination.
Once we had emerged from what seemed to be a plethora of escalators we made our way to Sandton City Shopping Center, (I will write about my first Sandton City experience soon). After handing out my CV to just about every store in Santon – about three hundred and fourteen, we took advantage of the wacky Wednesday deal at Steers and enjoyed our burgers in the food court. We did some window shopping and at around four o’clock we left the complex and made for the train station.
Saxon disembarked at Rosebank station and I naively traveled on to Park station.
After submerging in Sandton CBD and emerging in Johannesburg CBD I was sure I had popped up in a different world – this was first time I had ever been in such a congested area. The place was crawling with people from every walk of life imaginable and I was just another person with a goal – to get the hell out of CBD.
After looking incredibly lost and walking in circles – much to the amusement of the local nyaope addicts, I eventually realized that you could not access the Rea Vaya Park station from the rooftop parking belonging to Park Station without having to walk across the busy main road. As I approached the Rea Vaya ramp I was shocked to see that there was a queue of commuters from the ticket vendor snaking its way down the ramp ending at the pavement then continuing on the other side of the pedestrian crossing and all the way back to the Gautrain station. I had no choice but to join the queue.
One hour and forty minutes later it was my turn to be served. I greeted the morose-looking lady in uniform and asked for a Rea Vaya card. She gave me a card and asked how much I wanted to load on it, I told her how much I wanted and passed her my Nedbank Debit card. She took my bank card and intently inspected it before informing me that they only accept cash – if that woman weren’t sitting behind two inch thick perspex I just may have garroted her with her “Rea Vaya Jozi a World Class City” lanyard. I took my Nedbank card back and set off in search of an ATM.
A while later I returned with two hundred Rand and there were only a handful of people in ahead of me. When I go to the window and asked the little lady for a card she shrugged and told me that the cards were finished. . . I stared at the woman for a while before asking her what she proposed I do to get home. She said she didn’t know. It was dark by now, I had never been there before and I couldn’t just get on the train and go back to Rosebank and have Saxon uber me home – no, I would figure this out myself. I downloaded uber and tried using the app, it didn’t work because I didn’t have a credit card. I was starting to freak out. Then it occurred to me to use a private taxi from the station to get me home. I found a nice enough looking car and driver and asked him to take me home. He changed the price three times along the drive, so I changed the location three times too, needless to say I arrived home in one piece.
The next morning I went to the Rea Vaya UJ Sophiatown Res station and asked to buy a Rea Vaya card, only to be told that the only place to buy the cards is at the Rea Vaya Park Station – perhaps she didn’t understand that in order to buy a card, I needed to get to Park station, but I couldn’t buy a card because I was in Auckland Park, but couldn’t use the bus either because I didn’t have a card. She was very helpful and radioed over to the next station which is Rea Vaya SABC station and told me they had cards, I thanked her and wandered the short distance to the SABC station.
Once at the SABC station, I asked the vending lady in uniform for a card to buy. The woman behind the two inch thick perspex told me that the system was offline so she couldn’t sell me a card, but assured me that I could attain a card from the next station in Milpark. So I set off to the Rea Vaya Milpark station in high hopes. Once again I was told that regrettably the system was offline and I should come back the following day. By now I was shaking. I needed a pizza and quick, my nerves were raw and I was about to go rogue. I walked back to Campus Square mall and ordered a Hawaiian pizza from Romans Pizaa. I went home with a full tummy and no Rea Vaya card.
After returning to the stations for six consecutive days and being told the same thing, I asked my friend Tylah to drop me at the Gautrain Park station because I needed to get to my first interview at Nike Sandton. Before descending into the underground warren of platforms and tunnels I decided to try my luck once more at the Rea Vaya Park station and to my dismay they had cards and the system was online! Horay! I finally had a Rea Vaya card and the city was at my fingertips! What the uniformed lady behind the perspex failed to mention was that on Sundays the buses stopped running at about six o’clock in the evening. I returned via the Gautrain that evening from a very successful interview in Sandton only to tap into the Rea Vaya Park station and wait for sixty-seven minutes staring at an empty main road. I asked the security guard if she knew if the C4, C5, C6 or T3 buses would be coming back. She declared that they would not be returning until the following morning. Great. I was stranded once again in Johannesburg CBD. I reluctantly left the station and went in search of a private cab to get me home. No sooner had I signed one hundred Rand over to a very excited driver, the C4 bus pulled up to the station and left, all in the blink of an eye.
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