This is Taxi Steve - Steve Sivada. And his taxi, aka The Boogie Bus.
I draw your attention to four things, three of them visible:
Oh, and Steve: kind of a Rasta mullet hair job, pleased smile on his face: very typical; I've never seen him angry. Just pensive, maybe, bewildered - at the weirdness of women, and one in particular - possibly, and pretty happy - most times.
This, from a man who has personally driven a Ford minibus over 1 million km and counting, in and around Cape Town.
But this is a story from the taxi point of this, this time, with a moral - and shattered vehicles, of course; pretty much goes without saying.
After my introduction to Steve via an interesting little incident in Mowbray, I began to use him every time I travelled, to get me to and from the airport, and even as a party taxi: he's willing to come and get you at 3 am, is always there on time - and the Bus is a constant delight; it's always changing, and becomes more fantastical by the day. It is lined above window level with exotic number plates; it has old music and game CDs stuck to the inner roof; it is festooned with neon tubing, and - I definitely do not lie - has a light show set up for the back passengers. And he's always got a solid reggae beat playing - I mentioned the Rasta leanings? - and a good story to tell. He also brings his son along quite often, just because he likes the company.
Anyway, there we were one Wednesday in winter a while ago, getting along towards Cape Town International airport around mid-morning in the intermittent rain, and Steve was telling a story. We had just watched a real commercial minibus taxi fly past on the right, and I had made some comment along the lines of "Typical!". Steve glanced at me, then settled his forearms on the wheel, and looked forward, and said: "Yah, but it's not all their fault, hey? You know the owners, they chase the guys for profits - and they hire the ones who bring in the most money, so they all have to drive like that if they want to work".
I suppose I squirmed or something, because he went on: "No, don't worry - I also think they're cra-zeee, man! But let me tell you, you learn to drive when you do their job, hey?" He gestured forward, just as the taxi smoothly cut left, left and right around vehicles across the three lanes of the N2, to end up in the centre lane and running away.
He laughed, and said "You know, you also don't believe what other people do to you when you're driving a minibus - even when you behave! It's cra-zee, man!", and he laughed, looking at me.
"So - OK, I only know what I do, and I've seen what Ben does. Is it like that all the time?"
He nodded vigorously. "Yah, man, and worse! They just see you coming, and they close up to the guy in front, they block you coming onto the highway..." He tailed off, looking in his mirrors, back and side. There was a medium-sized delivery van edging past us on the right, on the now two-lane N2, but edging into us as well.
"Like this asshole", said Steve, gesturing through his window. "You see, he's wanting to turn left, but we're in his way - so he's going to try edge us over, just because he thinks this is a taxi." And Steve touched on the brake, and sure enough, the van pulled over in front us - centimetres to spare - and carried straight on over into the rapidly-vanishing exit lane.
"Fuckwit!" I found myself muttering, with my hands clenched on the seat edges. Steve looked over, and I saw him smile. "Relax, man - he's just cra-zee! And we're fine, not so?"
"Yah, I suppose", I muttered. "But Steve: what do you do when that's closer or it happens every day?"
His face got serious, then, and he frowned a bit through the windscreen. "Yah, it can get bad - and I tell you one or two times when I was driving this route I had some grief."
He cracked a sudden smile then. "But I can tell you a story like your buddy Ben - you want to hear it?"
I shrugged - "Yah, sure: I need to hear the other side as well, I suppose?"
"Yah - so you saw that guy back there" - he gestured - "the delivery van, what he did?" I nodded. "So when I was working as a taxi - when I was still sharp, you know - someone did something like that, but even closer. And he came riiiight across me" - with a gesture across the whole windscreen - with no signals, nothing".
He nodded slowly, remembering. "And?" I prompted. He glanced at me, and smiled. "Yah, I must tell you something: you know what to do, in your Kombi or in my bus, if someone does that?" I shook my head.
"You turn into him, then you let go the wheel as you hit - otherwise you can break your wrists, hey?" He nodded solemnly at me. I could only look at him. "And you know: if you hit him square, and he's going across you, his back end just slides away, and then if you lucky, he just rolls away...man, that idiot must have rolled three times!" He nodded sagely to himself again.
And he flashed another smile at me. "And I didn't even break my bus - nice bullbar on the front, you saw it?" I nodded, dumbly. "And the chassis - I toughened it up, so it didn't warp. Man, that was cra-zee!"
I could only stare: Bullbar Ben, I thought, and Taxi Steve - twins, separated at birth....
But he doesn't do that anymore: Taxi Steve is now a special-hire shuttle and tour bus operator. Get him and the Boogie Bus at +27-082 495 5698 or via firstname.lastname@example.org