Perpetuating the stereotype

Perpetuating the stereotype

It’s true; people really do live up to stereotypes … although, on the rare occasion, they break through them – however briefly.

The old stereotype that Joburg drivers are mal and Cape Town drivers are dopey (no tactless reference intended) will forever stand, especially when one visits the “other” city. We don’t ever really take the time to consider other parts of the country though – and I think I’ve found a spot that’ll put both those cities to shame …

I recently put in for a bit of R&R. Packed up the car, left the madness of Joburg in our wake and blasted off – at a steady 120 – to the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

Like most Joburgers, I’m no stranger to this trip. I’ve also driven up and down the coast and through the greater Durban area many times. As a “hardened” Joburg boy – conditioned by the metropolitan’s relentless hustle and bustle, the unforgiving onslaught of gap takers, tailgaters and speed makers, as well as the kind, considerate nature of most of our minibus taxi drivers – I continually think that coastal traffic will be a breeze …

I don’t know how to best describe it – suffice to say that, compared to Johannesburg’s somewhat controlled chaos, Durban traffic seems just plain chaotic. The parts where one drives through Durban (on the N2 from Amanzimtoti north, the N3, the M7 and the like) are particularly bothersome – a hunting ground for aggressive drivers, and there were many …

The fabled “white van man” is also alive and well in KwaZulu-Natal. For example, a specific chap in a VW Crafter, whose grand-prix race I found myself caught in the middle of twice (different days) on the same bit of N2, really lived up to that stereotype. (For a bit of context, “white van man” – as described by Wikipedia – is a stereotype used in the United Kingdom for a commercial van driver, perceived as selfish, inconsiderate, mostly working class and aggressive.)

There were also the usual suspects – lane straddlers, speedsters, and the like. Serial undertakers performing the most risky of manoeuvres were the most prevalent.

I do have to say, however, that one evening I was actually pleasantly surprised. Most visitors to the Umhlanga region will know the chaotic construction currently underway at the N2/M41 (Mt Edgecombe/Umhlanga) interchange. During the day, I was surprised to make it through unscathed, and doffed my beach hat to the road builders getting on with the job as motorists squeezed through at barely reduced speed.

Returning that evening in the dying light of a long, hot work day (well, for them, anyway), the majority of drivers passing through the concrete bollards did so sensibly and calmly. No rush, no fuss, no flash of bright lights or aggressive undertaking.

It was quite refreshing, actually, and quite un-stereotypical. If only they could keep up that attitude during the daytime … and other drivers – in whatever part of the country – could follow suit.

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