It’s another gorgeous spring day and I decide to throw caution to the wind and drive with my window open. To people unfamiliar with Johannesburg driving, this might not seem like a brave thing to do. But it is. Not because I expect to come to any harm though, but rather because I simply don’t always have the energy to deal with the plethora of vendors, beggars and advertisement distributors who besiege us at all busy intersections. I am familiar with many of the advertisers; patio furniture covers, garden services, painters, plumbers and almost any other household service you can think of are promoted on a variety of pamphlets and cards and then thrust at anyone who may be reckless enough to seek a bit of fresh air.
But today is just too lovely to be buttoned up in the car with the air-conditioner on so I not only hazard it, but decide to simply accept all that it offered with the intention of depositing it straight in the bin when I get home. And I’m very nearly there anyway; just four blocks away.
As luck would have it, the light at the Bompas Road/Jan Smuts Ave intersection is red and I’m a sitting duck in a long line of cars. An eager-faced young man spots the gap – literally – heads straight for my window and enthusiastically presents me with a yellow pamphlet which I assume will be a special offer for spring lawn-dressing or something similar.
But one word leaps out at me and it nothing to do with either lawns or spring. It’s “bums”. Not quite what I’d expected in that place at that time. Nevertheless, in the stationary traffic I learn that I can contact Mama Mugisha for the enlargement or reduction of my rear end and various other parts of my anatomy and that I’ll find her on yet another busy street corner.
Now while I somehow don’t think I fit the typical profile of Mama Mugisha’s clientele, this is not target marketing. It’s random and indiscriminate: if you’re stuck in traffic with an open window, you are the market. And the lovely young man is patently delighted to have successfully off-loaded a flyer.
The light changes and I drive on. In the midst of another mining tragedy, it’s good to reminded that some of our cultural collisions can still make us smile. I catch myself humming ‘Black Magic Woman’ for the rest of the day. I suspect though, that the context is not quite what Santana had in mind.