Continued…Accidental taxi?

July 11, 2007 at 8:33 am (Uncategorized)

Tap, tap, tap. I knew it would happen; sensed it before I heard it. It was her again.

”Hi, um, do you think you can still take me to the doctor?” she says as the kid waves hello.
”Of course, of course. Where is your doctor?”
”At Groote Schuur or Somerset Hospital…”
”Oh. Ok. Um. Ohhhkeyyyy…Let’s go.”

Now if you’re not familiar with Cape Town public hospitals, here’s a brief snapshot: It’s hell. You sit all day and consider yourself to be lucky to be helped on that day.
We eventually arrive at Somerset Hospital, an eyesore behind the very posh V&A Waterfront. There are noisy people, rude people, smelly people…so many people!
The foyer is filled with people and I’m stuck holding the kid while my neighbour goes in search of someone who can help her. If I was religious, I’m sure I would’ve started praying.
Not long after that, though, she came back saying the doctor told her she’d have to wait a long, long time as they’re only attending to emergencies (spilled guts, burst appendix, limbs about to fall of…that type of thing).
  

My advice, of course, is to tell my neighbour to go to a doctor.
”I don’t really have the cash for that,” she says.
”Oh, well, I can help. I mean, you’re not going to sit here all night surely?”
”I don’t know…would you be able to help?”
”Yes. Absolutely. You can’t wait here with the kid. I’ll give you the money and you go to the doctor tomorrow.”
”Oh thank you, thank you.”

I stop off to get some food and get some for her and the kid too. They look like they could use a good meal (ok, it’s not really healthy food but I’m not exactly Florence Nightingale – she of the syphilis death – so I don’t really worry about that). I’m not really sure what to think now though. Where I come from it’s normal to help your neighbours. It’s not this weird thing that warrants writing about.
But here, in my little corner of Cape Town’s CBD, it’s almost unheard of. I don’t even know the names of all the people in my block of flats.
On the one hand there’s no chance I could refuse help to someone who needs it. On the other, I don’t want to be taken for a ride.
Maybe living so far from ‘normal’ people – ie people I grew up with – has made me more cynical and making me wonder if I’m being scammed. All I know is there’s just no way I could say no.

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6 Comments

  1. Batman5172 said,

    be careful Toby, you may just have picked up a whole new family.

  2. Gnome said,

    You have a very good heart Toby. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I immediately thought this woman is taking advantage of you. I shouldn’t think like that. She probably really needs the money and you’re just doing the right thing! Well done Toby.

  3. kash99 said,

    I think its just the way we grew up Toby, that’s how it is in our community, but being out of it for a while now, one cant help but wonder whether ur being taken for a dingus..its happened to me here in Joburg..R3000 worth. And to the person who i helped, the debt doesnt exist..its like it never happened..the tief!! Anyway, I’ve written it off..if i get it back, great! if not, well, next time se ma se…

  4. Toby Hanks said,

    Hee, hee. You guys are hilarious!
    Batman, I hope it doesn’t come to that. I wouldn’t know how to say no.
    Gnome, don’t feel bad, the thought crossed my mind too.
    Kash99, whew, I hope it doesn’t reach that point. It is the way we grew up I think but how do you distinguish then between a genuine cry for help and being taken for a dingus, as you say?

  5. Mrs M said,

    Tobes,
    Well maybe she is a little bit, but you know I read this interesting article about people who talk about the good they’ve done for others. In a braggy sort of way. Instead of, we’re going to Ibiza for a holiday, you could say: I helped this old lady across the road.
    Instead of saying, I got a new pair of Manolos (personally, I don’t know someone who owns Manolos), you could say, I donated blankets to the shelter. Then everyone will want to be IN, and would be so HOT to help people. Imagine philanthropy reaching this amazing status where all the rich people could give a damn about their riches…it’s so much better to like, give people time or offer their help.
    Just be careful not to get taken for a ride, Tobes…this is a very thin line.

  6. Toby Hanks said,

    For those of you who are wondering why my name appears on the previous comment: It’s actually from Mrs M. It has happened before where the stuff mixes up and gets the wrong names. I don’t know why wordpress does this!

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