The Orange Plague

South African GPS

Image by warrenski via Flickr

Ever walked down a road and thought of how you could duck the one person you can be sure will jump you just as you reach your car? In Cape Town we refer to those people as car guards. For clarification purposes : apparently this includes anyone who puts on an orange or yellow luminescent jacket. Wearing this jacket seems to give you the magical right to stalk anyone carrying a set of car keys.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe (as with most things) that there is a time and a place for everything and everyone. The gripe I have is with the fact that ‘car guardism’ seems to have spread like a bush fire. Once upon a time you were happy to see the chap ushering you towards the vacant parking bay.  Back then they were few and far between, located only in the hot spots of the social scene and found mostly after dark. Under such circumstances it was appropriate to hand them a few silver coins for keeping an eye on your vehicle and whatever you chose to leave in there at your own peril. Unfortunately within the years thereafter everyone else jumped on the bandwagon, spreading like a plague till you could even find them hovering behind bushes during broad daylight at your friendly local neighbourhood shop and (god forbid) outside your house.

Now while I happily hand over a few coins for a service I deem necessary and beneficial, I balk at the way in which these people now assume that simply because we have to park they now have a right to harass us. Frankly when I seek parking outside of the parking lots it is usually in order to avoid having to pay for parking in the first place. The purpose not being so I can be harassed into handing over my hard earned money to a guy who stands there leaning against my vehicle (leaving hand prints if I’m especially lucky) – a vehicle which might I add doesn’t even contain anything worth stealing in the first place. That makes me angry and resentful.

It has grown to the point where I am reminded of the ‘protection fee’ certain shady groups force individuals to pay. In this case translated to ‘Pay me if you don’t want to have your car scratched next time’. I wonder at the fact that the government hasn’t seen this as a problem. Frankly I don’t even feel safe anymore. I am more wary of the car guards than I am of the criminals.

Now as I mentioned before – there is a time and a place for everything and everyone. I just wish someone would step in and make the whole bussiness more official in order to protect the general public. For instance: permits & licenses required in order to be a car guard (preferably drivers license like discs containing identification information), official guard jackets so they can be more easily identified, proper operating procedures and rules, areas and hours of operation (to which the public living in that region has to consent), channels for the public to follow if a car guard is overstepping himself.

Like ‘The Big Issue’ this was an idea which was started with good intentions and blew up beyond acceptable paramaters. Should we have to be confronted by a sales person at every single robot in Cape Town? I say nay. It would be great to see some of our government figures take a stand against this general abuse of the public.

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2 responses to “The Orange Plague

  • TheLoop

    Ja, even though one wants to move on, constant exposure to this shite/peeve is just a continuous reminder of the whacky situation we find ourselves in, which is by far most of the times nothing more than socially-legalised begging and extortion.

    I ‘deal’ with it by having a very clear mental picture of whether the ‘guard’ (and I use that term very loosely, as I’ve heard that they wil just stand there and gape if you get mugged next to your car) has performed a service worthy of remuneration.. ie. did I park long enough? was the area dodgy enough? did I loose sight of my car (or was I just in the building across the street with big glass windows in clear sight of my transportation apparatus)?

    So, to keep my sanity, I work on a strict first-half-hour-is-free basis with a sliding scale between R2 and R5 depending on above factors and the change I actually have on me. Also, I absolutely don’t entertain any supposed ‘guard’ in a normal residential area/street.

    The sad parts are (1) how normal it is for constant besiegement to result in mental fortifications and in (2) how many desparately destitute people are out there who are willing to grasp at any chance to earn some meagre coin just to survive. *sigh* one can’t ‘save them all’, one can’t fill a bottomless pit, and I firmly believe in a sensible macro-social structure where segments of the population are not conditioned to believe that it makes profitable sense to harass normal folk next to their vehicles or even in-passing at traffic lights by virtue of looking expectant or miserable enough. This scenario, similar to spam, would not exist if there were not enough people who actually click on those pharmacy links…….

    Whoa, somehow needed to get that off my chest. See what this society does to one, spending a Saturday afternoon not outside! 🙂 Your writing got me thinking about this again, and it’s annoying as heck, and unlike tv ads, you can’t avoid it by other means.

  • cinderella911

    Nice comment! And I agree 100% with your thoughts and sentiments, I follow a similar mental payment system when dealing with them. It just boggles the mind and raises the blood pressure when you are constantly confronted with this kind of thing. When someone is a glorified beggar who harasses you into giving unwarranted renumeration I start seeing in various shades of red. I have even witnessed a few of them in small towns during the last couple of months, in the past at least when you left the city borders you seemed to be clear of the madness. I just wish that there was a magic button we could carry around with us – when they make a nuisance of themselves, you press it and they go away… wouldn’t that be nice… ^.^

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