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.
- South Africa – Cape Town, South Africa (travelpod.com)
- Cape Town, South Africa – May 1999 (bootsnall.com)