Years ago I was told by the austere Dr Gunter Teichler at the DR Hospital in Mochudi that November is the month when the build up of static electricity, due to the heat and dryness, can cause people to behave in very odd ways. Some, invariably men, for some strange reason, throw away their clothes and climb trees, totally starkers.
I haven’t heard of this happening in recent years but I certainly knew of a number of occasions when this had happened in and around Mochudi in the distant past. And let’s remember that the phenomum was corroborated by no less a figure than the British Resident Commissioner, Col. Rey in the 1930s who recorded that one of his staff in Mahikeng had been doing the same thing.
So far, no newspaper, however, appears to have reported recently on such an indicator of social distress. But then our newspapers can be very strange. Given that the water situation and the heat are currently the two favoured topics of conversation, it is surprising that none has sent reporters to Palapye or wherever the latest break has occurred in the north-south carrier, to describe what is happening and talk to those who have the unenviable job of repairing it yet again. Very naturally, each of us believes that we are the ones who are really enduring the brunt of the current hard times. But bear a thought for those WUC people who are being called on, again and again, to fix that line. They are out there in the sun in temperatures, which must have been, in the past week, in the 39 to 42 degrees range. Presumably there is no nearby shade to which they might occasionally retreat. It seems to me that these people must be the unsung heroes.
If they were there busting their guts on our behalf, we really would be in major trouble. Were we getting decent reports we might know more about them and what they think about the current problems. I imagine that their comments would be extremely blunt! But then we might also have some idea of the scale of the problems confronting them. The WUC is extremely sparing with its words when it comes to reporting that leaks have occurred. What does ‘a leak’ mean? Is the problem confined to a single joint which has ruptured or to several continuous kilometres which have erupted and need to be entirely replaced? Is the pipeline, perhaps, falling apart faster than the WUC is able to repair it? Has the repair team been reduced for whatever reason and has it perhaps proved difficult/impossible to find suitable replacements? What length of the pipeline is in the ‘at risk’
But when thinking about those whose jobs makes them stand out there in the midday sun, I recalled that, during the past week, I had the unavoidable misfortune to experience Gaborone’s rush hour. It is horrific and I sympathise with everyone who has to endure it twice a day. But even misfortune can have its brighter side. In this case, it was to be told, as we passed through the Rainbow traffic circle, that the lady traffic cop who was on duty there is extraordinarily popular with drivers. Presumably, the Rainbow circle is her normal pitch. Most of us, I assume, would be able to distinguish one traffic cop from another only by the degree of flamboyance with which they direct traffic. Some are relatively laid back and a touch reticent; others obviously enjoy a job which allows them to express themselves with artistry and flamboyance. But what is it about this one lady which apparently gives such pleasure to so many frustrated drivers? How, without a word being spoken, is she able to communicate with drivers in a way which makes them relax and smile? Somehow, she is able to tell them, ‘bear with me, I am on your side, give me a moment and it will be your turn next.’ That’s a very rare skill.
I have a vague idea that some time in the past when driving in Gaborone, I have also been aware of this lady and have reacted in the same way. It isn’t that she just happens to be a woman and male drivers are likely to react more positively than to a man. There are a great many women in positions of authority who make men run a mile in order to get well out of their way. Whatever it is, this lady is obviously something of a star. I hope that if they agree, some of Gaborone’s rush hour drivers will somehow make it known to the police how much they appreciate what this anonymous lady is doing.