Once a year, for reasons known only to themselves, thousands of Johannesburgers flee their beautiful city to spend the summer high holidays in Clifton/Plett/Umhlanga or a whole bunch of other places that would be attractive and relaxing if they weren’t so full of Johannesburgers.
Not that I’m complaining. Because from the beginning of the December school holidays, until the first working week of January, a blissful torpor falls over our city, and it takes on the atmosphere of a small town that you pass through en route to bigger and busier destinations.
A small town like Johannesburg used to be in, oh, 1886 or so. A small town like Johannesburg is for three weeks every Christmas. This picture shows the intersection of Glenhove and Oxford in Rosebank, at about 4.30pm on a weekday, workday afternoon.
That’s peak hour, but then it’s always peak-hour in Johannesburg, because there are always orange witches’ hats and yellow ballustrades on the road, and there are always taxis hooting and racing and screeching off the road, and the air is always hot with the urgency and aggression and hustle that make this the economic powerhouse of Africa. Except at Christmas.
At Christmas, there is hardly any rage on the roads, because there are hardly any road-users to rage at.
There are hardly any backups and delays caused by construction and roadwork, because the builders and the roadworkers are on holiday.
There is hardly any of the paranoia and unsolicited malice that lies in a sidelong glance at the driver of the car next to you at the robots, because, well, what’s the big hurry, China?
We’ve finally got the town to ourselves; we can take it easy; we can nod; we can smile; we can relax. No, please, I insist: you ease into the fast lane, while I slow down and wait.
At Christmas, the air in Johannesburg is filled with an uncommon generosity of the spirit, or maybe it’s just a lassitude of the spirit, a langour brought on by the 49 weeks of madness just gone by, and the 49 weeks of madness still to come.
Either way, if you’re a Johannesburger, and you’re having a nice holiday in Clifton/Plett/Umhlanga or elsewhere, please don’t worry about those of us back home; we’re fine.
In fact, why not extend your holiday by a couple of weeks or so? Seriously, you don’t want to be in Johannesburg when all the Johannesburgers are back.