The Metrofail Experience ..//..

Stunning decor

If you really, really want to get to know Cape Town culture then I recommend riding Metrorail. Ride the grey and yellow express. Don’t burn gas and holes in your pocket. Sit back, relax and let the electric carriage of dreams sway you into a state of inner ceasefire.

Metrofail has received a lot of flak over the past few years – and rightfully so. It is indeed run by a troop of adolescent apes and the trains themselves are laden with less technology than a Pentium 2.

Welcome to Metrofail – where your dreams of swift and timely travel are crushed daily beneath the rubber boot of humility.

On the upside, you can arrive three hours late for a meeting and as soon as you mention the word train people not only forgive you, they console you with bowls of ice cream and mugs of chamomile tea.

You’ll always have an alibi.

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said I’d like to smash every tooth
In your head

Oh … sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking
When I said by rights you should be
Bludgeoned in your bed

And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
Now I know how Joan of Arc felt
As the flames rose to her roman nose
And her Walkman started to melt
Oh …

Bigmouth, la … bigmouth, la …
Bigmouth strikes again
And I’ve got no right to take my place
With the Human race

And so the words of The Smiths are all that can console me on my mp3 as I sit sandwiched between Mrs MSG crunching on her third packet of Niknaks and Mr Atmosphere who has so politely got Kanye West on speaker audio for all of us to enjoy.

When you’ve caught Metrovuil enough times you’ll also become well aquainted with Jacob’s stench. Jacob keeps six plastic Coke bottles on his waist because his pants are eight sizes too big. Jacob has never taken bath. Jacob also urinates on himself. The stench slices your nostrils with a scalpel as he walks past and your little world of potpourri and lavender is severed for minutes after he stumbles out of the carriage. Jacob is drunk and he needs more money so that he can remove the pain of living for just one more night. I once gave Jacob R20 to make myself feel better for all the times that I blocked my nose when he walked by.

Gas masks are optional.

Every now and then you do get a seat. Sometimes the trains’ jarring motion makes you nod off, and you feel yourself drifting into that lovely dreamy state when you’re in-between being awake and falling asleep. The daily concerns drift out you like soft cumulus clouds being feathered by a gentle breeze. You’re rocking gently into slumber when suddenly the carriage doors burst open and the blind gospel singers return in time to jolt you into a stereophonic voyage into Christ.

We thank you Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus Ameeeen
We thaaaank you Jesuuuuuuuuus Aaaaaaaaaamen
We thank you Jeeeeeeeeeeesus Aaameeeeeeeeeeeen
We thaaank you Jeeeeeeeeeeeesuuuuuuuuuuus Aaaaaaaaameeeeeeen

 Your state of mind is jerked from that of marshmellowy peace to a frenzied riot with the songs being bellowed out at anything close to 140 decibels.

 Bigmouth, oh … bigmouth, la …
Bigmouth strikes again
And I’ve got no right to take my place
With the Human race

 I’ve painted a brutal picture here, but there is in fact a rosy side to Metrofail: You get to meet interesting people from all around the world. Many other students also catch the train and I enjoy seeing their engrossed, fervent eyes as they study for their chemistry exam. I shmaak watching artists and fashion designers sketch and doodle to the beat of their iPods. I love seeing English teachers frown and nod simultaneously as they mark their students’ papers. I relish it when my nightmares of calculus are squashed in my brain as I watch a young man writing reams of mathematical formulas out of pure joy. I savor intelligent conversations about the Cuban revolution and the future of technology and consciousness. I value meeting a stranger and having another stereotype obliterated from my mind. I exalt in having my world shaken when I meet a homeless man who calls me his brother. I dig hearing my favourite newspaper salesman make everybody laugh with his witty and insightful sales pitch. My love affair with Cape Town grows everyday that I’m around its everyday people.

So, dear friends, get out of your wagons and step aboard the Hogwarts Express that is so absolutely, canonically and verifiably filled with enchantments. Your life will be forever changed as your journey and time of arrival can never be foreseen. And besides, you never know – you could just meet someone who’ll change your life forever.

Keep a set of earphones around your neck and a can of whipass in your pocket and you’ll be ready for your trip into the Cape Town Underground.