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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My green heart

My friendship circle is spreading and it’s all because of the cucumber mamba.

In this country a car is your CV, it is the mirror of your soul, the fuel which drives you, even more so than your dog, it is a reflection of your being. Since driving the cucumber mamba I have become very aware of wealth, my own. Wealth, as in access to opportunity, access to ease, access to safety and warmth, access to lekkergoed and hassle-free living. Surprisingly, the cucumber mamba does not draw the attention of other wealthy men and women, no, the people who stare and touch and talk to me about it are what I can only call, the marginalized of this society. The car guard from the Congo, the petrol attendant from the Transkei, the bergie from the Boulevard, the street children of down town. These folk openly admire and compliment the car, and want to know more about it, like how does the roof open, how much does a tank of petrol cost, how is the music system and why is the boot so small?

When I get the standard, opening line, which is something like this. “Beautiful car.” I come with my standard answer and the response to this never fails to amaze me.

There is an abundance and a generosity of spirit towards me driving a vehicle that in monetary terms exceeds the life time livelihood now and in the next life of all these folk combined. Despite this and we both know it, they are, down to the last bergie at the bar, pleased, when I answer and say I am spoilt rotten and that I have done nothing to deserve this, they somehow understand and are gracious, glad for me, glad that I have the privilege of being the owner, the one who lets her hair loose in the wind at high speeds. When I embroider and tell about my impending birthday, they clap their hands in delight.

The day I drove this squeaky clean, shining monster out of the garage, two Rasta men, carrying one long bag of cheese curls between the two of them, stopped to admire me and shouted out, “ ry hom, antie, ry hom!” with such enthusiasm that I had to spin the wheels for their sake.

It is not the same for some owners of big wheeled bakkies and four by fours who want to teach me a lesson on the road by forcing me into the slow lane and then slowing down themselves, the moment they pass me, or the neighbour who shouted Capitalist… when I parked in the road or another who pulled their nose up in the air when I offered to take them for a spin, with the words, “I hate Mercedes cars.” I wonder what Mercedes has done to get them into such froth?

I like my new friends, from Kloof street in the Cape to the garage in P Albert. I like them big time because they are teaching me the art of graciousness and gratitude. To be gracious when another is blessed with something you wouldn’t mind having yourself, and gratitude in knowing, that all things are but a gift and that we own nothing really and so all we can do is to enjoy what we have and to go about with life with a little humility.

It’s a bit like my Congolese friend at the local Spar, when I see him I always think to myself, this could be my husband in a foreign country, this could be my child, this could be me, and who will show a little kindness to make living a little more bearable?
Who knows when the shoe will fit on the other foot, who knows when the tables will be turned?

Cucumber mamba has somehow brought this to the surface for me. Will I clap my hands for anothers prosperity, while I stand, soaked in the rain and watch them close the roof of their green convertible?

I’m not sure if I will pass that test.
If I’m honest, I suspect I would be green with envy.


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