It was around 6:00 in the evening on a Tuesday night when I found myself lost in the hustle and bustle of the Durban City Centre. I was new in Durban and I had no idea how the taxi system worked. But for some reason known as idiotism, I still decided to risk it and take one of those 16-seater taxis after my classes ended that afternoon.
I didn’t know exactly where the taxi would drop me or how I would connect other taxis from there to eventually get home. That’s how I found myself on the sidewalk of a busy street, with cars honking up and down, people rushing and shoving left and right, and no way of getting home. Every taxi I stopped to ask if it would take me where I lived said, “We’re done driving for the day!” or simply ignored me.
I didn’t have enough cash on me to hire a private taxi. I didn’t have my South African credit card yet so I couldn’t withdraw any money. My phone was off so I couldn’t call an Uber or anyone else for that matter.
It was getting darker and darker. I was getting more and more anxious, worried, scared and stressed as time went by. Like a slingshot that’s being pulled back, I felt like my stress levels were getting higher and higher as the seconds ticked off. I kept stopping the people rushing by to ask if they could help, and everybody just kept saying, “I don’t know where you find those taxis. Maybe go there.” And I would ask the next person and they would say, “Oh you should definitely go over there,” pointing to the direction where I had just been a few minutes ago.
Eventually, as you might have expected, I cracked. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I dropped myself right there and then, on the sidewalk of a potentially dangerous street, and took my laptop out to charge my phone so I could call the one person I knew in Durban to come help me.
Was that a stupid idea? Yes, of course! No one in their right mind, who knows even a little bit about South Africa, would dare to take out anything as valuable as a laptop on a street like that. South Africa is the place where you clutch your handbag as tightly as you can whenever you’re walking on the street. It’s the place where you only walk with at least two other people because it’s too dangerous to be alone. It’s the place where you keep whipping your head left to right to make sure you’re still safe as you move through. I shouldn’t have taken that laptop out. And if I wasn’t that stressed, scared and frustrated, I wouldn’t have.
So maybe that lady was right when she passed by and sneered at me in Zulu. She said something with from the looks of it, meant, “I hope your laptop gets stolen you stupid girl! You’ll learn your lesson!”
I’m not saying what I did was right, but that lady jumped to the conclusion that I deserved to get my laptop stolen even without knowing what I was going through. I had a long, stressful and frustrating day. I was just trying to get myself home. She didn’t know my story. But she decided she knew what I deserved.
It hurts to be on this side of judgement.
But I would be a self-righteous narcissist if I didn’t admit that I have judged people unfairly in my own ways. Even when I was walking to my university earlier that day, I saw some girls who chose to wear see-through shirts that showed off their bras. And yes, I did judge them for dressing in a way that I considered slutty and thirsty. Who did I even think I was to tell them what they could and could not wear? I didn’t even know their stories. I had no idea what made them dress that way. Maybe they felt more confident, and more beautiful when they showed what they were blessed with. Maybe they just wanted wear breezy clothes so they could avoid heatstroke (because Oh Lawd Jeezus, it gets hot in Durban!) Either way, I had no right to judge them without knowing their stories. Just like I think that woman had no right to judge me without knowing what I had gone through the whole day.
You’ve heard it before, but I will say it again: don’t be so quick to judge others.
And as always,
Cheers to life!