My client called me early this morning wanting to know if I was available for a viewing of his latest purchase.
For those that don't know, my company specialises in commercial & residential property maintenance and renovations. I work closely with clients who purchase repossessed or dilapidated property with a view to have me renovate or mordernise it, and then have it re-sold.
So it was that by 8am on a chilly Saturday morning, Richard and I were en-route to a suburb in Vanderbijlpark creatively named Section CW5. The suburb closely borders two other creatively named residential areas, CW4 and CW6.
I had visions of arriving at a military outpost or a secret and clandestine alien research zone, much like Roswell, Area 51 in the United States. Upon arrival, it seems I was'nt too far off the mark with my "clandestine alien research zone" analogy.
The entire suburb and its surroundings seems to have somehow gotten stuck in the late 70's, with just a scattering of evidence that it tried clawing its way into the early 80's. If you ever wondered where the Beehive hairstyle, Ford Sierra's and Ford Cortina's went to die, this would be the place! I kid you not.
I recall once watching a really bad horror movie where the lead character wore pink high heels, balloon pants that seemed to have been stapled together with tin-foil, a green sequinned top, and hair so teased it stopped being funny as soon as the director yelled "Action". Well folks, I met that lead character today! She was still wearing her movie wardrobe. She even had a fan base who dressed almost identical to her.
The cars in Section CW5 have never done battle with soap or auto-wax. "Pale" seems to be the most popular shade of colour for all makes of car in this place. At one point I thought I had died and gone to "Ugly 70's Car Hell". The odd thing though is that every one of these cars, if we could still call them that, had the latest in Racing car seats, 16V boot stickers and the words "Turbo" sprayed on every conceivable empty space on the faded bodywork.
I pulled up at the local Spar to buy some cooldrink and upon my exit, found my shiny and polished car sandwiched between a bubble-shaped 1970's cream/baby-puke coloured Mazda 323, and a hooker-pink stained Datsun 1600 that seemed to be held together entirely with duct-tape! Even the bumper had rolls of duct-tape holding it to the bodywork. Force of habit made me walk around my car to inspect it for any scratches, though subconsciously I was just checking to see that it had'nt caught any contagious car-diseases. I really would'nt want to be driving back to the Northern suburbs with any form of auto-herpes or leprosy on my bumper!
I gather Richard may have sensed my disdain toward my surroundings, and offered me a subtle smile as we drove toward the house he had recently purchased.
We pulled into a leaf-strewn driveway with a simple and unassuming dwelling surrounded by an unkempt garden. My impression of the area had not changed in the least bit since first arriving, and hope it this changing was fading fast; faster than the fade on those Fords.
"Oh helloooo Richard. Its so cold today I thought you may not come."
Somewhere between 80 and a mortician.
If Plascon ever wanted to introduce a range of facial paint called "Extreme White", Mrs Maritz would be the pin-up girl.
It turns out she's the neighbour to Richards empty house, and has lived at the same place since she was a little girl; 5 years old to be exact. She looked like Mary from that famous painting of "The Last Supper", standing next to Jesus. I'm convinced its actually her. Why she'd be hiding out in Vanderbijlpark, Section CW5, is beyond me.
Anyways, we got invited in for a hot cup of tea before I began my inspection of Richards place, and I was half-expecting to be offered biscuits from the original gifts left by the Three Wise Men.
Barely two sips into my Rooibos tea and Mrs Maritz engaged me in conversation.I think she may have sensed my trepidation at becoming too comfortable in the surroundings.
It may have been the combination of the soothing tea & crunchy home-made biscuits, or maybe it was her soft manner, possibly even her gentle demeanour masked behind her toothy smile, but this charming woman had me totally disarmed of preconceptions before I could see the bottom of my tea-cup!
We chatted for almost an hour and at one point I even called her "Ouma".
Her neighbour from two doors away stopped by for a visit and to return a weathered and faded romance novel. The fade no longer reminiscent of a society stuck in the past, but rather one holding on to a bygone era brimming with history and culture.
Mrs Maritz and her friend Peggy had me so enthralled in tales of their fascinating lives and memories of the suburb, that the shackles of my first impression soon began opening; the cold chains now resembling a treasured charm bracelet.
I experienced an amazing moment as we stood on her sunlit porch, where I was able to look beyond the superficial and actually saw the people. I saw humanity where once only contempt dwelled.
It was an extraordinary afternoon, and it afforded me a lesson in life so many never have the opportunity to learn.
It taught me to give people the opportunity to pleasantly surprise you, and given this opportunity, they usually do.
I'm truly blessed to do the things in life I love doing; to have a career which thrills me every single day; to meet the amazing people I come across; but mostly i'm truly blessed to have the burning desire to always want to learn. To never stop learning about people. To always want to learn from life. To have the patience to allow the lessons to sink in.
To Mrs Maritz and Peggy, I bow my head in shame and whisper a humble Thank You.
Shame for having passed a judgement before I knew better.
Thank You for leading me with gentleness and kindness toward a better understanding.
As for you Richard, you knew all along what I had only today discovered.
I'm grateful that you led me to the river, and waited patiently until I drank, and realised, and truly saw :)
I shall be visiting Vanderbijlpark, Section CW5 again soon.
Sooner than I first thought.