Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

Parking in South African cities.

Cities in Australia and New Zealand remind me of those in South Africa. This should not have been a surprise, but somehow it was anyway. They resemble each other a lot more than they do British cities, which is noteworthy.

I find myself driving along in New Zealand and being surprised there isn't razor wire around. If you've ever been to New Zealand, you know how ridiculous the idea is. I don't think I've seen any razor wire in the whole country so far. Then again, I haven't exactly been doing extensive touring yet. One measure of this is that in a country with 40 million sheep, the only ovine trace I've seen has been on my dinner plate. Mmmmm, New Zealand Lamb.

Two aspects of parking slap me right across the face and remind me that no, I'm not in South Africa, no matter how much it looks like it here.

First, in South African cities and suburbs at night, all cars disappear from the streets. There is endless street parking everywhere, because everyone who owns a car has driven it in behind their high steel fences and electric gates. The implication here is that if you were actually to leave your car parked on the street, not only would all your belongings disappear, but the car would, too.

Second, while there are pay-and-display machines everywhere, just like in Australia and New Zealand (and elsewhere), none of them are in use. Instead, the machines have been replaced by uniformed parking wardens, who walk around and collect your parking fee. Finding one is only occasionally a pain, because mostly they find you. (I did have to look for one once in Cape Town.)

This serves two purposes: it provides a few jobs for the huge masses of unemployed, and it provides a pair of eyes to keep watch over your car.

In a way this is simply formalizing a system that already existed, and is much more suited to African social conditions. In any normally unpaid parking place (at shopping malls, public offices, or even on the street) there's usually someone hanging around who will come up to you as you're locking up your car and say, "I'm watching your car." When you come back, this person (usually male, sometimes female) will help you back out of your space, and in exchange you tip him or her. I tended to tip a couple of rand (about thirty cents), which was what a storekeeper in Stellenbosch told me was plenty. If they were really nice, or it was raining out, they got a five rand coin. I figured that's what I'd have paid for parking anyhow.

I understand a similar system operates in Latin America.

In paid parking garages, there are still security guards watching the cars, but they didn't appear to expect tips.
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