It never used to bother me: passing under the e-toll gantries on my way in to work. It’s not as if I wasn’t passing enough of them either; I go through no less than 8 of those over-arching monuments to exploitation on my way from the East Rand to Bryanston everyday, and the same 8 on the way home. But at first, I paid them no heed. E-tolls-shmee tolls.
I didn’t even have to resist the urge to throw a zap at the cameras because c’mon, really? Do you think the cold, calculating e-toll system gives a shit about what you think? Did you imagine, when you flipped the bird at an e-toll gantry, that your message would reach someone at SANRAL who cared? Perhaps an over-sensitive processing clerk with PMS came across your photo and thought, ‘that’s mean’, and promptly burst in to tears… but it’s not likely. It’s not likely because the e-toll system is designed to read number plates and tags, not hand-signals, no matter how edgy you might think you’re being.
But I digress. The whole idea was a joke, a farce, a first-world solution for a third-world transport system. OUTA told me so. They told me not to pay, to know my rights and to stick it to The Man. OUTA would sort it out(a) for me – for all of us commuters – and things would be back to normal in no time.
But then my first e-toll bill arrived: R2 000 owing on my car, Luis Figo – a vehicle registered in my late grandfather’s name. He was, at the time, still with us.
After that, I began to notice the gantries. And as I passed under one, I would wince – a narrowing of the eyes and a crinkling of the forehead – as SANRAL silently raped me… not just me but my late grandfather too.
My dear Grandad passed away and the gantries continued to attack my (or rather,my grandfather’s) credit history, a minimum of 16 times a day. But I remained steadfast in my defiance of a billing system that had been forced upon me. I stopped wincing at the thought of the escalating debt because I stopped seeing it as a debt at all. I payed my taxes. I bought a tank of petrol every week and I was taxed on every litre. And for what? To trundle through 45 km of traffic, dodging taxis and potholes along the way? Why should I pay even more to go through all that shite?
Yet still OUTA, for all there much-appreciated effort, were far from coming to the rescue. Perhaps I still winced, just a little.
And what about now? Now, I cringe. I cower at the almighty power of the gantries. I would bear them sacrifices of tagless, repossessed vehicles if I thought it would help. Why? Because, it seems, SANRAL has beaten me. I have been dispossessed of the only weapon we commuters have in the battle against e-tolls: time.
My grandfather’s estate can’t be settled until all his debts are paid. He made sure they were. But when he so generously gifted me a much-needed car, he hadn’t counted on the current highway-tyranny Gautengers are faced with. He hadn’t counted on e-tolls.
The only thing my grandfather would have hated more than paying e-tolls would be if the instructions of his will weren’t carried out. And so I am forced to pay, not due to threats or even a summons but forced by an obligation to my family and my grandfather’s memory.
If you know if there’s an alternative for me (anything of value), please let me know in the comments section below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S – My e-toll bill is now significantly higher than R2 000 and when I say ‘significantly’ I mean: AHHHHHHHHH-CHRIST-IN-A-CHRISTMAS-CRACKER-SAVE-ME!
– I haven’t double-checked the bill to see if it’s wholly accurate but I’ve done the maths and it looks about right.
– I tried going an alternate route once. But guess what? Everyone had the same idea. I’d rather lace my coffee with a laxative and then leopard crawl the entire way to work with my laptop held between my teeth than drive through the God-forsaken backroads again.
Featured image: Sunset at an e-toll by Pascal Parent via Flicker under Creative Commons license 2.0.