Everybody who has to do work in the Joburg CBD needs to have a secret parking place. Mine was in the middle earth underneath a building opposite the Johannesburg High Court.
After nosing through the tides of jay walkers, office workers, groupies, and the Methodist Church refugees undulating into the street for the spectacle of the convoy that deposits court celebs like Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma or Jackie Selebi, Pinky’s parking is a welcome refuge.
With the large security gate firmly shut at the top of the ramp, in Pinky’s parking I could breathe out, remove my cellphone from its hiding place between my thighs and wind the window all the way down.
A small person with big hair and dangly gold hoop earrings, she always began our conversations with a request for an update on the Case of the Day, with her commenting “ooooh that Malema, or “oooh that (fill in appropriate name)”.
After inquiring after the health of each other’s children, their progress at school, their level of defiance, and the soaring cost of school requirements, she would produce a printed card on which she would write the date, and note that I had paid R20 for parking for the day.
A small price for a safe spot in the middle of the city, and no risk of parking tickets.
All I had to do was catch the lift up to the ground floor, leave the building, cross the road, and I was at the court.
This arrangement has worked perfectly for at least seven years and I have had no trouble claiming the R20 back from petty cash on production of the “ticket”.
On payment of the R20, there would be a slight pause as Pinky gazed into the distance and announced which bay I would be using.
The bays were usually in the strangest of places – a cubby hole space at the top of the first ramp, or up against the furthest wall to the back after twirling down the ramp so deep into the basement I might run over a hobbit or something.
So, today I take an intern with me for a story and I generously share the secret of Pinky’s parking.
It’s not really Pinky’s parking of course. She is the official badge wearing garage security guard for the large building which houses the chambers of some of Johannesburg’s top lawyers.
But today, we are confronted by two male security guards who insist that there is no casual parking allowed and never was and demand that we immediately make a u-turn and leave.
But Pinky always lets me park here, I wail. Where is Pinky?
“She was fired,” said the one guard, swiping his card to open the gate for our exit.
I ask why and he says “because she was selling casual parking”.
So, for seven years she sub-contracted the casual parking to herself, presumably without tender, until someone caught her out.
I’m thinking it was a turf war, or there was an argument about hush money.
So instead, Intern and I park on the road next to a lady selling dayglo orange Nik Nak knock offs and cabbages, and a man selling the most gorgeous hand made goat skin sandals and laugh over how Pinky managed to pull that little stunt off for so long.