Helkom & The Big Whine

Please hold for the next available agent.”

Sound familiar? If not, then you are one of the blessed few who have never had to deal with Telkom and therefore may find it difficult to comprehend how seven simple words are capable of inspiring a hatred so powerful that the Israelis and Palestinians are blood brothers in comparison.

I have spent the last six weeks waiting for a phone line. I sit in the same place near the door day after day. I don’t go out for fear of missing a visit from Telkom. I can’t play music in case I don’t hear the doorbell. I keep a potty under my chair. I dare not move. I sit and I wait. Week after week.

I am afraid that if I ever have to hear those seven words again, I will be compelled, nay, beholden, to devote the rest of my life to torching Telkom vans and assassinating Telkom technicians.

I will have to go on the run, hiding by day and striking by night. I will sleep in parks and rely on the kindness of strangers so that I may eat. Being in Cape Town, I expect I will experience dramatic weight loss.

I will become a living legend, a hero to those whom Telkom has pushed into the eternal abyss of insanity. There are many of us. We are in our thousands. People will not turn me in. They will bring me more explosives, more bullets.

I will run out of technicians and move on to the clerks, the secretaries and the next available agent.

Then it will be on to management. I will plan something special for them, these men in powder blue shirts and white collars. It is they, after all, who are up to their lying eyeballs in Machiavellian machinations to prevent the introduction of anything that threatens to turn their golden goose into foie gras.

My cellphone rang late last week. I got so excited that I knocked my potty over, wetting my feet and scaring the cat.

Is that Telkom?” I said, my voice breaking like a teenage boy about to score on his first date. Gnawing on my Taiwanese stress ball, I waited for the magic words. A chorus of angels gathered in the wings. Hallelujah, they would sing!

Howzit,” said Ted. The angels burnt up as they entered the mesosphere.

Ted said he was worried about my mental state and insisted on taking me out. “Permanently?” I asked, hopefully. “No,” he said, “just for the evening.”

I needed a house full of crack whores and Jimi Hendrix resurrected. Instead, Ted offered me an informal tasting sponsored by the Cape Winemakers Guild. By the time he prised my hands from his throat, we were at the Rotunda in Camps Bay.

I am never wholly at ease at functions of this nature, possibly because I come from a family of common beer drunks. Ted told me to relax and passed me one of two glasses he picked up at the door.

The hall was packed with winos of every feather. Ringing the venue were the 37 members of the Guild.

Ted asked what I would like to try first.

I quite fancy the ’76 Paarl Perlé,” I said, furrowing my brow in an intellectual fashion. Ted asked when last I had supped from this particular vine.

1976,” I said. “Shortly before I invaded Angola.”

Ted excused himself and moments later a man in a beard and tweed jacket stepped up and projectile vomited into a bin right in front of me.

I was appalled. Where I come from, expectorating is a private affair. Ted must have been very drunk by the time I found him because he was about to drink a glass of wine through his nose.

I grabbed his arm, spilling Shiraz down his shirtfront. Instead of thanking me for saving him from drowning, he humiliated me by getting a winemaker to fill my glass with three millilitres of Chardonnay Reserve. I wanted a premier league wine, not some lame-duck hooch that’s been on the bench for the last three games. No wonder people were throwing up.

Scattered about the hall were tables laden with different breeds of cheese, almost all of which were more mature than me. I grabbed a fistful and started my rounds.

Wherever I went I heard people exchanging words like “bitter”, “tart” and “petulant”. Some couples can’t go anywhere without bickering.

While scoffing Gorgonzola and replenishing my glass every 17 seconds thanks to the tight-fisted tots, I watched photos of the Guild members and their estates flash up on an overhead screen.

What a relief it was to see that our wine industry had not yet been infiltrated by darkies, gays or women.

My favourite was “Niels Verburg – Luddite”. He must save a ton of money on machinery. I just hope he gets his workers to wash their feet before stomping season begins.

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