I was staying in Pretoria for the weekend to catch up with my beautiful friend Sam, her wonderful boyfriend Dieter, and enjoy the jacarandas and a break from the normal.
In the end, I was, in my mind at least, a pretty horrible guest as my mind was completely elsewhere.
To be fair, the Friday night and Saturday morning were great. We went to a fantastic restaurant called Salt and enjoyed all sorts of fancy charcuterie small plates, some excellent wine, and great company. After the week that I’d had, and specifically, for lack of a better word, sh*t hitting the fan on Friday afternoon with lots of people stressed, emotional, and not thinking clearly (myself included), I was probably a bit of a mental wreck to begin with.
Probably. Heh. Saturday started off chilled enough with some coffee, shoulder rehab in the garden, handstand walk practice, etc. It’s quite fascinating just exactly how weak I am in these small supporting muscles. And I found out in the last week that yet another of the guys I enjoy watching compete is down with shoulder injury as well. Dieter’s father is a shoulder specialist and he says that once people do complete the rehab they add significant weights to their lifts because their strength is now balanced. Guess these shoulder bridges are going to be a part of my routine going forward!
So I was relaxed until I got an email that essentially said: Call me immediately. And the sh*t that was hitting the fan Friday had all of a sudden exploded everywhere.
An interesting test for me actually because this was like a high-stakes game, and normally those are fine because you have some form of leverage or influence. When you don’t, and you can’t actually understand the motivations of all of the players, then it is a different story, because it’s actually not clear what you do.
So what did I do? I called as many people as I thought would have some influence or information, I asked questions, and formulated a game plan. Unfortunately it took me until Sunday evening to get everyone on the same page and happy, and I tell you what, I probably aged six months in that weekend. And why?
It’s a very good thing that I understand well my motivations for taking this job and that those motivations have remained consistent for the last year and a half. Because otherwise, this sort of stress would not be worth it.
I did manage to enjoy a fun evening out that night with Sam, Dieter, their other friends Andre, Steicher, and some other fun folks. I even met a guy with a 175kg snatch and 210kg clean & jerk (or so he claimed, but I believe it, because his analysis of my technique was spot on), who amused me to no end. Oh! And a so called ‘dive bar’ that was much nicer than many I’ve been to in my time. Pretoria.
Sunday …. Breakfast made by Sam (she can cook for me ANY TIME!), joined by Andre, who gave me some well-deserved sh*t for working so much. Interesting guy. Quiet, but perceptive, and, as I found out later, a master shooter. Probably should have gotten the message when he & Dieter were going off about a self-defence course they took which sounds for all the world like krav maga with real weapons and condensed into a two-day period. Well, not a bad set of skills to have if you regularly walk down dark alleys. Or, you know, whatever.
What accuracy and control is required for this! Sam, Dieter, and I went to a shooting range where he & Andre have their names on plaques in various places. What a sport! Not as easy as it might look on TV. Quite fun though.
Hey, I guess if you’re going to have a stressful weekend nothing like a little alcohol and firearms. Not at the same time.
Now as much as I love the Highveld, the traffic … ! I left Pretoria at around 5:30am and it took me until 6:30am to get to Kyalami. This should be a 20 minute drive, given where I was staying in Pretoria. I’m sure some clever time-shifting could help mitigate this but nonetheless, it was only thanks to the kindness of the Smith brothers that I was able to use their facility for nearly two hours AFTER the morning classes were done. Oh yeah and shower in the men’s shower because they don’t have a ladies shower and this time I didn’t have a guest house to return to. Heh.
Funny morning; Rick wasn’t around but I had quite an interesting chat with Jason and I realised after that I should sometimes probably watch what I say. I could see the wheels turning in that one’s head!
After I managed to tell Google that Boksburg was not Rosebank, I made it to a late lunch with the WAPA Chairman, Mohammad, because in person meetings are always best. Unsurprisingly, it’s all coming up Wi-Fi, and Dominic looks more and more of a genius all the time.
Then on to the offices of our dev partners to see the ‘little’ demo Johann had put together, and discuss a bit of our product roadmap. Probably the most important thing that we did was to spend some serious time talking through and developing policies around data protection, and privacy. Not a joke.
What is also not a joke are the sunsets. I was driving unfortunately but I witnessed a spectacular one – an explosion of purples and oranges. I seriously considered a few times stopping the car to photograph it but never could find a good space to pull off. Wow, wow, wow.
Every time I leave Jozi I get sad.
It’s a gold rush town, that city. In a way, it still is, and this is what makes it interesting. In some ways I cannot believe how much I used to fear and dislike it, but yet be fascinated by it at the same time. It was like this magical place: “Johannesburg” where you could never drive around with your bag on the passenger seat, or stop at red lights, and was full of fake people and lots of traffic and pollution.
Actually, it’s quite charming with its tree-lined boulevards and undulating hills, neighbourhood gems hidden outside the shopping malls, and diverse, and relatively integrated population. There’s not the charm of the mountain and the sea and the winelands and the Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. But it’s got its own charm as a city still very young, and at a point where it could really grow to be a much bigger hub for sub-Saharan African commerce in the coming 10 years.
Or it might not, with corruption, poor service delivery, general apathy, and even worse transport problems. Well say what you will: life is not boring in Joburg, at least not my small experience of it. It’s also not that dangerous. Seriously, I’ve been to scarier places in Oakland, BY FAR, than the worst I’ve experienced in Joburg. Then again, I haven’t really sought out the dangerous areas.
So the crisis? Resolved.
Actually, a tempest in a teapot. It was a strange situation because I felt the entire time that it would sort itself out, and my job was just to say the right things in the right way to the right people. Oddly enough, as I’m a bit late posting this, there was what could have been a bigger crisis two days later that I handled without stress in just a few hours.
At the end of the day what you must remember is this: everything we do in our lives is important in the moment, not so much so down the line. So the important thing is how we do it, and what we learn from it.
One thing I learned is that I would have been much better suited to handle this whole thing if I hadn’t been a stress ball myself Friday afternoon/evening, for other reasons.
Just like CrossFit: everything is everything.
- “This is Pretoria. This is what we do.” “I was in Joburg.” “Well, that too.” – Dieter & Ellie
- “Sis! Funny. But sis!” – Sam
- “Yeah it must be rough being friends with Ernie Els.” “It is if you don’t drink brandy. That oke can DRINK!” – Ellie & Dieter
- “Clever doesn’t help if you’re boxed into a corner.” – Ellie
- “Is that a fish tank on top of the bar?” “Yes.” “I like this bar.” – Ellie & Sam
- “Are you kidding me? This is better than the best bar in Durbanville!” “True.” – Ellie & Dieter (they were making like the dive bar was a dive … )
- “Do you own a firearm?” “What does this have to do with my love life?” – Ross & Ellie
- “You lift like a girl! EXPLODE!” – Reinhardt
- “OK, that wasn’t the politest thing said in the bar all night. I’ll give you that.” – Ellie
- “I love Pretoria.” “Where are you from?” “Pretoria.” – Reinhardt & Ellie (you had to be there)
- “You work A LOT!” – Andre
- “I can’t help it that I’m dangerous.” – Ellie
- “Drinking is good for you.” – Jason (did I mention these boys are dangerous??)
- “Are you American or South African?” – Mohammad
- “I don’t think ‘Mass Shootings’ is a good name for a product.” – Johann
- “I just set up a small little proof of concept to prove that you can poll 50,000 devices at once.” – Johann
- “It’s the Matrix, dude. You’re laughing, but it’s true.” “I know.” – Ellie & Johann
- “I’m all about leverage. In case you haven’t noticed.” – Ellie