But that is irrelevant in most walks of life. Unless you have a mountain pass to traverse on your daily commute at 120km/h - and how many of us in Johannesburg have that privilege? - you will spend most of your time behind the wheel, bored out of your skull.
It doesn’t get better quickly as you leave the confines of Jozi.
Let’s take your trip to Cape Town as an example. It’s easy to get there. Just get on the N1 South and drive for 3 000km. What’s not so easy is to arrive there with your sanity and thus your life intact, because for 2 849km of that trip you would have had to endure the most boring pieces of scenery known to mankind. I know that we are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but there are bits and pieces of it that are just plain stinkers. And unfortunately many of our main roads run through them.
I have to take the N1 South ‘only’ to Kroonstad (thank heavens) when I go visit my parents. I also have to fork out R62 in toll fees for the privilege of driving on that soul-destroying piece of tar.
Unfortunately though, it’s only half of my drive. Fortunately, as I head towards the Eastern Free State, the scenery becomes more tolerable, the road less flat and you get confronted by something that eludes you on the N1: bends. In summary, it’s the better part of my trip.
Now, on the way to Kroonstad you are greeted by two rest stops and another one when you get there. At these oases you can fill up, have a coffee and enjoy a quick rest in the faint hope that your eyes and mind will be a little fresher in order to tackle the rest of the mind-numbingly nothingness.
I don’t use the rest stops to rest. I use them to wake up. After using the ablutions and purchasing the obligatory coffee, I briskly walk a few times around my car, attempt to say the alphabet backwards in the duration of three star jumps and see how quickly I can set my watch to GMT, activate daylight savings and then back again. I have to get as much adrenalin pumping as possible in order to brave the mind-numbingly nothingness on my way back to Jozi.
It is for this reason, I think, that the DA decided to set up a few roadblocks in the Western Cape during the last holiday season. If you were pulled over and deemed too tired to drive further, they took your keys. A master plan, they reckoned. A fantastic way to show people that they proactively wanted to curb road deaths, they reckoned. An ingenious plan to use said proactivity to garner more votes come election time, they reckoned.
Not so, it seemed. Needless to say, people didn’t like it. The last thing you want after driving for a mind-numbing 2 708km - and being on a record-high level of depression due to having to endure this much of nothingness - is for someone to confiscate your keys. “Really sir, I’ve completed the previous 90% of my trip just fine. Telling me I’m incapable of finishing the last 10% is just insulting.”
One can only hope that the DA realised that such silly plans have to be rethought if they want people to realise that such actions are for their own good.
So here then, is my idea: have a Red Bull promo. At their roadside pozzie, let the Department of Traffic put up humongous Red Bull branding and hand some cans out to people they reckon are too tired to drive. Many drivers might just stop anyway to get a free Red Bull. After all, after driving for 2 708km, the promise of a free Red Bull might be the only way for you to realise that you probably need one.
The reaction might now just change to, “Thank you sir. Although I had managed to complete the previous 90% just fine, I might now just muster the strength to actually be happy to have arrived in the Cape instead of just being resentfully relieved.”
(We have done extensive experiments with Red Bull in our office and - placebo or not - you will wake up eventually.)
In our current local political climate, we constantly moan about how awful our government is and how dismally it runs the country, because isn’t a government supposed to make our lives better?
I dare say that the answer starts with a Y, but then we have become so cynical due to our daily confrontations that we just answer no, because in how many ways are our lives actually better?
I do think, though, that this simple solution of mine will satisfy a great deal of people (or at least those travelling through vast expansions of nothing). Just imagine how grateful the tired, little ol’ you will be if you were to be issued a free Red Bull at the side of the road by a government official after hours and hours of driving. You’ll get the sensation that the government cares for you, has sympathy with your fatigue and really wants to make your life - now - just that little bit better.
Really, our powers that be, it will take a simple can of Red Bull to show your citizens that you care about their lives and the lives of others. Even hand them out at toll gates, because people high on caffeine are awake, good and safe drivers.
Unless you try to give a Red Bull to someone who becomes weird and shaky from caffeine, in which case, good luck getting their keys from them.