Ghetto Dances: The postman who could not ride a bicycle

One of the requirements of getting the job was the ability to pedal a bicycle as one had to do door-to-door delivery of mail in the ghetto.

When I learned that the postal services had for the position of postmen, I sent my application.

I must admit that I was surprised at the turnout.  Needless to say, I was among  the lucky few to get the job.

One of the requirements of getting the job was the ability to pedal a bicycle as one had to do  door-to-door delivery of mail in the ghetto.

My  fear was to be asked to do a physical test. That never happened.

The postmaster merely asked. “Can you ride a bicycle?” I nodded my head with much confidence.

“Yes, I can,” I said with unusual gusto.

“Work begins tomorrow,” said the postmaster.

“Thank you, thank you,” I said.

The exhilaration was short-lived as I walked away. My problems began that moment.

I had never ridden a bicycle before all my life.  I had a great fear of losing my newly found job over this technicality.

In all the world, who has ever heard of a postman who cannot ride a bicycle? This was much akin to a hunter who cannot fire a gun and let an animal escape.

I was jinxed. Even as I walked back home, I noticed some cyclists on the same road.  Some of the cyclists had neatly stacked loads of firewood on their bicycle  carriers.

 Most of the firewood would be sold out on the streets. Selling firewood had become good business as the power supply company was keeping its customers switched off the national grid for hours on end.

A  small boy, barely in his teens passed by at breakneck speed, playing with the bicycle.

I had to find someone who could run me through the paces of riding a bicycle. That someone had to be discreet and not gossip around about my inadequacy.  But who could it be?

 I could not even trust my friends. They would all laugh at me.

This was not an ordinary predicament.

At my age, people would laugh at me trying to learn to ride a bicycle. I mentally ran through a list of people who could teach me.  I ruled out Baba VaTata. He obviously would not`have time for this.

Fatso was a loud mouth, I also ruled him out. Rasta was unavailable. He was doing some work at the local community hall.

The next day arrived without any solution. I was at the small local post office by 7am.

 I was true to the old age adage that the early bird catches the worm. I had decided to take the bull by the horns.

 If things did not go according  to plan, I still had my job at Amandwandwe Security where I  had taken leave of absence. The next two or three days were going to prove my mettle.

The morning  started well enough. The postmaster, Mr Chimuka, a rotund man, turned out to be a jovial fellow. He had a round face like the sun at dawn.

He would laugh and chuckle simultaneously.

There were  three other new recruits and together with the old guard we spent the better part of the morning sorting the mail according to streets and sections.

I rather enjoyed this. I dreaded going out on delivery. Outside was a bicycle rack that held all the bicycles.

Ultimately, the sorting of mail envelopes was over. I was given Section C which was quite a big zone as it comprised of more than fifteen streets and included the Durawall Blocks which were small housing units where families lived together packed like sardines in a 500g tin.

As I approached my silver  and red bicycle, with the heavy mail bag slung over my shoulder, my heartbeat increased.

I could almost hear my heart pumping out all the adrenalin.

One by one, my colleagues rode out, leaving me and the postmaster. 

I flung the mail bag in the bicycle tray and casually wheeled away the bicycle. I walked as if on purpose.

When I casually stole a glance backwards  over my shoulder, the postmaster still stood on the verandah, watching me with keen interest.

Once out of sight, I started walking faster. The bicycle was a big hindrance. I yearned that there was somewhere I could leave it behind  while I delivered the mail on foot.

I moved from one street to the next subsequent street. By now, I was using my left hand to push the bicycle. I had barely covered a third of my section but I was already sweating with large beads of sweat running down my cheeks.

Some of the residents were giving me strange stares.  At one point, a group of children playing detached themselves from the others and started following me. They started shouting. "Postman! Postman! Postman!”

I thought this was over, then they continued:

“The postman opens people’s letters!

The postman knows our deep secrets!

The postman does not keep secrets!

The postman is a gossiper!

The postman is a foolish man!

Postman! Postman! Postman!”

I was now the subject of ridicule. The day was a nightmare.

Indeed, there I was, a postman who could not ride a bicycle. Does this ring a bell?

 The riders who lead the people in government and industry, do they know how to ride a bicycle?  This is something to think about.

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