Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Prancing Transvestites Want Your Money For A Reason

On some random morning* every mid-February, and this year it was today, students from the University of Cape Town dress up in the campiest outfits they can possibly concoct, often complete with sleek black stockings (and that's just the men), and take to the streets to flog a magazine called SAX Appeal, which is produced once every year, specifically for this event, with the purpose of raising money for a charity that the university runs. Each year a new team tackles the task, so the results, in terms of quality, vary.

This is always one of the most surreal days of the year in the city, and god help any conservative tourists who happen to touch down at Cape Town International airport on this morning, as they will probably think we are all a nation of transvestites.

Those who can avoid going to work on this morning usually do so, as the minute you get out onto the street in your car you are surrounded by the campy students all competing for your - this year, anyway - R15; nevermind the fact that R15 is a awkward amount to have at the ready, because, at the minimum, you need a R10 note and a R5 coin, which is hard to handle while you're trying to drive, so I'm sure most people are evil and just throw random change at the students, or pay too much and demand lots of change in return from a poor, inexperienced sucker whose trying to balance a stack of magazines and a change purse while he counts your money and tries to give you change, all in (sometimes) high heels.

Assuming you manage to go through this entire procedure and purchase a magazine before the robots[*] turn green, the immediate thing that you have to do is wedge the magazine between your windshield and dashboard. This action produces the following three very beneficial effects:

1) Any other campy students that approach to try to sell you a magazine can see that you have already bought one, and will then promptly leave you alone - some with a "You bought one! Yay!" smile and others with a "You bought one from someone else! Dammit!" frown. The reaction is always fun to gauge.
2) Anyone else driving or passing by your car will see that you have bought a magazine, and will immediately feel bad because they, instead, spent their time in traffic pretending to be unaware of the campy students prancing around their car, and didn't buy one.
3) You instantly form a unique Cape Town cultural connection with anyone else driving past who also has a magazine wedged between the windshield and the dashboard. It's just one of those great bonding moments.

The Cape Town public is notoriously fickle (and jaded), so it must be quite difficult to sell the magazine to us every year - hence the antics, which are, to some degree, a right of passage - and it was worsened in the last decade because the magazine's content, for a very long time, was, well, pretty crap. I don't know when it eventually got better, because I stopped reading it, but last year, encouraged by various efforts I had noticed by that magazine's editor to acquire better content, I bought a copy, and it was really, really good. With a lot of initiative and ingenuity last year's team managed to break the curse on the magazine, and I hope that it still holds true for this year (I haven't had time to read this year's issue yet, and will do so tonight).

Nevertheless, if you ever happen to be in the city in February, and a horde of transvestites corners you, this is why. Give them money, take the magazine, and feel good in the knowledge that you have, actually, helped the less fortunate.

*I'm sure there is a science to the date, but after all these years I still don't know what it is - probably something like the "third Thursday of February" - so to me it still seems like some random date.



Blogger kyknoord said...

It was even more entertaining this year. I saw an altercation break out between a group of students and a couple of 'Big Issue' vendors who didn't want to give up their territory.

Friday, February 17, 2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Mandy J Watson said...

I would have liked to have seen that. :) I did wonder how the Big Issue people would take it, but there aren't any on my route to work (which translates to quite a nightmare trying to buy the magazine every month).

Friday, February 17, 2006 11:33:00 AM  

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