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Broken Phone

Business as Usual

by Rob Cockcroft / 24.01.2011

A while back I worked at a Vodacom store in Greenpoint. Basically all I did was book in peoples’ phones for repairs and eat shit from customers who were either going to sue Vodacom or cancel their contracts. But I didn’t care. The job was kak and paid very little. (I earned R2300 a month). 
 
I made two friends there. Roy, a mildly entertaining dude who would rap Biggie’s songs in my ear all day and talk incessantly about Manchester United in a British commentator’s voice. And Ayanda, she had a sweet nature and owing to her soft spot for blueberry muffins and pepper steak pies from the BP garage, she had the thick round curves of a mams, even though she was 23-years-old.
 
No one expected it. It started out as a case of different day same shit for me. Up at 6:30, pulled on the Dickies cordurouys, the smart black golfer and the square-toes I received as a hand-me-down from my step-brother. Then I missioned to Rosebank Station, caught the 7:00 train into Cape Town and trekked up Strand into Somerset Road to take my shit-shoveling seat behind the customer service counter.
 
Around 11:00 the shop started to get busy, so I would go to the back office, where the cellphone technicians sat, and pretend there was a case that needed special attention or I would try humour them with impersonations of the boss or tell tales of freaks I had encountered in one of the student drinking dens in Rondebosch. If I was entertaining enough I would get out of at least half an hour’s work and a large chunk of the lunchtime-rush queue.
 
That day, as I stepped into the back office I brushed past Ayanda. She told me she wished “this guy would just leave”. I thought nothing of it and dismissed it with a listless laugh. This was the most common phrase I’d heard in customer service, retail, waitering and all the other shitty jobs I’ve ever worked.
 
Within a few seconds I heard screams. By the time I turned to look, Ayanda was sprawled on the carpet, pushing herself up onto her feet. Behind her was a man in a Golden Arrow uniform. He had a pistol aimed in our direction.
 
Fortunately I never froze. I doubled back around the corner and dove under a table. The first shot went off. That’s the one which the papers said got her in the leg. She lay on her stomach screaming for help, but I couldn’t look. I stared deeply into the thickness of the white wall in front of me. Afterwards I realised, from the pain in my hands, that I had had a bout of delirium and had been knocking and pushing against the wall, hoping to escape to the other side. Another shot fired, to me it sounded like the twelfth. The papers didn’t have to tell me this one got her in the head. I was still looking away, thinking we would all be massacred. The wall now became a canvas as I kept staring into it. Flashes of all the million reasons I wanted to stay alive flickered through my mind like a slideshow on ecstasy as I waited to take a bullet. Then the final shot blasted and I heard nothing but the white noise ringing in my ears from the loud bangs.

Business as Usual 

People started moving in the office. Esmé was screaming. I turned to see Ayanda’s lazy gaze as she was slipping into an eternal sleep.  Blood started to form a pool around her body, which flowed over the tiles and formed canals in between the grouting. Spurts rose and fell to the beat of her pulse onto the left side of her face. The attacker was ass down with the gun neatly placed to his right. He had a hole in his head and was taking his last breaths. He had shot himself too.

I wanted to get out through the back door, but there was no key in it. The rest of the people searched frantically for it, but it was nowhere. The only way out was to step over the bodies. I covered my face from Ayanda. I couldn’t look. I watched the gunman heaving in air, covered in blood. I remember the bitterness and disgust that I felt towards him and how I had restrain myself from kicking him in the face.
 
Outside there were onlookers and a journalist from Heart 104.9 fm asking questions. I was speechless, still stunned trying to process the gruesome images that were seared into my brain. Why would the attacker shoot Ayanda, then himself? We were guided to a hotel a few doors down where we all sat, confused. I was surprised by my dad who shot through when he heard what happened on the news. When he found me, he began to cry. “Come with me, I know how to deal with this.” Roy came as well. We drove to a dive bar with tinted windows in Edgemead, where we must have drank at least fifteen quarts together in about three hours. After that I wanted to go back home where friends were waiting with more cold brew. We drank them up and all went out. In the car I couldn’t stop crying, feeling blessed that I still had the opportunity to do this with my friends. It would happen frequently over the next few months.
 
The next day I went into work. A group counseling session was held in one of the rooms in the hotel. There we learnt that the murderer was an abusive boyfriend that Ayanda had been trying to get rid of for years. He apparently stalked her and tried to scare her with that gun on numerous occasions, shooting on either side of her saying that if she left him he would really put a bullet in her. The day before the murder occurred Ayanda laid a restraining order against the man.
 
Feeling a little less confused but damaged nevertheless, we went downstairs to call the next group to go for therapy. The shop was open but obviously not functioning properly. Some customers came in to collect their phones and one old lady was shouting at the manager, “ I’m going to sue Vodacom. The service here is terrible. I know what happened here but then you’ve got to get them some bladdy counseling man!” It was business as usual. 

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RESPONSES (24)
  1. Lizzy says:

    flip. hectic.

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  2. Tim says:

    @Rob. Shit dude, I’ve heard some crazy shit but man this story F*cks with me. well told though. Makes me wanna change the way I live.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Maybe if you hadn’t been so busy shirking your job, and being a people-hating, job-hating wanker … maybe if you’d been a bit more alert to the distress of a colleague … you might have managed to push her into a room or something … and saved her life.
    Instead of writing cutesy online breakdowns of how bad life is for you, and how horrible the day was for YOU … you should go and sit in a corner and think about what light this article paints YOU in.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    ^ BRRRR coldddd

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  5. gonzo nowhere says:

    great writing. without being facetious, i truly hope it leaves no permanent scar on your psyche.

    sick, homocidal fucks abound. lik eyou noticed in the shop, we spend our days tip-toeing around them – physically and psychicly.

    a short personal anecdote: when i finished studying 20+ years ago i was backpacking around europe (surprise surprise). one day i was on a crowded bus in tel aviv, pack on back, and some guy that looked like a friend of mine’s grandfather started asking me where I’m from, where I’m heading etc. it seemed like another banal conversation to pass the time until he caught my gaze for a few minutes, looked through to the back of my skull and earnestly warned me to watch out on my travels. “…for every word in the dictionary,” he said dryly, pensively, “there is someone like that…”

    i can’t remember what i had for breakfast yesterday, or when last i had sex, but I’ll never forget what this wizened old geezer told me on that sweaty eged bus.

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  6. merman says:

    fuck off @anonymous jesus this is heartfelt and very well written so why don’t you back your rancid snarkmobile over a cliff. loser.

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  7. BM says:

    I used to work in a building across the road from that Vodacare shop. I remember this day well. Horrific.

    I would also like to add that I’ve read some inflammatory stuff on these comment boards before, but the comment by Anonymous above is nothing short of psychopathic. Have a word with yourself you sick, ugly human being.

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  8. Bile in mouth says:

    Anonymous you may be, but you know you’re a cunt, right?

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  9. Tim says:

    Yeah, I’m quite the resident cunt but what Anonymous said above is some bullshit. @Rob don’t take his comments seriously, everyone I know that has had a gun pointed in his face including myself freezes, the fact that you got yourself to safty is notable but for anoymous to suggest you could have helped… clearly a fuck who has never experienced anything like this.

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  10. Tryn says:

    Yeah, woah Anonymous…. Too bad you’re too much of a pussy to put a name behind a comment like that.

    fucking coward. Who the fuck are you to say shit like that? God I’d love to meet you- so I can punch you in the god damn throat you sick fuck.

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  11. Andy says:

    I was gonna jump in here and bash anonymous 3rd down for being a total fucking idiot – and besmirching a really honest and well written piece with a stupid judgmental response. But you all did it for me. Love you guys!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Haunting piece of writing. Even more haunting is the reply from anonymous 3rd.

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  13. Kontlap says:

    Rob Digi…very well written boytjie…am really proud of u man, eish remember this time, things were rough…keep up the good work and don’t eat all the schnitzels!

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  14. Lu says:

    Rob, I’m sorry for what you went through, thank you for sharing, you wrote what you knew and I found it touching. Unfortunately Anonymous has got more air time than the story. Anonymous you have no grip on reality whatsoever – if you did you’d see that Rob has probably beat himself up more than you ever could. You’ve been a complete plank.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    first worthwhile thing i’ve ever read on mahala. very moving.

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  16. Lu says:

    The only form of defense an invalid ever has.

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  17. Lame-o says:

    That was very good and a powerful account.

    I admire your honestly here too and I sense that you do feel some survivor guilt, still – which you shouldn’t. Whenever I read about armed robberies etc it’s always the Have A Go Hero who gets killed. Your response was the best you could do under the circumstances.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Very moving dude. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  19. Alet says:

    I Hope the counseling helped. My husband was a smash and grab victim
    The guy did not even have a gun, but my husband had nightmares every night after that,
    Screaming and kicking and vloeking – refused to go for counseling
    Sorry about your friend

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  20. sleaze says:

    Great piece, gripping in its simplicity and all the more poignant for its honesty.

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  21. Warren says:

    I think these are the stories we as South Africans should be sharing with each other. It’s the only way we’ll get over our collective shame, guilt, anger and sadness and hopefully start seeing each other more as people. Touching, and brutally sad.

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  22. de.vi.ous says:

    another normal day in south africa.

    and life goes on.

    and so do we.

    and we blame it on society.

    and apartheid.

    and do nothing about it.

    ‘cos it’s not ‘my problem’.

    viva azania. viva.

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  23. Nothing For Nothing says:

    As real as it gets Rob. Best wishes bru.

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  24. Liane Brandt (nee Petersen) says:

    Hi Howzit Rob,

    I just found this on the internet could not believe it! Very well written!
    The images of this day will be forever printed in our minds….
    But as you say – at Vodacare – its business as usual…

    Worst job i’ve ever had!

    Keep well!

    Liane

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