It seems fitting that I’m writing this on my phone while parked in the basement of my apartment block in Maboneng. I’m using the car charger to keep my phone alive so that I can do some work while I wait for the movers to arrive. Today I leave Maboneng, and I say this scenario is fitting because on the day I moved in, I had no power, in fact, I had no power for the first few days. This little coincidence made something abundantly clear to me. Life in Maboneng is based on a triangle of choice, and I feel any of you considering a move to the district should be made aware of it.
A triangle of choice works quit simply. Each point of the triangle – there are three for those of you that slept through maths, represents a value or idea, or whatever you assign to each point. You can only ever chose two sides of a choice triangle, hence the name. Let’s take a look at a simple example.
Of course we all want something that is good, fast, and cheap, whether it be a service of some kind or a car. The reality though, is that in most cases you’ll only ever find a combination of two of those options. The food will be rubbish, but it’ll arrive quickly and cost little. Or the car will be fast and well made, but you’ll pay the price. Finding something that ticks all three corners is very rare.
Now that you have the basic concept, let me apply it to Maboneng for you.
In Maboneng everything comes down to the above three choices. You can only ever have two, and in some cases you can actually flatten that triangle out into a linear choice option and just pick one.
I generally go for the water/quiet option. Our hot water is heated by a boiler in the basement, so even with no electricity I can eke out a lukewarm shower – if I get in before the rest of the block. The best part about no electricity is that the restaurant extractor fan that runs past my bedroom window doesn’t work. It also means The Poolside venue DJs (situated three stories below my apartment) can’t play their shitty house music. The construction work next door carries on though – 6 days a week from 7am to 6pm, they have generators.
It’s not all bad though, and I don’t mean to sound entirely negative about an urban renewal area I was quite keen to be a part of actually being quite shit. Two out of three aint all bad, and living by the triangle of choice has taught me a few things.
I listen to far more music, and I’ve gotten into educational podcasts. I find if I put my noise canceling earphones on at about 6am and leave them on till it’s dark, I’m almost oblivious to the angle grinding and hammering going on next door. The no electricity option is also rather good for weight loss. There are no real food stores in Maboneng, and because of the erratic cuts I’ve learned to not store any perishable food in my fridge or freezer for fear of it all going off again, so I often find myself going to bed on a carb friendly meal of cured olives and a cup of green tea.
Another benefit of living in Maboneng is that I’m also always prepared to run – not the recreational kind, the escape kind. My backpack, which has turned into my go-bag, is always packed and ready. At any given time it contains; swimming trunks, suncream, a can of deodorant, toothbrush, fresh shirt, extra pair of underwear, and a clean pair of socks. Maboneng has turned me into Jason Bourne. Power cut, a water shortage, or too much noise, all I need to do is throw my laptop in the bag and I’m good to go, for however long it takes for the power to come back, or the water to be turned on, or the building to stop due to rain.
I’ll miss that you know. The constant state of upheaval and uncertainty. I feel, if anything, Maboneng has given me a true Joburg baptism. I leave it today for Ilovo, where I’m sure the triangle of choice will be quite different. Perhaps something along the lines of Woolies/Wolves/Wanderers Sports club.