One for The Road

Why did the chicken cross the road? A question that’s been asked as many times as there are roads on earth. I don’t want to answer it just yet, rather look at the road in question first. If you’re reading this and you’re from the overly sterilized West like me, where health and safety regulations have robbed people of what little common sense they once possessed, then I hope this article will be of some use to you. If you’re not, then I hope you’ll find it entertaining at least, and nod in appreciation here and there.
The road as I know it, or at least used to, is a thing, a lifeless creation as old as civilisation itself, existing to connect two places and to make life easier. It takes you from home to work to the gym to the mall and back home again. Simple. And if this thing becomes ill in any way, we reach for our phones to quickly let the local council know exactly why we pay taxes; and if you’re particularly facetious, where their salaries come from. But when you step out of your comfort zone, your 24-hour convenience stores and hand sanitizers, the road takes on a completely new and exciting meaning. Just think of all the connotations and clichés it conjures up – “life on the road”, “the road less travelled”, “road to nowhere” and even “the road to salvation”.

While “road” may have become synonymous with “route”, only when we start travelling do we realise that these two words have very little in common – a road is much more than a connection between points A and B, despite its primary function.

The road is a meeting place


The road is a meeting place. It’s the perfect way to catch up with old friends on your way to wherever it is you’re going. Whether it’s a long-lost friend, or a relative you had tea with just 20 minutes ago, stop at your convenience, just there, in the middle of the road and catch up. Never mind me, or the multitude of buses and trucks trying to find our own long-lost friends – we will just make our way around you into oncoming traffic, typically with the least amount of inconvenience to you or interruption to your conversation.

The road is a shopping centre – the perfect place to showcase your goods, whatever they may be. It’s ingenious! Maximum exposure for zero rent. I fail to understand how you would make a living as Watermelon Merchant #382 in this 75m stretch of road, but then again, I guess you wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t. Oh, and not to pick (pardon the pun) on fruit and vegetable merchants alone, the same goes for sellers of smoked fish, beach balls, clothing, handbags, farming implements, livestock, silverware, ice cream, tea shops, car spare parts, electrical equipment, plants, even mobile telephones. It’s all the same, just pull over and do some shopping, it doesn’t matter who or what is trying to reach their favourite tangerine merchant ­– they can duck and dive into oncoming traffic, and if they live to tell the tale, they too can have their tangerines.


By now I’m sure many of you are thinking, well if it’s that bad, why don’t you just stay home? No, because this is where the excitement is, the fun and the adventure are! Riding on roads outside of my comfort zone was one of the easiest ways to recognise my own health-and-safety dominated, sanitized existence. It put me right there in the thick of things. It made me understand that selling souvenirs and trinkets is how somebody feeds his family; the lovely smell emanating from rows of smokers tells me how that lady pays her rent at the end of the month. I’m not saying those things don’t irritate me, but it does make me think, and to try and see the world from their perspective.

You will come across everyone from toddlers to teenagers playing anything from badminton to hide-and-seek. Playing in lush green fields or perfectly flat spaces just doesn’t have that same allure as a hot and busy road. There’s no one to inconvenience there and it’s much more fun trying to see how many bus drivers you can give a heart attack to by running right onto their path as they frantically swerve into – you guessed it! – oncoming traffic. Indeed all these boring people using the road should realise life is about having fun and, as long as we are having fun, there can’t be any harm in it, no?

The road is convenient. No longer do you need to herd your cattle through dangerous open fields with healthy natural food growing abundantly. No, rather have all 264 of them strolling along the road, where they can find all sorts of nutritious snacks like plastic bags, water bottles, newspapers, cigarette boxes and sweet wrappers. And along with the dietary advantages of taking said road, there is the absolute inconvenience you get to cause to all of the other road users. All the socialisers, shoppers, players, other cattle herders and last (and definitely the least) the riders and drivers.


Why did the chicken cross the road? Johan Senekal, South Africa

And is this not what travelling is all about? Experiencing life as it is being lived outside your comfort zone? Plus, when the goings-on on the road get too much, there’s always the option of going off-road. Blazing new trails, seeing new sights, meeting new people.

So, why did the chicken cross the road? Well, because it was there.