Thursday, 5 November 2009

Joburg and Commitment (a ramble)

It took me a long time to get used to living in Johannesburg and to actually start enjoying the energy of the city and the good stuff it offers - fast pace, great cultural and sporting events, friendly people, diversity, earning potential etc.

There is, however, something that still frustrates me enormously - the fact that people wear their busyness as a badge and can't commit to stuff.

What does that mean? Well, chances are, if you ask anyone in Joburg how they are, the answers will be busy / stressed / tired / hectic / frantic / various other synonyms. And that's usually the truth - the pace here is insane and most people are working incredibly hard. Living in Joburg can be stressful. You just have to spend five minutes on the roads here to realise that!


(of course there's a but)

People use this busyness as an excuse for anything, from being bad at keeping in touch to forgetting a birthday or not arriving at a function. And I am guilty of this on occasion too - I have pulled out of a social event because work got too crazy at the time. It's normal, it's human and it's probably healthy.


(oooh... another one)

It's very frustrating to try and organise a social event in Joburg when this is the norm. I recently had to organise our church ushering team year-end thank you function (we're going to see show at one of the Barnyard theatres this weekend). What a nightmare! Trying to get 50 people to RSVP was impossible. After three emails and an SMS to the people who hadn't responded, I gave up.

Then, days after the final RSVP deadline, I had people asking if they could still come. And bring a partner.

I finally bought the tickets (which the church is sponsoring). Of course, I've now had a whole host of last-minute pull-outs, even though this was organised weeks ago. Some people have good reasons (one guy had to unexpectedly fly to Kenya on business, for example), but others don't. One of the guys asked to bring his sister, who is visiting for the weekend, and now neither of them are coming because he hadn't checked with her first. So I have a bunch of tickets that have been paid for and will probably go to waste unless I can find some folks to fill the empty seats at this late date.


I think there's a difference between saying you can't come to a relaxed braai anymore because you have been dumped with a mammoth last-minute project for work and saying you can't come to an event you've committed to where money has already been spent on you because you found something better to do or you didn't plan your time very well.

For example, I didn't mind when someone called me on the night of my birthday party to say he was down with flu and wouldn't be there after all. Poor dude! I did, however, mind when a supposed friend RSVPed "yes" to our wedding and then simply didn't show up on the day, meaning we still had to pay for his seat and meal that had been prepared for him.

Am I making any sense?

I know this is not a Joburg-specific problem, but I do seem to find it worse here than the other places I've lived. If you organise any sort of event here, whether it's a work function or a dinner at your house or a big get-together birthday celebration, chances are that you will have a handful of people calling you on the day to cancel or just not bothering to pitch up because they are "too busy".

And we perpetuate this cycle in Joburg because (consciously or unknowingly) we judge each other and ourselves on our level of busyness, which we somehow think equates to productivity or success.

I know so many people (including me) who feel like we have to be sick or on our December holiday before we can slow down, even for one day. We pack our days with activities and engagements and run ourselves into the ground trying to get everything done.

And eventually we are so exhausted that we end up calling some poor sod who's trying to organise a church ushering year-end function and saying we can't make it anymore, because we are just too busy.


Diatribe aside, I'm off to try to find some people who aren't too busy to come to a show this weekend.


Glugster said...

Well, I'm not too busy to leave a comment!

My whole focus at this point in time is to be less busy but be more succesful. It really is such a simple thing to master, once you have changed your mindset.

Meriel said...

you are so right. we can get caught up on the hamster wheel so quickly.


good luck with your event - hope you get to sit and enjoy it too ;-)

Anonymous said...

At the moment I have barely enough hours in a day to even rest (although I participate in having a sabbath) and therefore am beat for most of the day and spend whatever sheckles of time I have to rest on commenting on blogs because its easier than actually commiting to blogging.

But its that time of the year when teachers hate you and pile you with complicated work so that you can prove yourself worthy of going on to the next year (most projects are worth 30% of the year mark) so I am pooped.

I guess I should be more committed. But I wanna enjoy blogging rather than seeing it as something more to add to the day.

Although I mustn't excuse my bahaviour- it is what it is. and I'd like to blame Joburg but I think joburanites just take their busy-ness more seriously and for granted.

I agree wholeheartedly but at the same time understand. Its hectic.

po said...

I find this exact thin to be really really bad in the UK. The safest thing is to assume noone will come, and not plan anything too long in advance. Or is someone says they are coming, assume they are not.

po said...

Arrgh sorry for the incoherent comment, my fingers are getting away from me!

Damaria Senne said...

I've had a couple of friends stand me up for dinner/drinks because something came up. One occassion, I cooked dinner especially for a friend and the guest she said she wa bringing and she phoned an hour before she was due to cancel. So I understand how frustrating that can be.
But I can't cast stones because I'm terrible with social occassions. Sometimes it's just easier for me to say I'm busy (knowing that that is a more socially acceptable excuse in Joburg) rather than saying that I am chickening out because social occassions are very stressful for me and I don't feel up to coping with it ( which some people think you can get over if you just tried hard enough).
But I digress...

phillygirl said...

Wow, I so relate to this post ... I think it's only usualyl the "organisers" who end up aware just how erratic guests can be, I'm sure everyone who cancels thinks it's fine cause it's just themselves, when in reality it never ever is.

I was actually having this conversation with one of the poker girls last night and she didn't agree with me ... and I'm forced to wonder if it's the circles I move in, or because I'm "the organiser", but at least when I read this I know it's not just me and it's probably nothing personal ... it's often just people being wrapped up in themselves.

Good luck and regardless of the hassle, I hope you have a blast at the event!

Ches said...

I hear you Tam.

I use that busyness to get out of the City of 'No' Sun and Gun.

Nice post.

Tamara said...

Glug: Aww, thanks for not being too busy for me! Sounds like a great idea.

Meriel: makes two of us ;-)

Paula: I'm not bashing you for not blogging! I understand end of year is crunch time ;-)

Po: Ja, I also don't quite believe people are coming until they actually arrive. A bit sad, really.

Damaria: That must have been frustrating. See, I'll say "no" in the beginning if I don't want to go to an event. I figure it's better than saying "yes" and then not showing up. And I wish people would do the same - rather tell me you can't make it or it's not your thing than pull out at the 11th hour.

Philly: That's true. On the night of our birthday party, we had 11 last-minute cancellations or no-shows. That's a lot of people we had expected, but each one thought it would just be him/her. I've learnt not to take it personally, but I just feel bad that the church has wasted good money on seats that will be empty.

Ches: I think most people who live in Joburg are actually busy and do need breaks from it all. But they must decide that beforehand, not on the day ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh no Tamara I know you weren't talking about me. Its my own guilt eating at me. I miss blogging so much. grrr.

Helen said...

What amazes me whenever I get bac to Joburg s how rused peple are yet how little they get done.Like driving, you hesitate for a millisecond and they hoot, but if you're calm and pay attention (the Lowveld laid-back approach)you realise just how little difference the rushing makes.

And RSVPing is getting worse lately I think. I can't beleive people did that to you!