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.