The beer in my glass was just about to reach Two Rand Tango level (almost empty) and I sighed. Regular readers will know that the Two Rand Tango is a R2.00 tip for poor service at The Local. Not no tip, but one that is so desultory as to be recognised for the insult it is to nonchalant waitrons. A guarantee for it is an empty beer glass. I rolled my glass between my fingers … one gulp … one Two Rand Tango.

As I raised the glass to my still parched lips, Magic Mike made a miraculous appearance, beaded brown bottle hissing its hello as he deftly removed the cap. The draft from his swiftness was briefly cooling this hot, dry September day. (By the way, we’ve changed his moniker from Man U Mike to Magic Mike, G, because he is proving to be such a hit with The Local’s GILFs that they refuse to be served by anyone else. He laps up their attention, so to speak).

“In the old days of the computer industry they used to call that JIT,” I raised my eyebrows at him.

“Huh?” he struck his now legendary GILF pose – leaning against a non-existent pole, elbow resting on arm, thumb and pinkie scrabbling at a couple of struggling strands on his chin. I’ll have to introduce him to Reggie’s Mate Robbie one day. Bokkie legends.

“Just in Time,” I explained. “It was a manufacturing process whereby you only produced new product as the finished stock was going out the door. A continuous, timeous production line as and when warranted.”

He tutted at me and forked two fingers at his eyes. Then to me. “I’m watching you,” avoiding eye contact and, thus, further details on JIT manufacture. Wisely. He smiled and turned to serving his other table.

“Don’t watch me,” I growled after him. “Watch the glass … half empty, half full … both need a refill. I’m a realist.”

I tilted my glass and raised two centimetres of head from the new bottle, glancing around to see if Ray-Ban Ray might have discarded the Mexican heels for his summer moccasins and was sneaking up on me. We haven’t seen much of him at The Local of late. Carlos the Jackal thinks he may have another local, but I suspect it is this new after-hours business venture he’s involved in. Either way, he’s been as scarce as a convincing Springbok victory nowadays.

I gulped at my beer and was mid-sigh when the manager of The Local, Dom de Loose (‘cos he’s footloose and fancy free, G!), scraped out Ray-Ban’s customary chair, slipped into it, extended his hand for a handshake and simultaneously reached for my cigarette pack with his left. He’s quick that way. He’s a boxer. I need to keep an eye on the hand-speed.

“I know the rules,” as he lit up and exhaled. I told you he was quick. “I owe you a pack.”

“Or two,” I muttered, moving my ashtray closer to him and my cigarette pack closer to me. I knew it was in vain as Carlos the Jackal approached, beer and ciders clenched in one hand. “This round’s on Dom de Loose,” he said as he settled into Ray-Ban’s man-bag chair, shook a cigarette out of my box and lit it. “I owe you a pack,” as he blew smoke between us. Dom de Loose distributed bottles around the table and we clinked glass on glass. He nodded cheers at me and I nodded appreciation back. He was going up daily in my estimation. Might be a bit lax on the fags, but always stands his round. Like I said, a boxer.

“So what’s happening?” Carlos the Jackal attempted smoke rings. Dom de Loose and I both shrugged, more at the straggly plumes than the question.

“Nothing much,” I turned my mouth down. “Working on the next issue … connectivity … “

“Connectivity!” The Jackal choked on a swallowed smoke ring. “Don’t even joke! They’re busy laying fibre in my neighbourhood and you’ve got to see the mess! They take ‘before and after’ pictures, but I don’t know why. Maybe to have a laugh later! The paving’s fine, but my lawn …! And I can’t even water it because of the drought restrictions!”

Dom de Loose and I nodded in sympathy. “I know the problem,” I said. There are trenches and yellow and orange tape throughout my neighbourhood. “But at least they’re laying fibre. Putting down infrastructure. The biggest problem, though, is that fibre is only being laid in areas where the operators think they can make money. Doesn’t really help to connect the rest of the nation, which is one of the government’s service delivery promises – and soon to be declared a basic human right. Universal access. It needs to be affordable for everyone.

“As long as I can get decent streaming …” The Jackal began.

“But it’s not just about Netflix, or YouTube” I countered. “It’s about everyone -and everything – being connected … and not just migrant workers to their families, or farmers to wholesalers, or doctors to remote patients … It’s about using technology for things like e-government, smart cities, more inclusion for all citizens. But it has to be cheap enough – and reliable enough – for everyone to use it and, unfortunately, there are some corporates in this country that only see it as an additional, very lucrative, revenue stream.  Chunderer explains it well … read his column.”

I hopped off the soapbox before Carlos the Jackal slumped into a sulk. Raising my arm, I caught the attention of Magic Mike. I forked two fingers at my eyes and pointed them at him, then made the universal circling signal for another round. In less than a minute, Magic Mike was placing three replenished bottles on the table. I think it’s because Carlos the Jackal was sitting with us.

“You see,” I said, gesturing at Magic Mike. “That’s connectivity. Not a word said … successful completion of task. Now we just have to teach him about CRM.”

Dom de Loose laughed, Carlos the Jackal smiled. Magic Mike frowned. He was about to unconsciously strike his GILF pose when he realised the boss was sitting in front of him. But as he turned to leave, I got the two fingers eye to eye. “I’m watching you,” Magic Mike mouthed.

I pointed at my glass. “Watch the glass,” I mouthed back, squaring two hands about two feet apart. “Big tip,” I mouthed again. Magic Mike beamed. We’d connected.

 

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