A Bolt driver’s diary reveals the multicoloured layers that are unseen by most of us.
Last June, Pamella Magaqa (44) left her office job for a more flexible one, and she traded her workstation for a mobile. She’s a Bolt (formerly known as Taxify) driver, working primarily in the north of Johannesburg. Here, she takes us through one of her weekday shifts in mid January.
06:30 – 08:30
I started my day by taking my son to the Gautrain station, and I was online immediately after that. – Within a minute I received a request. My first client was a middle-aged man who sat in the front seat. We greeted each other and proceeded to chat. I found out that I used to work with his wife a long time ago. My next two clients were also men, and they also sat in the front seat and we chatted. One was on his way to the Gautrain station and the other was on his way to an office park. I then drove to a petrol station to fill up the car, and shortly after that I got a request. The client was a lady who sat in the backseat. We exchanged greetings but didn’t speak any further. My next request was a young schoolboy going to his school, about 5km away. He sat in the front. He’s around my son’s age. We chatted until he got to school.
09:30 – 12:30
It was very quiet. I got only one request and the trip took five minutes. The clients were two ladies that I know, so we chatted. We spoke about why they were not at work during the day (they said they were working night shift), and we also talked about the water crisis that we had recently. My next trip was 20 minutes long. It was a young lady on her way to the mall. We greeted each other and then after that she was on her phone the whole time. She sat in the front.
12:30 – 14:30
I drove to the nearby Gautrain to wait for a request. The client was a lady. We just greeted each other and never chatted: she sat at the back and kept to herself. She asked me to stop at a fast food drive-thru before dropping her off at a residential complex, the final destination. I then received a request from a shisanyama to a school, and then back to an estate. It was a lady picking up a child. She sat in the back but was very friendly – we talked all the way about things in general, and about raising kids. The trip was an hour long. I then went offline so I could prepare lunch for my kids before picking them up from the Gautrain station at 3pm.
16:00 – 19:00
My first request after coming back online was a young boy from school. We didn’t talk, we just greeted each other. He sat in the back, and it was a 20-minute trip. It was not a cash or card trip – he had a free promo. So he got a free ride, but Bolt will still gave me that money he was supposed to pay. My next trip was long, about 40km. The client was a bubbly young lady. She was very talkative and she sat in the front. We spoke about many things – I can’t single out one topic. After that trip, I went offline and drove back home, because I don’t work at night.
Pamella Magaqa Q & A
What was your previous job before this?
I used to work for the SARS Head Office in Brooklyn as a functional specialist: I was responsible for compiling revenue reports on a weekly basis. I was basically reporting on the revenue received daily from different taxes e.g. VAT, CIT, PIT, Customs and Excise.
Why did you leave that job and join Bolt?
I left because of the new operating model that didn’t allow some of us to reach new heights within the division. I was also bored of doing the same thing for 10 years. I chose Bolt as I wanted to try something different, and to be self- employed. I wanted to do something that allowed me to have time to myself as and when needed, but that also gave me the opportunity to make money.
What is the best part about being a Bolt driver?
The flexibility: to be able to do whatever you want whenever you want, and then getting back online when you want. Also meeting friendly people and sometimes having nice conversations which can lead to other business opportunities. I love picking up people who are ready to go, people I don’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for.
And the worst part?
Rude customers. For example, when the GPS is not working due to network issues, they sometimes shout at you for getting lost, or some just cancel the trip without finding out what the problem is. Sometimes when you are in this situation you’ll call the customer to let them know that you are getting lost so they can help with the directions – but they won’t pick up the phone, next thing they cancel the trip.
Hygiene can also be an issue with some customers, and they don’t even want you to open the windows. Some will come with four friends or siblings, expecting to do the 4/4 masihlalisane taxi vibe, which doesn’t work with us and in that case I nicely ask them to request a second car or request a Kombi. I also don’t enjoy drunk customers who are talkative and even spill beer in the car.