What a smile in the middle of heavy traffic from pointsman Ernest Nqoko!
KNYSNA NEWS & VIDEOS - Standing in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic all day and directing the flow of vehicles to prevent chaos, fender-benders or even worse – and all the while keeping a smile on your face – takes a very special person.
That someone is pointsman Ernest Nqoko, known by all the locals as Smiley for exactly that reason. Even in the heaviest traffic or lousiest weather he beams with joy and admits that even if he gets cross it is only for "one second".
"To do this job one has to leave all your problems at home because you have to focus, concentrate very hard," says Smiley, who has come onto the isle near George Rex Drive for a quick interview before he heads straight back into the middle of the road.
It is 11:00 on Friday, January 6, and traffic is as heavy as it gets and Smiley is sweating in the heat and also out of breath and puffing, quickly swigging some water.
"I have been doing this job for 10 years and yes, it is not easy to always be calm. Sometimes people don't listen or understand my hand signals, but by now I have a way of making them understand," he says.
Some days he comes on duty at 6:00 and finishes around the same time with the holiday season starting in early December and lasting right up until January 10, by which time he is exhausted.
Smiley is a familiar and well-loved face among locals who travel home this route during holiday season and are just so grateful to see him as there are no traffic lights at this intersection.
As one local who has been seeing him for the last decade says, "Smiley is better than traffic lights. You don't have to wait for ages for them to change to green and he does it with a smile and character. I have seen him shout if need be, but he always gets it right. Don't know what we would do without him at this busy intersection during holiday season."
He is, however, not the only pointsman who keeps traffic flowing and safe during the holiday season.
Knysna acting municipal manager Johnny Douglas explained that during the holiday season, notably the most recent one, the municipality appointed 26 point duty officers.
"They went through a two-week training programme which included regulating and controlling traffic by means of hand or light signals. They are usually trained by our point duty officers such as Smiley. The main purpose of point duty is to ensure that traffic flows in an orderly and safe manner."
Douglas said their contracts end on January 10. "Some of them are unemployed, while others will be going back to school and institutions of higher learning."
Douglas said that additional point duty officers will be required again during the busy periods, such as Easter, the Oyster Festival and so on, but that there will be six pointsmen who work throughout the year in George Rex Drive and at schools.
He congratulated them. "We are pleased with our point duty officers and would like to thank all of them for their hard work. We have mostly received positive feedback from residents and holidaymakers about them."
While this reporter was interviewing Smiley, a German tourist approached him for a photo and video and congratulated him.