Lost in a maze with no licence

04 August 2013 - 02:01 By Ndumiso Ngcobo
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It really grinds me when people share their opinions about books, articles or documents that they haven't read.

 It is for that reason that I'm about to invoke the law of attraction from that bestseller by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, despite never having read it. Let it never be said that I am not a hypocrite.

From what I understand, this law suggests that by focusing on negative or positive thoughts, one attracts either negative or positive life experiences. So if you keep thinking about winning the Powerball jackpot, you'll be driving a Bugatti Veyron soon. I was having these very thoughts recently when I experienced a day that seems to have been planned by the angel of darkness himself, Lucifer.

I share a fundamental philosophy with the Department of Basic Education. That philosophy is: "If you keep failing to jump over a hurdle, lower the bar." In simple terms, "If they can't pass mathematics, lower the pass mark." Similarly, due to my past experiences with civil servants, before I enter one of our public institutions, I sit in the car for a few minutes, adjusting my expectations. This way, when I do have a pleasant experience, I feel like I've just won the Powerball.

To be fair, I have been on the receiving end of more than just a handful of these experiences. Why, the other day I walked into the Ekurhuleni municipality offices, stood in the queue for only three minutes and got exactly what I was looking for. I squealed with delight. That's the power of low expectations. I wasn't so lucky last Thursday. Apparently it is true that God gives with one hand while taking with the other.

My troubles started when I was stopped by two metro police officers on the N12 and asked to step outside my vehicle for a "routine check". To cut a long story short, when I got home, I discovered that some items had gone missing from my car, including my driver's licence. I subsequently spent a few weeks of procrastination, during which I was stopped several times and experienced the discomfort of trying to explain why I was driving without a licence. You know that conversation, right? It always ends with the line, "I'm afraid I have to write you a ticket, Bab' uNgcobo ," uttered as a question just in case you're open to the idea of a spot fine.

So I decided to drag myself to the licensing department, got in the queue and presented myself to a woman I choose to call Three-Toed Sloth on account of her work ethic. After willing herself to look up from staring at her phone for what seemed like an eternity, she took my forms in slow motion before asking for my old licence. I explained that I'd lost it. This seemed to give her orgasmic pleasure. "I cannot process this without an affidavit to that effect. Next!"

So off I went in the general direction of the nearest police station. When I entered the community "service" office, I was met by the sight of a crowd of people in various stages of exhaustion, frustration and despair. "Service" is a very loose use of the word in this context. There was one officer on duty, deep in the throes of work avoidance. And when she did help someone, she would spend about 10 minutes writing out a five-line paragraph.

An Inspector Mhlongo would occasionally emerge from some other office, whistle loudly and yell, "Good God, there are many of you!" before disappearing into her office to do what I assume was deep investigative work. I finally got to the front of the queue to hand my affidavit to Constable Ledwaba for her to stamp while I listened to the riveting audio of her trying to alleviate her nasal congestion.

I rushed back to the licensing department and Ms Sloth. "I'm sorry, I cannot process this without your green barcoded ID." I whipped it out of my pocket faster than Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti Western.

"Yes. But it says here that you require driving glasses. You can't do the eye test without them." I whipped them out.

"But I can't process this without a signed affidavit." Out in a flash. Eish.

She got up to shuffle towards some other office while delivering my favourite line in the world: "Yoh, this office is annoying when so many people come."

The first time I heard a similar line was from a colleague from my teaching days. We'd dubbed her the Wig on account of her impressive wig collection. She once famously quipped: "This school is so much better when these kids are not around."

Don't laugh. Schools do run far more efficiently when there are no pupils. Ditto hospitals without patients.

The Sloth did finally attend to me and when we were done with the eye test, I stood up, thanked her and apologised to her for the inconvenience. She shrugged and gave me that "don't mention it" look.

What is the moral of this story then? Well, I think I need to learn to think more positive thoughts when I go to the licensing department.

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