There are few things I detest as much as standing in a queue. The good news is I am going to a conference in Namibia at the end of the month, one of my favourite places, but my passport is absolutely full. So off to Home Affairs I go. I know I have left it a bit late so to make sure that I get it done, I arrive at Wynberg Home Affairs at 6.00am
And I’m second in the queue. I high five the lady who has beaten me and we congratulate each other on our foresight and cleverness to get there early.
Suddenly at 6.30 a huge crowd rushes in all at once and they ask us what number we are. Number? First time I hear of it, sending my new best friend to investigate while I guard our special seats no 1 and 2.
She returns and glumly gives me my new number which is number 57 and back I go.
We reminisce like old war heroes who nearly won the battle and before you know it we’re best pals. Another lady joins us and soon this is a serious “kuier”. The medical specialist in front of us takes out a huge text book and starts studying and everywhere people are talking to each other and that can’t be too bad, can it?
As regards the staff at Home Affairs. The guy at the front becomes my hero in the gentle way he treats an old lady who can barely walk and is asking to get in front of the queue. “Gogo” he says, that is only on Tuesday but for you, I’ll make an exception. No-one in the queue says a word. The lady who takes my picture and I debate whether my picture is sexy enough and she happily takes a few more so I can pick the best of the police file pictures.
The lady I dealt with to renew my passport and my new smart ID played her computer keyboard like a piano and that took a whole three minutes. Yes, the process took forever but I never saw the staff shirking, they were super polite and efficient and guess what, despite the Easter weekend I got my SMS six days later to say my passport is ready and I am off to Namibia!
So am I the world’s greatest optimist or just testing the levels of a normal person’s patience?
The reality is that the office where I was at, was super clean, very modern with the latest screens, computers. The staff were efficient, hard-working and kind. There just were not enough of them.
The solution? I’m not sure.
I was encouraged this week to hear Alderman JP Smith speaking about changes in the queuing system to be held in the city’s clinics to start matching what we canexpect in a private practice. It’s only been a week and apparently the results have been very good with empty benches everywhere as the system starts to kick in.
What I do know is that being nice does not cost a cent and whether it’s karma or not it always seems to come back to me.