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Randburg Licensing Department

Queue SignRandburg licensing department has a flat-screen TV up on the wall now. It’s very pretty and shiny. It scrolls announcements from the municipality and the City of Johannesburg. They are lovely announcements. They are all in English.

Hopefully everyone can read English. It surprisingly ostracises the other 10 Official Languages that South Africa declared. Once would think a little isiZulu or seSotho would be thrown in here and there.

When the TV isn’t giving us public announcements, it shows us the tranquillity, peace of mind, and beautiful memories that using Pfizer Pharmaceuticals can bring us. “Ask your doctor or pharmacist!”

I’ll be sure to do just that.

As I watch now I discover an announcement that is actually useful to me. My time in this queue may not be entirely wasted because of this.

One can pay traffic fines via credit card now. It’s only 2009 – credit cards have been in use for as long as I can remember. The government used to use some idiotic argument about not wanting people to go into debt to pay fines, rates and taxes, but payment was still demanded. I wonder why the change of heart?

The queue is long, but so far I haven’t noticed anyone getting too disruptive over whatever interchanges take place between the clients and the clerks. We need more chairs, but then we’ll all just be playing musical chairs for longer. They don’t have a ticket number system, which would allow everyone to sit in one place and wait for their number to be called out. Oh no. That seems too well thought-out. Instead of buying a decent ticket system, and training people to use it, they got a flat-screen TV.

Now the TV tells me that Emperor’s Palace a wonderful place full of wonderful things. Opulence. I surely crave opulence and inviting women dressed in flowing red dresses with lips pouting, and cars to win! Perhaps with the advertising revenue they generate could be used to buy us some more chairs, and that ticket-queue system.

I look at the ceiling. The domed lights high up, meant to illuminate the counters, are all fused. The only one that works, flickers erratically. What would a government department be without a flickering light?

CCTV. They have those cameras too. Oh dear. At least the camera’s don’t swivel side to side, tracking my every key press on my mobile-phone (with full QWERTY keyboard — you don’t think I’d type this all out with predictive text, do you?). I hope I’m allowed to write about the department. I hope they won’t be sending the thought-police to question me in a few moments and take my mobile phone/writing pad device away. Now that would be something worth writing about! The irony.

I’ve been in the long, straight tail of the queue, but I’m reaching the bend where it curls and twists into the intestinal section of waiting. Rows of chairs curling back and forth in almost-but-not-quite parallel lines. Like a gradual bowel-movement we are pushed forward slowly, from one chair to the next, back and forth on that circuitous route, until we are expelled from the queue sphincter into the toilet of the licence renewal desk. There they wipe us off and flush us away — once we pay our dues of course.

The sphincter is a little confused, though. There are six outlets, and the beeping red LCD screen tells each faecal particle at the end of the queue where to go (in between brightly declaring “WELCOME TO RANDB” and showing us just how much time we’ve wasted in the queue). It’s confusing because there are two bowel-queues at work here, each with different final outcomes. The LCD blinky-beepy light serves both.

Is it OK to renew your single vehicle licence at the bulk trade plates and permits counter? Who can be certain? If you test the hypothesis and are proven wrong, will you have lost your place in the queue? Will you have already ended up in the toilet, and have you been flushed away? Or would you need to eat shit and get back in the queue from the beginning? Can you be pushed back into the sphincter temporarily until it is time to exit at the appropriate point. I’m not sure. So many confusing questions to resolve this complex scenario.

I’m certain to find out, but by then I’ll no longer be waiting and will no longer have time to write this account of my adventures. So alas, dear reader, you will never know what the outcome was.

But wait! Here’s one now, just ahead of me. Trapped in toilet limbo. Swirling around and around in the toilet bowl but not getting flushed away. A terrible fate indeed. I hope to escape it.

That was another live commentary, in a similar vein to the Hospital Observations bit in this one, as written on my cell phone to pass the time while waiting in a queue. Edited to fix up spelling and grammar, and to repair the flow of the text a little.

I’ve decided to name these things Prosetographs.

Original image credit: Derek Armshaw Licence: CC-NC-3.0

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