Cake Baking as a Metaphor for the Digging-Holes and Getting-Stuff-Out-of-the-Ground Industry

Google knows about this blog, and since what I intend to write now is work related and critical of certain entities, it may upset the relationship my company has with those certain entities.
Given the above, it is necessary to be a little cryptic and to make lavish use of metaphors. If you know me well enough, and know what my current job is, you’ll probably be able to figure out which entity I’m referring to.
If you don’t know me at all, you still may be able to. Perhaps the post title may be of assistance to you.

Let us pretend that I work in the baking industry. I don’t but, for the purposes of this tale of bureaucratic anal-retentiveness, I do.
The baking industry in South Africa is strictly regulated. If one wishes to bake a cake, one must fill out the necessary Cake Baking Application forms and submit them to the Department of Cakes and Confectioneries (DCC).
A number of items must accompany the application form:

  • The exact description of the place you wish to bake the cake, including a map, and deeds of ownership
  • A Cake Baking Recipe, detailing how you intend to go about baking the cake, including such details as:
    • ingredients to be used
    • equipment required
    • which chef you intend to use
    • how much cake you intend to bake
    • proof that you can afford to buy the ingredients
  • Details of the company which intends to bake the cake/s
  • The applicable application fee (either cash, or a cheque made out to the DCC)

Every province in the country has its own provincial DCC office. The one in Gauteng always checks the application forms, and all accompanying documentation and so forth within 30 minutes.
I spent 3 hours at the DCC in the Free State submitting a Cake Baking Application for a client. Having not submitted any applications in the Free State before, the extra 2.5 hours to lodge the application came as a gradual, but ultimately quite excruciating surprise.

At first, it seemed that things were going well. Shortly after my arrival at the DCC offices, a nice person came to look over the application.
At the Gauteng office, the nice person who takes the application from me usually just checks that everything required by the legislation and regulations for a Cake Baking Application is present in the application. If it is, she takes my application fee and bids me farewell. They never check whether or not it is all in order — just that it is there. The 14 days stipulated by the Cake and Confectioneries Baking Act is what is supposed to be used to check through all the details. The Gauteng office does it this way. The Free State office — not so.
The nice person, who afforded me a great deal of time with which to practise patience, looked at the provided map. She then proceeded to check that every aspect of the map was correct, and that everything described in the application form, and the applicable deeds of ownership all matched up with one another.
My client wanted to bake a lot of cake all over the place, so there were a lot of deeds to cross-reference with the information on the map. I discovered that I need more practice in patience. Quite a deal more.

Eventually, she finished going through the map and deeds. She’d found some problems. I negotiated that I send the corrections through via courier. She, to my relief, agreed that that would be acceptable.
After that I waited a long time while pretty much nothing happened. Or rather, to me it seemed that nothing happened, but in actual fact, gross inefficiency was under way. I thought everything was done and that I just needed to pay the application fee and go. Just under 2 hours had passed at this point, and so I was very keen to leave, but no-one wanted to take my R500.00. If I didn’t pay the fee, then they wouldn’t accept the application.
My enquiries as to why things were taking so long were met with cryptic responses, which with hindsight I managed to decrypt. They had to check that no-one else had applied to bake the same kind of cakes in the same area. Again — something that should be done within the 14 day period stipulated by the Act.
At the time I just tried to keep patient.

At some point nearing the 3 hour mark, a person who I had not yet met came through and informed me that they were very sorry, but they were having a problem with their system. It had just recently been upgraded, and the only person who knew how it worked was not in the office. They asked me if I might be able to help.
That’s right. They asked me to come and do their job for them. I really wished they’d asked earlier, because then I would’ve left the building after 2 hours and 10 minutes, instead of the 3 hours that I actually spent there.

I’m heading back there on Monday to withdraw the frigging application because the place we said we want to bake cake isn’t quite in the right place.
At this rate, I’ll have so much practice at patience I’ll reach Nirvana in almost no time.

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3 thoughts on “Cake Baking as a Metaphor for the Digging-Holes and Getting-Stuff-Out-of-the-Ground Industry”

  1. I think you should take cake with when you go to the offices next. Cake helps you to be patient, and people who process things wave stuff through when there is cake. I am glad you chose cake to describe the whole thing, it is a great metaphor tool, because cake is great.

  2. Darb,
    Are you speaking metaphorically, or literally?
    If I take cake to the government department that regulates the production of cakes, won’t they find that a little suspicious?

    If you were being literal about the cake, it is quite a cunning idea that I probably should experiment with sometime.

  3. Perhaps you can take some cream pies, too. They’re sort of like cake, and you can throw them in amusingly silly ways at people, which is very good for everyone’s practice of patience.

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