Fingers doing the walking

2008-03-14 00:00

Some cameos titillate one’s humour so that one bursts to share them with some buddies; no, in fact with the entire planet.

I go to have my fingerprint thingy done for registration with a professional board. Just in case I’m a serial killer, I assume.

I deliberate, while I’m driving to the nearest police station, that it’ll no doubt be an onerous and time-consuming exercise. So, instead, I make a detour, opting for a quiet police station which has shady parking on the property. I mean you never can tell. If one’s car is pavement parked, it may surreptitiously be whipped off by a burglar masquerading as a bona fide police officer.

A pseudo “lady” with shocking-purple eyelids and lips stands in the shade, waving a smoke. I purposefully stride towards her, as I’m told that the fingerprint place is “over there”. I politely ask her where the police clearance office is.

She huskily announces that as they had a lunch-time meeting, they are knocking off at 3.45 pm today.

Well ja no fine, I think.

“Oh,” I reply with a hopeful whimper. “All I want is to have my fingerprints done.”

“No problem — just goes and ask that cop in there.”

And she flounces along, dripping ash and lipstick in her wake.

“Just do it for the lady,” she indicates through the doorway in what to me seems like a deprecating tone. She rolls her purple-lidded lizard eyes at me and sighs under her breath, “This is mos Africa.”

Her cough vanishes into the distance as I’m left in the silent post-moment of her slander, which suitably causes me to “nearly die” with embarrassment. I find myself making ridiculously compensatory remarks as my defence mechanism for her BS.

I have four attentive police officers of differing status; inspectors and sergeants, or whatever their designation, to assist me with the task in hand. (Forgive the pun.)

One lavishly pours the ink on to the ink pad. One brandishes the ink roller. Another holds the paper, indicating where each finger must be positioned. The fourth one, a woman, comes around from the other side of the counter, takes each of my fingers, followed by the thumb of my right hand, and firmly presses them one at a time into the black gooey ink. The same procedure follows for my left hand. She rolls each digit from side to side on the paper. It resembles an angry four-year-old’s squidgy finger painting. But she seems terribly satisfied by this accomplishment. So I smile an abundance of gratitude, being careful not to touch anything with my inky paws.

The ink pourer tops up the ink on the pad again. It spills all over the old counter and is vigorously mopped up with a fortuitously positioned Witness newspaper. The procedure is repeated, this time without the digits being rolled, but rather just pressed one at a time. The end result seems to create a high level of gratification for all four obliging police officers. I’m left guessing that the exercise offers a far higher level of creativity than tasks such as filling in carbon copy dockets for petty offenders do.

After the task’s completed, I’m courteously taken to wash my fingers with soap mix. There’s no towel or loo paper anywhere to be seen. I resort to the drip-dry method, as some impressions of black ink remain and I’m wearing summery white cotton. I thank them for being so helpful and smile idiotically at the gathered spectators, who have either conjured up some or other elaborate criminal scenario or they think that I’m engaged in top intelligence espionage.

With relief, I breezily exit to be reunited with my car, tightly gripping a manila envelope with my fingerprints intact.

• Eve Hemming is a local educationist.

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