Queue jumping with babies
Last week I had the daunting experience of taking my six-month-old son, Henry, to the licensing department in Randburg to reapply for my driver’s licence, which got lost at some point in the fug of second-time motherhood that has preoccupied my last six months. (This was a separate incident to the wallet that was either lifted from or abandoned by me at the Norwood Mall.)
After driving unlicenced for a month or so (or three) – living in terror of getting arrested (I know this is not a true consequence) on my way to drop my daughter at playschool or (worse) to present my halfway-decent self at a client – I decided to get my crap together and get to Randburg.
This was not without its hiccups. I did whatever I could to expedite the process in advance. I went to Spec Savers for an eye test and having my photo taken in advance. I lost the eye test and had to go back. Spec Savers was out of the eye test forms. I went back again; this time taking my mother with me and making her keep the eye test forms.
My mother proved to be something of a godsend in all of this. She needed her licence renewed, and having produced her only offspring (me) years (and years – sigh) ago, is possessed of most of the mental capacity that I currently lack, so she supplied the intelligence and motivation necessary to get me through.
Even though we arrived in Randburg when the light was still gentle and the air still crisp on the appointed day, the queue was already depressingly long. We navigated a narrow staircase with Henry’s pram (no ramps or lifts in this building), and then settled down to wait. Then Henry kicked into action.
My son, bless him, is an easygoing chap. He doesn’t cry much, feeds well and sleeps just about wherever – but he took an instant and intense dislike to the licensing department. He was hungry but refused to feed, tired but refused to rest and he brought out his best shrill shrieks to let us know about the depths of his discontent.
An official appeared. His attitude had less to do with serving the public and more to do with getting the howling baby out of his workplace as quickly as possible. This was made apparent by the fact that he was willing to take me to the front of the queue, but not my mother, so that I could “at least go and sit in the car”.
Fortunately, Henry was writhing and trilling at this point, and my mother had all my documentation, so I had to keep dashing down the passage to get whatever was asked of me. Eventually, in extreme exasperation, he ushered us both through, and bustled us out of the building, impatient to have us gone, even as we tried to thank him.
In general, I’ve been treated fairly well in government or administrative queues courtesy of my state of breeding and motherhood over the past three-and-a-half years. I have been whisked to the front of two different voting lines, and have now had the pleasure of queue jumping at the licensing department.
However, without wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth (much), I would be more reassured if I felt that this was actual policy, rather than the result of sympathetic or irate individuals in each instance. Oh, and ramps or lifts at government buildings should be standard policy.
Until such time, if you take a baby with you in an attempt to be processed quickly, make it a noisy one.
- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.
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