Recently I had cause to go and get my learner’s licence to ride my motorbike. It’s been a long time a-comin’, and finally the day dawned. Sorry, someone knocked over the cliché box here.
So off I went to the ‘boulevard of broken dreams’ as the Ben Trovato aptly calls Fish Hoek Main Road, and panted into a photo-shop down an arcade to get the photos sorted out. There, the lady I spoke to was eager and willing to help, but then a voice made of pure aluminium came from the back. ‘Your hair must be off your face!’ I made a vain attempt to stop my curly fringe flopping down. I was in a huge hurry because I’d spent too much time hugging some people I’m not going to see again for at least two years, in Kalk Bay, and I was worried the licencing place would be closing. I had twenty minutes to look wonderful, smile, get the photo done, pay, and vamoose to the Civic Centre.
Back came the Voice. ‘And her ears mustn’t be covered. They should be visible!’ I looked at the lady who originally tried to help. She looked back at me with a small twinkle. I wasn’t sure what to do. My hair is curly and somewhat bushy… what to do. Must I hold it off my face with my hands? That wouldn’t do either, I suspected. After a bit more of this back and forth, me protesting that I’d never come across this strange instruction before, and I had had lots of photos done with even longer hair… I smiled my nicest smile and said I’m sorry, I can’t do this… I’m out of here.’
So off I zoomed up the road to the pharmacy, where I was asked to move my hair a little off my forehead, paid forty Rand for eight photos… (why eight? So they can make thirty extra Ront?) but by now I was beyond caring. My photo was awful and off I went.
At the Civic Centre, they don’t take cash, only cheques. (Does anyone still use cheques? Why is this the only bunch of people who don’t use a zip-zap machine?) So back I went to Pick and Pay, sorted out some cash and made it with less minutes to spare than previously but fortunately they closed only at 3.30 pm. The woman barely glanced at the photos before sorting it all out efficiently and quickly. She informed me that I was fortunate not to be sixty years old yet because I would have needed a doctor’s certificate. Right. Got in under the wire. A small lift in the afternoon.
Next I went to have my eyes tested after filling in a form. There I found another potential graduate of Dale Carnegie’s helpful courses on how to win friends and influence people. ‘Which suburb are you in?’ he demanded. ‘Wynberg.’ I said – ‘There, I’ve put it in under my street address.’
‘But it’s supposed to go under suburb. Now you are wasting my time and I have to do it over.’ I looked at him carefully, wondering if this was a clumsy attempt at a joke. But no, he was all puffed up behind his one little table in the whole room, except for the other table holding the eye-testing machine. I apologised elaborately, when I realised he wasn’t going to let it go, he was going to be cross and that was it.
It didn’t help matters much. I put my face to the visor on the machine, him saying ‘Well I’m sure you know what to do here.’ I hoped I did. I then pointed out that the right side seemed to be blank, was that okay? Was the machine alright? In retrospect, that was a bit silly.
‘There is nothing wrong with the machine Ma’am. Please do as I say!’
I got the sixth one wrong with each eye, but guessed the seventh one right. He gave me another chance each on the sixth ones.
I asked him how I’d done. ‘Not very well. You passed but I had to help you, you were guessing.’
I asked him if he recommended that I wear glasses. ‘Yes, you will have to get some soon.’
Right. Finished massaging the man’s ego, so off I went to the cashier. (I do actually prefer to wear distance-vision glasses for driving, but they hurt when my helmet is added to the arrangement.) It’s new glasses or a new helmet.
The next available date for a learner’s licence was quite soon – 12th March already! This is in contrast to an average of around six months that these things used to take. So that was cool. I agreed to show up at eight in the morning and then suddenly remembered that my first photography lesson (I’ve been gifted by the teacher whose website I do) started that morning as well. I tried to change the test to another date, but no – once it’s made, it can’t be changed. At all. Ever. Nevernevernever. Not under any circumstances.
My boss at Wesbank (let’s not discuss that time in my life) once pointed out that as an ex-civil servant I had a lot to learn about service. Evidently I suffered (or the clients suffered) from what he called my frosted-glass syndrome. That’s when civil servants sit behind their frosted glass windows and … I don’t need to explain do I?
Sometimes in life, one is confronted with people who are put in your path to point out something to you. They reflect your shadow and in my case I have a slavish obedience to the rules, to do things by the book. It comes out in little things like the ancestral feast I wrote about the other day. We’d managed only two days of ‘calling the ancestors’, not the required three days. And this bothered the hell out of me. I kept saying to J___ ‘I dunno, this doesn’t feel right. ‘ Eventually my lovable and patient friend phoned our sangoma and she confirmed that it was indeed fine. I felt betrayed by the Authority. I felt the presence of frosted glass.
Clearly I’m in desperate need of lightening up. Then I won’t get hooked by my human mirrors. Fortunately I now have Guido* at hand… my Inner Funmeister who’s arrived to counterbalance Sieglinde, the Inner Nazi who makes me work too hard.
‘Buongiorno Principessa!’ I feel better already. I may even see a beach before the Summer’s out.
*from the movie: ‘Life is Beautiful’