LifeHack: take something simple and make it impossibly complicated in zero easy steps.

I slouched on the bus one morning about a week ago after a night of no sleep, and thought to myself: “this day is going to be kak”. I knew it the moment I stepped out of the house, and whether it was a case of self-fulfilling prophecy or not, I gave myself a sad little pat on the back for being so clever when I saw the ticket controllers pop up out of nowhere and start their surprise pre-dawn scan of the commuter’s tickets. But I have a monthly ticket. I bought it on my phone this month because they store near me no longer sells bus tickets because you can now be clever and buy it on your phone. So I pulled out my smartphone and loaded up the ticket app, waiting for the young controllers to come my way.

About three seconds before they reached me, my iPhone sputtered and died, and I thought again to myself: “Yoh, day, it’s not even seven o’ clock yet, feck off” before I retrieved my phone charger from my pocket and asked the controller to hang on a second while I tried to get it back. The bus, cleverly, has charging points, and I stuck the charger in there and waited. Nothing. It don’t work. I went to Plan C and got out my backup charger I’d just bought while the controller watched on and I provided entertainment enough for the other commuters to look up from their episodes of My Little Pony (this is really something people watch), and my stop fast approached. Nerp, charger bugging out.

The phone, in the end, never charged, I got slapped with a fine of Kr1150, and left with instructions to complain somewhere to contest it. But I know what happens when I complain. Bloody nothing, so I shall not hold my breath for a refund and will instead enjoy the pleasant surprise if it comes. The phone did charge about ten minutes after the controller left, and it turns out that app software had updated itself anyway and uninstalled the app somehow from my phone, meaning I had to call customer services to get my ticket loaded back onto my phone. It was all very delightful and did not feel at all pointless.

But it’s not the fine I’m annoyed at or the fact that the controllers bounced out of nowhere in their big bomber jackets on a morning when I’d forgotten to drink any coffee. What gets me is rather this irritating mismatched limbo place I find myself in these days wherever I go, where the lofty technological ambitions of various institutions don’t always match up to the expectations and realities of the people forced to interact with them. The ticket thing isn’t so bad and is generally quite convenient for other people with state-of-the-art phones, but there’s me, poor loser who fell down the 2011 iPhone rabbit hole and can’t seem to get out because I also lost all my money somewhere down there.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-1694-1430353737-5

It is the same. Source: Parks & Recreation

3 weeks ago I almost pissed myself trying to use a public toilet because you had to pay to use it (Oslo has a public toilet problem, and this shall not be my last rant about it) and the only way to do so was to sms a mysterious Norwegian number and then grab the toilet door in the  5 second window it actually opened. I missed the window, of course, and it locked almost immediately after it opened, leaving me and the woman who had actually paid for me to use the toilet (the service didn’t work for foreign numbers like mine), standing around wondering who was going to hold out the longest.

I’m grateful for most technological conveniences. Internet banking, remote UIF filing, even paying my traffic fines online – it’s brilliant. But so much of it is so pointlessly ambitious that it borders on deranged and it leaves those of us who just try to go about their lives paying bills, getting from A to B and trying to maintain their sanity, a little bamboozled.

If institutions could just get their shit together before they send out their branded e-mails telling you how goddamn easy it is to use their service and how there is no more excuse for your failures at life, then I’m sure it would all be OK. Not great, but OK. But they don’t! They point you in the direction of their crashed websites (City of Cape Town, I’m looking at you), instruct their call-centre staff to redirect you back to the websites and then tarnish your good name with traffic fines etc. that would have been avoided if you’d not had faith in their system in the first place. You’re a fool for your faith, you’re a goddamn fool. And it all makes you wonder how you’ll ever be able to take that step up the ladder to the next rung of adulthood. I’m thirty four and every day as each new app comes out I feel as I lose just a little more grip on the solid things that made me feel like a fucking grown up. Pay bills? Sure, I can just go to the ban- oh wait, I can just do an EF- wait no, I can do it online through your site- NO FUCK, WHAT IS THIS NEW THING I’M SUPPOSED TO USE FROM MY PHONE? I CAN’T, MY PHONE DOESN’T HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR ONE MORE APP BECAUSE MY CHILD HAS FILLED IT WITH GAMES ABOUT THAT FANTORANGEN ELEPHANT. And also he drained my battery and also I’m too poor to upgrade my phone and also I want to talk to a person who can help me please, a real person. My bank here doesn’t have people with branches or atms. I’m not sure what the bank actually does anymore.

fantorangen

The elephant that trolls me daily. Behold Fantorangen. Source: http://tv.nrksuper.no

My gym also doesn’t have any people working there and they seem to have gotten the whole automated thing down – except when something goes wrong, which is pretty possible in a gym, based on what I saw some of the people there doing the other day. But I enjoyed not having to talk to people and definitely liked signing up via the robot kiosk at the entrance, though I live in fear of the day they remove my nifty little gym card and replace it with a ‘handy’ app that comes on my phone – a device that spends more of its time in the hands of strangers trying to return it to me than my own.

I’m entirely baffled by people who love convenience apps and encourage me to download them too. Those people always have nice hairstyles and cool sneakers, it seems, or t-shirts with clever pictures or sayings on them.

hipsterkid

This stylish fella has some tips for me about the latest food truck app. Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/t50pwLA8_s/

Just having those convenience apps on my phone taking up space and alerting me to upgrades/updates/adverts is a massive bloody inconvenience. There is one app you can download, listed as a ‘must-have’ app on LifeHack, that tells you when a table is available for booking at your local restaurant. AN APP THAT TELLS YOU WHEN A TABLE IS OPEN FOR BOOKING AT A RESTAURANT.  Even if I ate out every single day – which I don’t, because, see the 2011 iPhone comment about money earlier, I couldn’t imagine this being such a vital service as to be installed onto my phone. I can hear my hip friends groaning at me already as they update the software on their Open Table app, but you know what – you know what, MORGAN or JONAS, – those restaurants probably wouldn’t let me in anyway. So there.

These days I can no longer get any more music on my phone because the iTunes app refuses to update properly on my PC and now the PC and the phone won’t talk to each other and I’m left with Moby, Afrika Bambaataa and Deftones to listen to for the forseeable future. Which is not so bad. I don’t mind having the same music stuck in my phone – it’s minor. But when my world starts squeezing itself into my phone or onto other digital devices and society expects both parties – myself and the system I’m using – to interact smoothly, then I get worked up and ranty. When we live in cash-less, paper-less, people-less spaces and then the tech goes wrong, there’s got to be a contingency for the Frazzled and Baffled masses which I find myself to be part of. We are blunderers and question-askers, and are pretty proud that we arrived with our pants on, so expecting us to be up-to-date and hassle-free is a big ask.

Titus Andromedon

How I feel every time I have to update software on one of my stupid devices. Source: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

There are so many upgrades to the way we interact with the world nowadays that I don’t know how the fuck anybody gets anything done. But I see them, I do, floating easily into the shops and the buses and the public institutions, gliding their phones from their sleek, empty handbags or pockets, waving them at the world in general and getting ten fucking things done in one graceful sweep of the arm. I don’t know what they’ve just bought or paid for or confirmed, and I want to know how the fuck they did it and get in on that.

I’m thirty-four. I have a friend who is ninety-two and he’s just bought himself a digital tablet in order for us to stay in contact while I’m abroad. This man constructed his own radios to get reports about the war in the forties. He fixes cars and has no problem creating and understanding things complex machinery. But today’s technology is, understandably, intimidating for him. And after trying to just move from A to B, buy groceries, pay my kid’s school fees and do the other must-dos that make up my life, I fully understand his technophobia. What if he spends a year learning how to use it only for it to change completely? He’s ninety-two, his time means a lot, and the frustration levels may well not be worth it. Already they feel too much for me.

I once had this cool vision that when I’m ninety-two, I will be living a rad hologram life that doesn’t require my body to be young or strong or fully healthy, and where I can do exciting and daring things in a big, constructed holographic world that feel thrilling and real. But I no longer dream like this because I know that in this technological utopia, I’ll be the asshole with the outdated software, glitching out as I try to fly to my group zumba class, fighting pop-up ads and antivirus updates as I slowly fizzle into cantankerous, slow-moving, fucking foul-mouthed old age that spoils it for the rest of you who apparently know how all this shit works.

Well, fuck.

I think I’ll go listen to some Moby.

Advertisements

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 8

Chapter 8 – Consolidation

Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate a little. After all, you have a birth certificate which gives one of you the right to send him off to boarding school if he acts up too much. That’s a joke, we don’t have boarding school kind of money.

The best thing at this point is not to be pressed for time. We had a deadline of 6 months (this is after the 2 year wait) from the start of the year to get our asses to sloth’s homeworld because of the important family-related things we have to do there around June.

Four months in, we’re starting to feel the pressure. We now have:

  • 1 birth certificate with just a fruitbat for a parent
  • 1 adoption order missing a name for the person who signed it

Fortunately, there are some great people involved with adoptions. They’re kind and patient and answer their phones. One such person (the person in Pretoria who was on leave and has since returned to her office) sent us a fancy piece of paper yesterday as proof that she signed it. So now we have the adoption order and can take it to the high court to get the Apostille stamp.

apostille copy

I’m going to put another satisfying picture of this stamp here. Look at it. Look at it.

The birth certificate must be couriered to DIRCO in Pretoria for its Apostille stamp.

This is how that conversation went with the person who handles this:

“Can you come here to get the stamp?”

“Sorry, we live in Cape Town”

“Do you know anyone who can do it for you?”

“Er…” At this moment I’m considering offering him one of my two healthy kidneys in exchange for the damn stamp.

“OK, just courier it over.”

“Thanks, I’m so grate-”

“Wait! I’m not done. I need to have it notarised first”

“OK, I’ll do that and send it”

“Nope, it has to be notarised in Pretoria. Or else it’s out of my jurisdiction”

“You are joking of course”

“I’m not. You fool. But I feel so sorry for you that I’m going to notarise it for you here. But it costs R400. Can you put that in an envelope and send it?”

“For sure! Anything! Thank you!”

At this point you’re so grateful you’re willing to offer the person anything – your left kidney, for example – for being so kind and helping you wade through this system designed specifically to turn gentle souls into bloodthirsty lunatics. For the first time I understood what motivated the Reavers in Firefly – they too must have tried to get unabridged birth certificates from The Department of Home Affairs. 

Reaver_s_2

Reavers enoying an unhinged meal after dealing with the DHA.

You then thank the man so stupidly much that he tells you to shut up and never call him again. When you later try to courier R400 along with your document at PostNet the next day, they will either a) call the police or b) tell you that you’re doing something illegal before calling the police. You (or rather sloth-partner) will call the kind man in Pretoria and ask if perhaps there is a less illegal way of doing this and he will remember about EFTs and online banks and tell you he forgot it was the 21st century and you can just send him the money that way. Relief.

By next week we will have:

  • 1 adoption order with the name of the person who signed it & an Apostille stamp.
  • 1 half a birth certificate without Sloth-partner’s name & an Apostille stamp.

This we will send off (along with proof of residence & other ID docs for ourselves) to the authorities in sloth’s home country to register. Nothing can happen until this is registered. This, we’ve been told, takes another 3 months. It also requires us sending our original documentation to Norway, something we’re nervous about, but have to trust. I’m considering sending them a preemptive kidney as thank you for not losing our documents.

Once child is registered in Norway, we can apply for VISAS! The standard procedure for visa applications is to make the application and pay a fee (of Kr8000 in our case for a 2 year family reunification visa – I f***ing kid you not, it is more than double what it was a few years ago) to the person behind the bullet-proof glass at the consulate, and then act totally normal until you leave the building. Don’t go and make small talk and ask her if the terrifying picture of the deathly landscape on the wall is an artist’s representation of hell because it will be a photograph of her childhood town in Northern Norway and she will just tear up your application in front of you. Just give her the application, the money, and leave.

norway

This Norwegian woman is walking alone because the rest of her family was eaten by Reavers. Image: http://www.visitnorway.com

Then you wait. I don’t know how long this wait is. I haven’t even got into the queue yet.

And there you have it! A short (I lie) tale of navigating the adoption process as a family from 2 different countries: one of them being South African and terrorised by The Department of Home Affairs, another Norwegian and terrorised by Utlendingsdirektoratet, and a third being half and half and mostly terrorised by BUFETAT as well as the other two. Shame. Since I’ve started writing this post, a cabinet reshuffle has shuffled out the Minister of Home Affairs, which raised my hopes, but then I saw where he was reshuffled to, and I fear that the reign of tyranny might not be over.

If you, or anyone you know needs advice on a similar process, please leave a comment with your question and I will send you all the numbers I have in my armoury.

I will also leave updates on how far we are and if any success is to be had beyond hiring a lawyer (this costs upwards of R75 000, btw, unless you join a class action suit) to get the unabridged birth certificate.

The End

(NO F****ING WAY is it the end. Chapter 9 is on its way. By god, this might never be over!)

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7 – Hope

If you, like me, are dangerously averse to conflict, you’re going to dread this part. Here is where you have to do:

Learn how to use Twitter.

Tweet the shit out of your problems and do so regularly to the Twitter account of the Department of Home Affairs. They don’t care or anything, but incongruously their social media team will respond very quickly saying that somebody will contact you. It’s very cathartic. It’s so nice to have soothing things said to you. It feels a little bit like having your head gently stroked while somebody inserts a long probe in your ear (I said EAR) to poke around and see what they can extract from your bureaucracy-addled brain.

Then use Facebook and people in adoption groups will send you e-mail addresses and contact numbers. Contact all of the people whose addresses and numbers you get. Tell them you’re distressed. Tell them about how frustrating it is that your young dinosaur is being disrespected by not getting identity papers. That it’s irksome (and confusing for him) for health professionals to call him by the wrong name because the medical aid will only list him by what’s on his birth certificate. That pretty much they’re violating a court order that guarantees you the right to a birth certificate in your child’s name and with you and your partner listed as his parents.

Once again, nobody will care, but along with the tweets, the calls and the messages to Home Affairs complaints department, you could get lucky. We were kind of lucky in that somebody DID contact us, he had someone in his office call me a few days later, and she chased our case up for us. It took weeks and many phone calls, but it was helpful and she was incredibly kind.

And after a trip to an out-of-town Home Affairs office, we are now in possession of a birth certificate! Well, half of one. It has our kid’s name on it, his ID number, my name (though apparently I now come from a town I particularly despise, which I’m sure will come to haunt me later, like at election time), and a nice blank gap where my partner’s name should be. They’ve put neat lines in place of his name, which I think looks quite nice and doesn’t highlight the gaping hole at all. We’re tempted to write his name in pencil where the lines are and hope nobody notices.


Wait! There’s more! Click here for Chapter 8.

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 6

Chapter 6 – Bellville

“It’s not so bad out here, really,” Sloth-partner is full of cheer this morning and it’s not helpful to anybody.

We ease the car through a small crowd of people outside the courthouse and find a parking spot not far from the entrance. Small victories.

A good tip for getting things from the courthouse in Bellville is to be Observant.

Observe the crowd standing outside of the courthouse and observe that they are not relaxed. When you drive your vehicle – bicycle, car, lorry, whatever – smoothly through a convenient parting in the crowd, think to yourself: why is this group of people so conveniently parted for me? Is it because they are law-abiding people and don’t wish to obstruct a public road? Is it because they think I have a very nice hatchback and want to stop and look a little longer at my Hyundai? Or is it because they are two opposing halves of a quite acrimonious argument about something not altogether legal? Be assured that it will be the latter. Because nobody likes your old car.

When you reach the doors to the courthouse, a crush of people might be trying to get in.

“Wow, what a popular place to come to at ten in the morning” Sloth-partner will muse. You nod in agreement. You don’t know how the people of Bellville like to spend their time.

The policeman will shout something like: “Those who leave here will do so at their own risk!”

“Excuse me” you squeak at the policeman who has suddenly become at least a foot taller than he appeared before entering and is now eyeballing you furiously from above.

“What?” his eyeball will shout.

“What do you mean by ‘at their own risk’. Do you mean the risk of losing their place in the queue?”

At this point his eyeball will be in danger of exploding at you so you wish you hadn’t said anything, but it manages to shout quite loudly for an eyeball:

“WHY ARE YOU BEING SO DIFFICULT?!”

“—-”

“YOU COME HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GANG FIGHT. MEN ARE STABBING AND GUNS ARE DRAWN AND YOU ARE SQUEAKING THINGS AT ME THAT MAKE NO SENSE”

“—-”

There is nothing to say at this point and when the lady at the security check confiscates your lunch box with your peanut butter sandwiches you say nothing. This is the smartest thing you will do all day.

Do note that when you get to the magistrates court, nobody will appear to work there beyond the shouting eyeball and the security guard who confiscates sandwiches.

Find your way to the family court section. Find a nice lady in a nice office with a soft voice who makes you forget gang fights and policemen and rumbling stomachs where sandwiches were supposed to be. Don’t get despondent when she looks puzzled by your request to find the person who signed your papers. Don’t lose heart when she says: “This person is in Pretoria”. She is very helpful and will track down the Pretoria person (I now believe that anybody who can ever help me with anything anywhere is based in Pretoria) and then tell you (and get ready to embrace despondency now) that the person is on leave. And nobody can be certain when she will get back. And nobody else can issue you with the piece of paper with her name on it that says she signed the adoption order. Nobody in the whole building, the whole of Pretoria, the whole country. Except this person. Who is on leave.

You leave Bellville Magistrate’s court significantly deflated – so deflated that you forget to retrieve your lunchbox and your peanut butter sandwiches. It was a very nice lunch box. A fancy one given you by some friends with clip locks and a brand name. This will be all you have to show for your Bellville trip.


Still trundling. Click here for Chapter 7.

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 5

Chapter 5 – Affairs outside of Home

If you, like sloth partner, have the misfortune of being from anywhere other than South Africa, you should aim to become South African at your earliest convenience. This will naturally be hampered by a series of impossible tasks, quests and insults to your person, and in the end you will probably give up, leaving you wiser, if not stronger. Once you have determined that you are unable to become South African, you will have to inform your own government (depending on how badly they are interested in these things) of the fact that you are currently in possession of a child who has the good fortune – unlike you – of being South African and the misfortune of being  your child – wherever the hell you come from. Depending on who your government is, they might either be pleased or irked at having been given this information, because now they have to do paperwork and paperwork is what they usually try to make other people do.

To register your child as having been adopted, some governments (e.g. the Norwegian government where patient sloths are known to originate and flourish) require fortified documentation so they can be absolutely sure that you are not lying to them. So they will ignore the ten thousand checks you had to endure to simply obtain the set of documents you already have proud possession of. That is, the adoption order, the original birth certificate, his new unabridged birth certificate (in our case, still pending, pending), proof that you are not a felon, proof that you are not a pervert, proof that you are generally an upstanding and tax-paying member of society. To convince them that you are the real deal, a legitimate person with documents proving that you are human, that your child is human, that your child is a child and your child and not, in fact, a dinosaur which has been extinct for millions of years, you need to get an Apostille stamp on all of your documents.

apostille copy

Apostille Stamp

Eight years ago I applied for just such a stamp when attempting to do something as stupid as getting married and it immediately made me realise the gravity of the thing I was doing because it was issued as a sort of old-timey wax-looking (it’s actually plastic) stamp with green ribbons sticking out of it. Anything sealed in this manner is uncomfortably impressive and makes you think, so I spent some time wondering if getting married was really the right choice for me. Fortunately, for myself and hopefully Sloth agrees, I decided that marriage would be OK after all, and here we are almost nine years later not filled with regret yet, but possibly with regret sneaking up in quick waves as we deal with all the paperwork marriage and children have entailed.

The next journey of the quest became a little bit frustrating, all the more because all of this occurs during working hours only, meaning that at least one person at any one time should be available to do all of it. If you, like us, are not flush with cash, skipping work in order to legitimise your child’s identity can be quite frustrating.

But we trundled on.

Apostille’s can be applied for at the High Court. It’s a fancy building just off Long St and you can head straight through the big Western Cape Government buildings on Wale Street to reach it. This building is stupid boring, so just walk through and don’t look at anybody and if anyone makes contact, just look straight ahead and keep walking. This way they will know you are on a serious mission and won’t try to distract you with questions about how well you think they are running their website these days and what your phone number is so they can call you before election time to ask you about which group of historically marginalised people to next evict to make way for luxury housing.

At the high court, be sure to do what we did and find a stranger who knows where he is going and pretend you’re not following him. The corridors are long and winding, so don’t lose sight of this person as there are rumours of dungeons or cells down there.

The desk that issues the Apostille stamp is on the floor below the entrance, down a pretty maze of corridors and, inexplicably, behind another long desk and past a sign that says that “Members of the public are not to go beyond this point”. Because the sign is just made of paper, you are presumably expected to ignore it and move beyond that point unmolested, and behind the rows of dusty shelves, you will reach the desk you are looking for. Be sure to thank the man who didn’t know you were following him for showing you the way.

Stand politely and wait. Don’t dance. Don’t sing. Just wait. A smile will probably be acceptable. A person will come to you under another paper sign that is dubiously spelled, and she will look at your documents, and you will know that concluding this part of your journey will never be as easy as coming into a building, finding the right person, and getting what you came for.

“Who is the person who signed this document?” you will be asked by the person at the desk.

You tell her, scanning the pages between you, finding the signature just above the very official-looking stamp from the court and wondering again why the Norwegian government finds this lovely stamp to be wanting and demands seals and ribbons on top of it all.

“I see the person who signed didn’t write their name & surname on the page, so I’m not sure who signed it” she will add.

“Yes” you say, nervously. “Where should their name be written? How strange that they would issue an incomplete form.”

“No, it isn’t incomplete. There’s nowhere for their name to go and they’re not supposed to write their names down. But for you to get this nice stamp, I need them to write their names down so I can put it in my computer.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“It is a very nice stamp, I suppose.”

“I know.”

“Can’t you just write the surname down? It’s there, in the signature.”

“Do you want this stamp?”

“Most certainly.”

“Then find the person who signed this and get them to write their name down for you. Come back then and I’ll give you the stamp.”

“Where do I find them?”

“I don’t know, it looks like they’re in Bellville”

“Surely not Bellville! I hate Bellville.”

“Yes, me too. But there you have it.”

I turn to leave. But she stops me and my hopes are, momentarily, raised.

“Wait – see this here?” she points to the birth certificate at the back of the documents (I don’t dare tell her it’s the wrong one and that I’m still waiting for his new one). “We don’t issue Apostilles for that one. You need to get that from The Department of Home Affairs.

“But I’m already having to go to Bellville. Isn’t that punishment enough?”

“Apparently not.”

“Um, say, do you think I could have a word with your computer directly?”

“What?”

“You know, the computer that is insisting on this name from the woman in Bellville – perhaps if I just reasoned with -”

“Go away”

“OK”


 

Don’t give up! Click here for Chapter 6.

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 4

Chapter 4 – Disappointment

This chapter touches on the folly of getting one’s hopes up when one deals with The Department of Home Affairs. It reveals that you as applicant, and only you, are to blame for this silly emotional response to what should clearly be a time of pessimism and skepticism despite the signals being given by said Department.

Upon your return to the First Floor of Maynard Mall, you have got a little wise to the ins and outs of the place and have discovered that there is sometimes a golden hour in which to arrive. Do not come too late – the queue will snake through to hell and you might never get in. But do not come too early (unless you arrive there long before opening to wait the dark hours with fellow hopefuls in the before the doors open. Please note: NEVER go during school holidays.). If you are clever you will come sometime after lunch – around 2pm, when most people have given up and have left to cry or return to work or their babies have started university.

“Next!” the neat woman with the soft cardigan & the tightly-pulled pony-tail will shout, hopefully, at you.

I triumphantly announce to her that I’ve received a call from none other than Mr —- in Pretoria who has informed me that I can print my child’s unabridged birth certificate.

“Clickety-clickety-click” goes her keyboard. I hum happily to myself, looking at the poor suckers around me. Young dinosaur has accompanied us, as we thought we’d be clever and get his passport at the same time. I ponder how to distract him long enough to get his passport photo taken (note for those who’ve seen it – the final passport photo was a moment of epic beauty, was it not?).

“I’m sorry,” I hear her say, except I don’t hear this at all, I refuse to hear it, and I smile a frozen smile that can only indicate that I have recently smelled printer ink.

“It seems your child’s name has been changed, and he has his new ID number, but you are not listed as his parents. I can’t print this for you, because it’s basically rubbish.”

“I see” I say, and then look back at her.

“Clickety-clickety-click” I say next, looking hard at her computer.

“What?” she says.

“Oh sorry, I’m not talking to you, I was talking to your computer. I’m sure it can sort this out.”

“You don’t understand” she says, taking the Tone. The Tone that has already started to indicate to the hungry people behind me that I’ve used up my allotted time at her desk and am now cutting into their time, for which I might have to suffer Consequences.

“You don’t understand,” she repeats, “I can’t do anything. You’ll have to sort this out with Pretoria.”

Sloth-partner gently looms in from behind me and calmly explains to the neat person his important instructions from the official in Pretoria, and his zen-like presence is enough to make her hail her manager and pass this vital information on to her. An hour later we are given more blank forms to fill out, but my partner is smart enough to distract me with the flashlight on his phone while he patiently fills it all out correctly on the first try. We leave with the promise of an e-mail later that day or early the next.

A couple of weeks later I send out polite Enquiries, and receive word that our case is finalised. We call Wynberg Home Affairs.

“Clickety-clickety-clack” we hear before the voice says, “Sorry m’am, I don’t know why they said it was finalised. We still can’t print it for you. Nothing’s changed.”

“But you were the one who sent me the e-mail to say it was finalised.”

“Yes.”

“So you see my trouble”

“Yes. Well, no.”

“So…why did you say it was finalised when it wasn’t?”

“Sorry a minute, the computer is just…”

“Clickety-clickety-clack”

“Are you still there?”

“Clickety-clickety-clack”

“It’s just-”

“Clickety-clickety-”

“I was wondering -”

“Clickety-click-”

“Can you-”

“Clickety-”

“I don’t-”

“CLICKETY-”

“…”

“CLICK-”

“…”

“Click”


You know it. Click here for Chapter 5.

The tale of the sloth, the fruitbat, and their paperless dinosaur (or the Horror at Home Affairs) CHAPTER 3

Chapter 3 – A period of nagging

Ten months have now passed since you applied to make your child a fully-fledged member of society with his name, ID and parents registered for all the world to see. His original birth certificate with his original ID number is still attached to the adoption order you received from the high court and you think: at least he has a name and is not somewhere in limbo, nameless & paperless.

But this would be a silly thought, because Limbo exists, even for us non-religious types, and it is in the place where the chrome seats, the yellow walls and the fluorescent lights are. Yes, it is The Department of Home Affairs, more specifically, the Wynberg office on the first floor of Maynard Mall.

You see, when things are getting a little urgent, and your partner needs to leave the country (oh, not for anything major, just a milestone birthday for his father, his only brother’s wedding, the birth of his nephew, his father’s emergency surgery, seeing his sister for a rare visit in years, to visit his elderly grandparents’, nothing major, just those ordinary everyday things), you will start making phone calls to various people at Home Affairs whose numbers you got in Facebook forums and complaints departments.

“Hello Mr —-, thank you for taking my call.”

“Ah, Mr Sloth & Ms Fruitbat. Yes, it seems we’ve lost your forms that you sacrificed a permanent piece of your sanity to fill out and that has caused your one eye to twitch every time you smell printer ink”

“Noorrgff!” you will say with eloquence.

If you keep saying this to him and texting this to him and e-mailing this to him, he will eventually e-mail you back with something very exciting. Young dinosaur will have a new ID number and name!

“We celebrate tonight!” you both shout at each other and there will be dim sum and cheap sparkling wine. Baby dinosaur is blissfully ignorant of everything and wakes up extra early the next morning, before the dim sum has been fully digested, and the wine is still somewhere in your chest, head & stomach area.


Of course it’s going on. Click here for Chapter 4.