Friday, June 3, 2016

Home Affairs

On Monday I visited the Wynberg Branch of  Home Affairs.  On Tuesday I started to  write a long account of my visit but didn't finish it. I know I pressed SAVE, but now this post has disappeared.  I expected to find it in Drafts(sic) but found no sign of it. I shall just have to write up this experience again.
Here we are:-

I knew I had to change my ID document from a book to a smart card. I seemed to remember something in the newspaper about having to do this in my birthday month. As my birthday month was rapidly drawing to a close. (It was the 30th of May already, only one more day to go) I decided to take the morning off from my usual chores and brave the officials at the nearest Home Affairs branch. As I was about to leave my flat I remembered that I had ordered lunch at Evergreen's Restaurant, the Bistro. Should I cancel?. Ever the optimist, I think I would surely be back by then. It was only ten in the morning after all.

I was dreading going to Home Affairs. the very name conjures up newspaper pictures of hundreds of refugees crowding into offices, picketing at gates and languishing for days in long queues outside in the road. I was pleasantly surprised. There were long queues. It did take all morning so that I had to
ring to cancel lunch and get for a take-away instead. But, to my astonishment I had quite a good time and really enjoyed the experience.

At Home affairs you find a cross-section of Cape Towns very varied population. The offices were full of people of all shapes and sizes from all walks of life. Sitting waiting to be called to one counter or another, I struck up conversations with a Rasta poet, a young Xhosa mother and a middle- aged PR assistant, all of them very friendly and very willing to help this bewildered old woman.

I was impressed by the efficiency with which the large numbers of applicants were processed. It is all done by numbers. As you enter the atrium, you are issued with a number depending on what piece of paper you are applying for (ID, birth certificate, passport etc.) and sent to a queue where you are given another number. You are then sent to one or other side of a large hall to sit on a bench and wait. At frequent intervals  numbers are called out.. Number 173 to Photo booth 1, Number 156 to counter 11, number 142 to counter 3. etc.

In Photo booth 1 I was made to perch precariously on a swivel chair while an unflattering pic was taken and sent to be printed on my new card. After another wait, I was sent to counter 9 for fingerprinting. Everything had gone swimmingly up to this point, but now we hit a snag. I just don't have fingerprints. Long years of working my fingers, not exactly to the bone but very close to it, have worn them away. The charming young African gentleman on the other side of the counter was extremely patient.
"Just try once more, Gogo," he pleaded, holding my fingers firmly onto the glass of the scanner,   After several attempts prints of my fingers were captured,but my thumbs were just too smooth. I sucked them vigorously over and over again and the young man took them over and over again and  pressed them down on the scanner at every conceivable angle. No lover has ever held hands with me as long. At last he allowed me to go saying that I  would be advised when to come and collect my
Smart Card. Now I know what to expect I am almost looking forward to this occasion.  I just hope they won't try to fingerprint me again.