Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The twilight zone!

So after about six hours of phoning that silly chemical company every ten minutes on Monday I finally managed to get them annoyed enough to help me! I was super-polite, which just annoyed them more. What can I say, they suck, and I've worked enough jobs that have a customer-service component to know what works and what doesn't...
Yesterday was a public holiday, although I spent a big chunk of it (I was there until after 7pm) in the lab, it was nice, as my labmates were there and as absolutely everywhere on campus was closed we went exploring for lunch and ended up getting Falafels which are really amazing... We also went off to Candice's birthday picnic which was just down the road at Zoo Lake, which was fun, but freezing. And I was stung by a bee. On the plus side we learned about edible glitter!
Seriously, how does a bee (in the middle of winter) manage to fly around, find me, crawl UP my pants and I didn't notice a thing until I felt a stabbing pain in my leg? I DID learn that I'm not allergic which is a huge relief as a few members of my family are and I'm very allergic to honey. Either way I ended up sitting in the lab with my spreadsheets for a few hours just to be sure, before I drove home (and away from a very conveniently located hospital!).
Anyway the point of my story is that this morning, after much bustling around the lab and organising blood samples, Luke arrived with chemicals in hand (he had super-kindly offered to collect them for me as he lives a bit closer than me and I have absolutely no sense of direction and would have got lost).My supervisor appeared at a reasonable hour and we managed to get the samples prepped and ready to go which took a few hours as we're both relatively useless in the lab and I'm sitll in the field mentality of understanding the logic of a task and adapting accordingly, which is awesome when you're alone, but a bit tricky when you have to try and convince someone else to do the same.
I was also panicking because the samples had to be couriered off TODAY and I had noticed my drivers license was about to expire (I can't believe I've been driving for five years!) and although I'd planning on going on Monday, things hadn't worked out (thanks, stupid incompetent chamical company), and I have work tomorrow and lab-meeting/work on Friday so I started stressing.
I stressed enough that my supervisor agreed to sort out the courier and let me go and I sprinted off to my car. Bear in mind that this was about 2:15 pm and it takes a good 20 minutes to get to the licensing department and they close at 3 pm. There are two strategies: arrive at 6am and 'beat' the queue, or go right before they close and hope you make it in time and they agree to help you. The alternative is to stand in a  queue for several hours before you find out you were in the wrong one/filled out the wrong form/ didn't use the sparkly glitter-pen/used a full-stop instead of a semicolon or even just wore a shirt that annoyed the people working there.
So along with my rather stringent deadline, I was worried because I haven't really gone to the licensing department since I got my license (my car isn't in my name and so they won't let me renew its registration there every year) so with my sense of direction I'd probably end up in Bloemfontein, and while I'd drawn a ridiculous sum of money (always take at least three times what you expect to pay, if you don't have what they want you get sent home) I didn't have my mandatory 4 photos and photocopy of my ID book. To be fair, the last time I was there they tolkd me that my photos didn't meet regulations and that they were going to take my license away, at which I freaked out and nearly passed out, and my examiner shoved me over to her cousin's photo booth where they took new photos where I was so pale my license photo was literally eyes and hair, and everything else was invisible. My left leg shakes when I'm nervous and it was a miracle I managed to control the clutch at all, and the thought of doing it again was not even worth considering!
I got there successfully twenty minutes before closing time, ended up in the wrong building (my sense of direction never fails to dissapoint) and was pointed to the right place by a very kind random member of the public who had obviously been queueing for the last two days. The guy at information displayed his lovely teeth in something between a grimace and a smile, interrogated me on why I didn't have photos and explained that they no longer keep a photo place on the premises and I would have to drive off, get photos, get my ID book photocopied, drive back and get myself well into the process before 3pm. This was about 2:43pm at the time, which I realised in a panic once I'd whipped myself out of the trance his teeth had drawn me into. They were amazing, wi---idely spaced and resembling corn kernels, even down to the little fuzzy bit at the bottom!
He gave me directions to the photo place (thanks, THAT'll help!) and then grinned and leaned forward whispering "I hope you make it!" I smiled, backed away slowly and said "Me too!" before sprinting to my car, where the car guard gave me more directions which seemed roughly similar to the first set, albeit with a few extra left turns. I thanked him, and promised to pay him when I came back and got my license sorted.
So I screeched out of there and nearly followed the directions when I saw a sign saying "photos!" and an arrow. So I followed that. Turns out it was wrong, but fortunately it only required me going around the block, and when I'd nearly made it back with no sign of a photo place when some guy ran out of a crowd of people sitting by what looked like a cross between a hotdog stand and a caravan yelling "PHOTOS! PHOTOS!!!!!"
And I demonstrated my superb driving skills by driving past, registering what he'd said and doing a stunning three-point turn on the spot. They were very efficient, forced me to tie my hair back (apparently it's illegal to have a photo where they don't see your ears, so now my drivers license will display my paperclip earrings proudly for the next five years! Good thing it was the green ones, I like them!
They also whipped out a scanner/photocopier and printed off a copy of my ID book, while the photo guy cut out the pictures. We had a weird conversation, it went like this:
Photoguy: Oh look! You're also an Aries! I was born on the 14th!
Me: That's awesome, I'm on the 16th!
Photoguy: I know, I'm holding your ID book.
Me: haha, of course (mildly freaked out)
Photoguy: We should talk some time (pause). In a park.
Me: Let me get my license first. Bye!
Of course then was the moment he snapped out of it and remembered to charge me and it was R15 more than I had budgeted. And there was much stammering as I dug around my bag looking for small change.
After all that I went back, found out that there was a one way street and a several kilometre detour between me and the licensing department (which was all of a block away) did an amazing three-point manoevre dipping into the one-way street and waving cheerily at angry taxis and made it back by then to three. I then demonstrated an elegant form of athleticism where I vaulted out of my car grabbing everything, managed to lock it and sprinted into the offices dodgy little old ladies, cars in the parking lot and several high-school kiddies who had just got their learners licenses, and came to a rather abrupt halt in front of the guy with the teeth.
After all his moral support he didn't remember me, but gave me a form and told me to go and fill it out and sit in a queue (he waved in the general vicinity of three different queues at this point). This was when I found that the pen I'd kept with me all day for this VERY purpose was no longer in my pocket. Probably in the lab. Otherwise I'll have to interrogate the photo people. Ew.
So I sat next to a random guy and asked if I could borrow a pen. He didn't have one, and said he'd lended the one he had used from someone else (South Africans don't understand the difference between 'borrow' and 'lend' and just kind of alternate. Drives me nuts!). I thanked him anyway and suddenly the random guy and about four of his friends started canvassing everyone there until someone gave me a pen! It was SO bizarre!
And so I filled it out, got my eyes tested (it's so revolting, you have to put your forehead against this thing to activate the test and you just KNOW that a million others have put their foreheads there), fingerprints taken by a psycho lady who kept telling me to relax and then freaking that my thumb wasn't straight and then she made me stand up straight because she saw the outline of my bag on my hip and thought it was a gun.
When I went to the queue number three (at last!) to pay, there was some guy watching stand-up comedy on his PSP and he invited me to sit and watch with him. As I said, bizarre. I declined as I wanted to pay and get my temporary license, and he was just waiting for his grandmother and I didn't want the cashier to get confused and go home.
Amazingly the cashier was friendly! Besides the standard ignoring me for a while while I stood on the other side of the glass feeling helpless, she was relatively efficient, let me take my own fingerprint for the temprary license, smiled when I paid in exact change (thanks to the photo people) and sent me on my way. I walked out cahtting to the PSP guy and his grandmother and then went home.
Not counting driving there and the little photo-dash, the whole process took 15 minutes! And the person who had lent me the pen had gone home or somehting so I got a free pen! Unfortunately all I had was a R100 note and so I spent quite a while looking for something smaller for the car guard and ended up apologising profusely as I gave him a handful (literally) of coins. He didn't seem angry.
Of course when I got home I was famished as I hadn't eaten since dinner last night, as I only wanted coffee for breakfast and the lab work took longer than expected, so I tried to camping trick of making an omelette in a ziplock bag, and it came out really nicely!
And now I'm afraid to go to bed, because everything I've tried has worked today, and I don't want that to end!


Susan said...

I don't know why being annoying with utility companies seems to work!

On a side note - thought you might like to know they found a new frog in Costa Rica.

po said...

Susan: say wha?

Gosh Helen, I think you sound like Supergirl against the licencing department, and you won!

Helen said...

Susan: it's ADORABLE! I have to go to Costa Rica soon to see all these amazing things!

Po: Thanks! I felt like Supergirl!

Athena: For some reason your comment showed up on my email and not here... weird... It felt very surreal, maybe it's like the Truman show and the producers decided to give me a break?

Kath Lockett said...

....I think I need a whisky and a lie down after reading this post!

Candice said...

You got stung by a bee at my party? When? How did I miss this? I feel personally responsible! Hope you're okay - and hope that the days of everything going right continue!!!

And thank you for coming to the picnic!