9 AM. I shouldn’t even be out of the house let alone sat in the town hall knowing full well that it doesn’t open until 10. Unfortunately, after living here for four years, I know the only way to guarantee that I get out of here before my hair goes grey is to wait!
I set up camp with my kindle and settle in to wait. No way am I letting anyone get ahead of me today. I sit patiently, watching people going in and out of the office. Two young girls come in carrying morning pastries and coffees, totally engrossed in their gossiping. The door opens and they are deemed worthy, disappearing inside. For what seems like hours, employees come and go through the magic entrance. Up walks another man and we have a little chat. He’s moaning because the office opens at 10. We’re supposed to take a ticket but there’s no machine outside. A young woman walks past and he jumps at her, asking where the ticket machine is. She doesn’t know and scuttles into the safety of her office. A few seconds later, an older gentleman pops his head out of his office to see what we want. Before I have a chance to leave my seat, the other man is bounding like a baby deer towards the employee, waving the papers he’s been clutching. The employee gives him a piece of paper with the number one drawn on it in biro.
What? How can this man accept the number one slot when he knows I’ve been waiting here? I think to myself. I’m really not happy about this. I start to open my mouth to point out the complete injustice of this situation but the queue jumper is already explaining that he’s here about his mother-in-law’s taxes. The employee listens to him disinterestedly before barking about needing an appointment.
Don’t get your hopes up, I tell myself calmly, before being handed the precious number 1 ticket. My hands grip it tightly. This is exactly what I’ve been hoping for ; my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment. That little number on a scrap piece of paper guarantees that I will be first! My heart does a little dance, my feet join them, and I return to my seat next to the door.
The other man leaves and I am left alone in the foyer. Time crawls by. Slowly more people come up the large marble staircase behind me, each one knocking on the door. Angry heads pop out to glare at them. “We open at 10!” they cry, before retreating. Nobody else is given a ticket as we all wait in our own personal limbo.
Finally it’s 9:55 and there’s quite a little crowd outside. I put my kindle back into my bag, gather my things, and wiggle my way to the front. The atmosphere is tense. People start edging closer and closer together, invading their neighbour’s personal space. I wait with baited breath. Everyone is quiet. Just as the anticipation starts to get too much, the door opens and, surfing on top of the human tidal wave that threatens to pull me under at any second, I run as fast as my little legs can carry me to the office of tributi.
“But you need to get a ticket!” a voice calls out behind me.
“I’ve been here since 9. I already have it!” I reply without even looking back.
I dart right and then left, my goal now in sight at the end of the corridor. I get there and it’s locked. Damn. Now the other people are catching me up. Holding my number one close to my chest, I knock again before the avalanche reaches me. A lady comes to the door and quickly, I shoot inside. “But we have an appointment!” someone shouts. I don’t care. I zip into the calm of the inner sanctum before the mob can lynch me for beating them to it. Finally, I’ve made it.
“Dimmi,” says the woman behind the counter. “Tell me.”
I explain my situation as she taps details into the computer, waiting with baited breath for further instructions. This is what I’ve been preparing for all morning. This is my moment. She looks at me closely before telling me to come back another day and to bring this document and that document, a copy of my ID, and a blood sample (just kidding!). I push my way back through the rabble outside, devastated that I have to come back again.
“No,” I think to myself, “Next time I’ll send my boyfriend”.