Home Truths

We were talking about delayed gratification and I was saying I think its a necessary and powerful skill – and historical. And I could tell a ‘today’ story to illustrate the absence of the ability to delay gratification in the terrible Youth Of Today:

I spent my morning at Home Affairs today. Bear with me, it’s boring:

For months I have said “Tom, go get your ID card and a passport. Something might pop up where you really regret not having them. Like you win an overseas vacation and . . “

‘Yes Dad.’

So for some weeks he’s been ‘I’m gonna DO IT!‘ “Sure you are boy, get everything ready. Prepare. Make sure you know what’s needed.”

He doesn’t. We have a false start.

Today’s the new start. They’re gonna wake me at 4am and they’re gonna be first in the queue! They have A PLAN!

So I wake them at 4.30. Them is Tom and Ziggy. Ziggy is a star. His best friend and the only person who can klap him and have HIM say sorry.

I drop them off in Umgeni Road in the dark before 6am – it took them that long to move they asses.

Soon after I get home *pring pring*: ‘Dad, you have to also be here with your ID book and proof of address. They need the parent’s fingerprints for a first ID.’

They have gleaned this knowledge from those-in-the-queue-who-have-been-before.

At 8am I check my apt book is not snowed under – it’s not – so I mosey down there and join the fun. Be at work at 12 says Raksha. At 11 I see I’m not gonna make it so she says OK, 3pm. I read Cronje Wilmot’s book that Janet gave me on his days in Botswana. The famous Wilmot family of Maun.

By 12 we’re near the end and suddenly these two “need a snack” – ‘Dad, we’re starving!’ ‘Just a snack!’

“NO, I insist, firmly. “Eat afterwards. Do not leave the queue now.” Delay your gratification, I’m saying.

So they bugger off and true’s Bob, our place in the shuffling queue reaches Nirvana and they’re not back and their phones aren’t answered. Fuck that, I’m calm. I’m old now, I don’t panic easily. I wave the next auntie through and sit.

– Nirvana –

I phone again. COME NOW.

‘Aaw, we’re in the queue to buy hot chips!’ “Dammit Tommy, come now. LEAVE the food!”


Tom gets seen next, as soon as they arrive back. Ziggy has a delay as her number was cancelled and had to be reactivated. I left after I’d given my thumbprints and R400 for the passport – your first ID card is free.

But not before Tom gives me a huge public hug and ‘THANKS DAD!’ in front of the assembled masses. He knows that always fixes a lot and allows future misbehaviour! Such as immediately bumming some ‘Cash for lunch, Dad!’

And Ziggy was seen to soon after I left, they tell me tonight.

Little shits.

– Home affairs Umgeni Road Durban – Tom and Ziggy –


Did You Got a Licence?

Dad, asks TomTom, When does this licence expire?

We’re sitting outside a nightclub at 11pm and he’s asking while we’re waiting for the last of the boys so we take home all eleven that we brought (yes, ELEVEN).

Dunno, let’s check, I say. I know he’s interested as we were once bust in Lesotho for an expired licence and he doesn’t want that to happen again. Those okes with guns made him nervous. Me too. Soon after that they had their 2014 coup!

September 2015, I sigh.

So I’m in the queue for my licence for the third time. The first time I sat next to an old toppie. He musta been 60 if he was a day. He was timing the transactions. Average seven minutes per person and there were 17 ahead of me, so I would have been late for work, so I left. The second time I was making good progress when I overheard from the counter “where’s your proof of address”, so I left.

This third time I have all three papers. For the bakkie, the trailer and Jessie’s scooter – those two expired in 2014! And I have my proof of address, my ID card and money.

But not enough. I had R430 and the bakkie alone is R620 so I’ll be back a fourth time with more cash.

Hell is going to be like this. Queues.



pic of a more recent disk added later

An Electric Shock

Another bill shock when my July bill comes through at R80 000 instead of the usual R4 000. After much back-and-forth on email and on the phone with deaf and tone-deaf males I have to go in to Florence Mkhize building in old Smith Street now Anton Lembede Street. A car guard finds me a spot and takes charge of my bakkie.

At last someone who would listen. Reluctantly (“Can’t you just pay?”) but she listened as I told her the tale of when my bill had been inflated by R140 000 a couple years ago and it was their mistake; and how now that it had been bumped up to R80 000 from its usual R4 000 I needed to know where that came from; She showed me. eThekwini municipality had billed me for electricity for my flat but not for my home since June 2011. Then I said I need all penalties and interest reversed as ’twas not my fault; She did so. Then I said I don’t want to pay for anything older than 36 months old – statute of limitations; Hey, she didn’t know about that! But after disappearing for a while she came back to say Agreed! Lovely lady with a wicked sense of humour! Ms Pride Gumbi.

Off we go to sign the agreement. Ms Gumbi sticks her finger on the biometric door opener and hey sesame! “Hey, it knows you!” I said and she cackled out loud. It hadn’t known me when I tried my finger on arrival as there was no-one to open up – it said Unidentified. Try Again. Down the elevator and into the foyer and out into the street; all the way she’s greeting everyone by name and hugely friendly. She’s well-known and well-liked it seems.

Downstairs another fingerprint and out to the ground floor next door and I’m asked/instructed to Sit. Stay while she goes through another fingerprint door. This one doesn’t sesame, so she waddles back to the counters shouting Knock Knock! She greets a lady teller in her usual friendly familiar way and gets told “Just push. Its broken” and in she goes.

Eventually I sign for R71 000 in arrears, payable over 36 months. It’ll add R2025 to the monthly bill. I think of challenging the figures again, it looks a bit high but hey, I’m weary. Let’s just go home. I buy my car guard a Russian roll from a take-away to go with his tip. And I scarf one meself.


Off to the Master

Needed a fresh copy of my Letter of Executorship as Aitch’s one firm just woke up that they still have her pension money.

So off to the office of the Master of the Kwazulu-Natal High Court Durban downtown. Devonshire place near the old Durban Club (where I once got kicked out as Glen Barker’s guest for “unacceptable attire” – I was wearing slacks, shoes and a white top like we used to test eyes in back then. Farking snobs, I’m glad they went bankrupt and had to sell the club to a Zim lady, cadre of Bob Mugabe’s. Imagine how that must have stuck in their cravated craws! Pricks).

Pleasant enough experience as bureaucratic torture goes. Until it came time to pay. R4,50 – that’s about 30 US cents – for a copy of the letter. The catch: You had to leave the building, find an ABSA bank, queue there, pay and then come back with your receipt, starting afresh at the back of the queue!

You COULD NOT dream up a less convenient way of handling that if you spent a week plotting how to mess with a citizen’s mind!

It’s electrifying!

We’ve relocated in the Mall to a new shop 20m down the passage, but more central and more visible. Lots to do, most of which I dodged and Feroza did. One thing I had to do was change our address and pay the increased deposit at the eThekwini electricity department. We decided Chatsworth would be best, so I set off up Higginson Highway and past the Hare Krishna temple and find the municipal offices.
It’s the usual scene: Miles of chairs with silent sheep shuffling one seat at a time, edging closer to Nirvana: the counters against the far wall. I join the tail and luckily I’m next to a chatty oke.
After a few minutes he says What number you got? What number? Ja. Oh, where do I get a number? He points.
How did they know that?
I wonder.
Back to the entrance hall where I get lucky number 53 and rejoin the happy throng.
I watch, trying to learn so I don’t make damn fool again. Eventually I am in pole position, sitting alert, waiting for a gap at a counter. There it is. I stride up to it and immediately sense something is wrong. The Auntie in the sari is tense. She keeps her head down. After a minute, without looking up she says Is it your number yet? I say I dunno, I just got to the head of the queue and followed everyone else. She flings her hand up and to her right Look at the number.
I step back and look up. In the top left corner of the room there’s a small electronic box 20cm by 20cm. It has a bold, accusing number 50 which clicks over to 51 with a buzz as I watch. So that was the buzz sound I’d been hearing!
Oh, I say, slinking back to my seat, sheep-like. Damn fool.
How did they know that?
I wonder. And how did she know I wasn’t number 50? Maybe they don’t dish out numbers 50 to 52 so they can drink tea?
Soon bzzt lucky number 53 pops up, but no counters are open so I wait. Hey, you must go in that door, someone hisses at me. On the left of the left-most counter, directly under the number box, there’s a closed door that no-one else has gone into. Damn fool.
I do as I’m told. Inside there’s a chair and an identical counter to the rest, just lower – at table level. How the HELL did they know that? And why me? I wonder.
You must pay R3500 increased deposit, no credit cards, says the man. He’s spotted I’m  holding a credit card. Oh. OK, I don’t have that with me. Can I go and draw R2000 and will you credit me, then tomorrow I’ll come again with the balance and then you can complete the transfer? Eish, I don’t know if that’s possible. I’ll ask. Off he goes. Back 10 mins later. You don’t need to pay anything. You’re on debit order. You can go.
Back at the office the ladies are very helpful about the mystery door with the chair behind it:
Maybe its because you’re a whitey, they suggest. Or old.