Religious experience

Yesterday I had to pay a visit to the local vehicle licensing department. Since I had a lot of time to think, I pondered the origins of the grinding bureaucracy that is this branch of the civil service. I came to the conclusion that the roots of this creaking monolith can be traced back to the early days of the Roman Catholic Church when issues of dogma were being hammered out, because it surely inspired the concept of Purgatory.

Perhaps I’d better explain that according to Catholics, Purgatory is like a giant lobby for the dead waiting to get into Heaven. These are the ones who are not quite bad enough for Hell, but way too sinful to qualify for entry into the Divine Presence – i.e. normal people. You spend an indeterminate length of time there purifying your soul or burning off your Karmic debt or whatever. The duration of your stay generally depends on how bad you were during life, so most people are probably going to be there for a pretty long time. Eventually, when you reach the requisite state of holiness, you are issued with a set of wings and your entrance code to the Pearly Gates.

As I glanced round the licensing department at my fellow sufferers, I realised that we were very much like souls condemned to Purgatory. As we all shuffled slowly forward in the endless lines, every face had a look of numb acceptance. Each time someone reached the front of the queue and was finally allowed to present their petition for release – for a brief, shining moment, you could see a spark of hope. Sadly, despite much paper shuffling and keyboard tapping going on behind the counter, the spark was inevitably and irretrievably quenched by the words, “Sorry, this the wrong form. You need to fill in the yellow* form, okay? Next!”

* essentially, any colour other than the one gripped in the supplicant’s disbelieving hands.


21 thoughts on “Religious experience

  1. Thankfully, the closest DMV to where I live doesn’t get long lines. The longest I have had to wait was perhaps 5 minutes.

    But I’ve stood in long lines elsewhere.


  2. I was expecting to wait in a type of Pergatory yesterday as I went to the polls to vote. You may remember that Andrea mentioned that we had a National election here in Canada. It took me exactly 97 seconds from the point of entry into the building to the point of exit. No hell in that! I guess it helps when the lady handing out the ballots checks my name off as she sees me coming, yells over to me to say where I need to go, hands me the prepared ballot, and gives me a kick in the arse as I leave. However helpful she was, I wish she would have told me whom to vote for, because, as it was, I was still undecided in the parking lot.


  3. Oh, that’s rotten! And it seems all similar offices are like that. They are there solely to frustrate you (laughing at you all the while) and masquerade as a place that performs a ‘service’. Hmpf! Hey, show them that tattoo…


  4. I leave things like that to the pro’s. We have a friend who does this for a living. He stands in line and pays all our fines, electricity accounts, license renewals etc. He must be a sucker for punishment. Being a pro, he knows which forms to fill in and fortunately never hears the “Sorry this is the wrong form. Next!” statement or the other one “Sorry, you are in the wrong queue, you must go to till 16”


  5. anne: Do you have any idea how long the queue for rocket launcher licenses is?

    bryan: Almost makes me want to emigrate.

    phoenix: You might, but that would probably be offset by thoughts of violence towards the staff.

    brian: Wow. That kind of efficiency is unheard of here. We would feel cheated if we didn’t have at least a half-hour wait.

    livewire: But then I would have to take off my pants and that would scare everyone away and – oh, I see…

    buddess: Is your friend’s name Job, by any chance?


  6. hmmm, standing in a que can be unpleasnt. Luckily (or should i say thankfully) – and this was a religious experience – I had the right colour paper in my hand !!!
    woohoo – dance of happiness – jump around clapping – erm. You understand ehat I mean right?


  7. All that can be done online in the state I live in now. (Arizona) Although you have to make an appearance in purgatory once to get a state drivers license and new plates for your car. This was literally a 3 hour journey. And that was driving to the town next to the one I live in, rumored to have shorter lines. It probably didn’t help that I had the wrong form filled out. Yep purgatory it is.



  8. I wanted to send you a link about a similar experience I had… but I think I’ll send it to a black hole of some sort as I never receive a reply (questioning whether or not I have the correct email address).


  9. Try getting a visa from a French embassy sometime. We had to make FIVE trips to visit the country for 4 days… and each time was at least a 2-hour wait.
    Although I dare say the outcome was much more gratifying than your own experience.


  10. caroline: I’m going to use that on the dust-jacket of my book.

    banquo: The Church of St Daffy the Duck, maybe?

    3T: A three hour drive to stand in a line? That actually makes me want to cry.

    tripeak: The address is correct. I usually only reply to ‘personal’ messages, I don’t generally respond to forwards, links and hate mail.

    flo: Of course. Above the door, it says “Abandon all hope…” in eleven official languages.

    chitty: Well, at least it’ll give the person behind you something to look at.

    terri: That must be the famous French disdain for foreigners at work. At least they let you in eventually.


  11. Terri, too right about the French visa thing. It was a huge mission getting one for my daughter last year. The rest of us didn’t need one but they made you feel as if you were so honoured to enter their country. Which, in the end, I was. 🙂

    Kyknoord, your story has reminded me that I need to get my SA license again. I never got the new one during that period of grace as I was a way a lot of the time so now I have to use my Brit one when in SA. However, it did come in handy last year when I was stopped by a traffic cop when I was a bit (a lot!) over the limit – yes, yes, totally irresponsible! – as he wanted to see my license and…To cut a long story short, my very mild sefefrican accent and my brit driving license must have convinced him i was foreign and he probably thought why go through all the shit of booking a foreigner so I was let off.


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