Taller than the average woman at 5’11”, she wears heels because she loves them and won’t be denied the curvy calves.  But she compromises at a 1-inch elevation.  She carries a bit of extra weight around her midsection and has been politely described as “big boned.”  Her black skirt with vertical white stripes flows nicely over her ample bottom and is set off by a white short-sleeved shirt with black polkadots.  Curly dark hair pulled back into 12-inch extensions forms a ponytail which rides down her back.  A black leather handbag rests in the crook of her arm.  She feels emotionally younger than her 35 years, but physically older.  How can that be, she wonders.

She stands in the long tax queue, shifting her weight from one leg to the other, darting quick looks around the grand room.  The Revenue Service can make anyone nervous, she thinks.  Why, oh, why did she leave filing until the last minute?  She looks at her watch for the sixth time in as many minutes.

“Three – nine – eight,” the computer generated voice sprays out over the crowd.  She glances at the greet ticket in her hand and her shoulders droop.  528.  She exhales noisily.  I’m going to be here forever.  Next year you are filing online BEFORE the deadline, she reprimands herself.

Over an hour later, wishing she’d worn her running shoes, dreaming about all the food she’ll buy and consume when she is out of here, she hears “Five – two – seven.”  Her heart skips a beat.  She’s next!  She begins fiddling with the papers in her hand, shuffling them to be sure they’re all there.  Certified copy of her ID.  Proof of residence.  Tax certificates.  Bank statement.  Annual medical aid contributions.  I am not coming back here again, she promises herself.  This time it will happen!  

The mechanical voice begins to call the next number and she is ready. “Five . . .”  She moves forward with determination at the same time as a short, balding fifty-something man in a brown business suit.  “. . . two . . .”  She glances sideways at him.  He too is moving toward the counter.  Oh, no, you don’t!  she thinks.  She speeds up to beat him to the counter and slaps her paperwork down.

The startled clerk looks at her and then at Brown Suit.  “Which one of you is 529?”

“I am,” sniffs Brown Suit flaunting his ticket as evidence.

She opens her mouth to protest, looks at her ticket and then at the woman.

“I’m sorry, Ma’m” the clerk says as she turns her attention to Brown Suit’s papers. “We are serving 529 now.”

“But . . . but . . .” she stutters.

A security guard walks up.  “Ma’m, let me help you get a ticket.”  He takes her by the shoulders from behind and pushes her away from the counter.  Other customers are shaking their heads or looking at their feet as she is being removed from the counter.

“I have a ticket,” she protests and holds it up for anyone who is interested to see.  “I have a ticket.  I’m 528 . . .”

 

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Today I left work early to accompany my daughter to the national revenue service branch that is nearest to our home.  85 km.  One hour and twenty minutes of driving there (and another hour and twenty minutes back).  After a 20 minute “check in” period, she was made to wait in one area and I was relegated to another.  We waited for two hours until her number was called and she could be helped.  I had no book to read.  My phone battery was nearly flat.  I thought, “What on earth am I going to do sitting here all alone?”  Then I answered myself.  “You call yourself a writer now, so write!”  I pulled my little black notebook out of my bag and the story above emerged, helping me enjoy the quiet passing of time . . . with the occasional interruption of “Four – Seven – Three,  Counter Six.”

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