In my lifetime, I have been defined by many numbers – most notably by my ID and student number. And let me not forget 85212074 – my army number.
But just the other day, for a period of about two hours, I was number 12.
It started at 11.18am when I joined the queue at the licensing department in Mogale City. I had to do a change of ownership of a motor vehicle.
With about five people in front of me, I was expecting to be in and out in a jiffy.
By 11.58am, the only person manning – or is that womaning? – the “torture starts here” cubicle had licked her index finger 103 times. It’s an involuntary reflex every time she picks up a piece of paper or pages through the tons of documents handed in by numbers one to 11.
At 12.06pm I’m called to the counter. I hand over my documents.
Everything is in order and they are stapled together. I’m handed a small piece of paper with the number 12 written on it. The corner of the paper is wet.
Now it’s off to the waiting area. Number three is called and immediately it creates a sense of excitement. Everybody checks their numbers. An old man with a hat must be number four. He’s getting his stuff together.
12.29pm. Numbers five and seven are flirting. He’s in overalls and she’s accompanied by what could be her best friend. The friend is not impressed, but visibly relieved when number five is called. Everyone checks their numbers again.
12.51pm and number 11 is getting agitated. She looks like she’s going to call the manager. I pray to the queue gods: please don’t let everybody go for lunch at 1pm.
Number 11 is standing hand on hip. Teapot stance. She’s about three minutes from boiling over.
Number 13 gets a call. His ringtone is a wolf whistle. Number 11 nearly cracks a vertebra when she thinks she’s the object of attention. And then her number is called. Who says prayers aren’t answered! Everyone checks their numbers again.
1.18pm Number 12 is called. Everyone checks their numbers again, except me. I know.