A lady throws back the large, red velvet curtain, which looked like it was plucked from the home of the Wizard of Oz. This is not Oz but some of the staff here in the fabulous world of the NDLS, do look like distant cousins of the munchkin people. And I’m pretty sure I saw a tin man smoking a cigarette outside. Or perhaps he was just a ‘thin’ man. So anyway the lady throws back the curtain in disgust and marches past me as I sit quietly reading my book and I think quietly to myself- “Hate to be her”. From what I could hear through the curtain, the meeting didn’t go according to plan, she cant renew her driving licence and she had taken time off work for nothing. I stand up to take my seat at the glass that is so thick it could be used to house large gorillas (or flying monkeys for that matter). I know that that’s exactly what it’s being used for now although I’m not sure who the monkey is in this scenario – me or the staff.
“Be patient” the lady says holding a finger up at me through the glass with a smarmy grin as she turns around to her boss to entertain him with, what must be from the expression on his face, a mildly amusing anecdote about the lady who just left. I felt like sticking a different finger up at her. Be patient she said? Did she say be fucking patient? All I’ve been is patient. I’ve been patient this whole time. I haven’t lost it once today. But I’m about to.
How did I get here?
About a month and a half ago I realised that my learners permit was out of date. Actually I didn’t realise it, my driving instructor did and refused to give me a lesson until I had it renewed. He gave me a form to fill out and told me that I would need two photos, a Garda signature and 35 quid to bring to the motor tax office in town.
So once I got out of the car I set about collecting these items. That day I ran around getting photos, €35, and a Garda signature (which I was told I didn’t need because my old licence wasn’t stolen) so that I could call in to the motor tax office in town the very next day.
But after work, when I dragged myself across Dublin to the office, what I saw was close to pure chaos. The queue, if you could call it that, was out the door. There were undernourished people from every nationality huddled in their masses awaiting their number to be called. Others were clinging white-knuckled to their tickets in case mob rule broke out at any moment and their tickets would be lost in the malee. I looked at the number of the ticket that hung limply from the ticket machine – 865, and I looked at the red number which hadn’t changed in the 4 minutes I’d been there trying to find the ticket machine- 812. I calculated quickly, which i can only do when I feel put out, If -best case scenario- everybody takes 5 minutes to process their application, we’re talking a wait of over 4 hours!
I asked a nearby person, who eerily resembled Rip Van Winkle, if this was the right area for to renew a driving permit. He looked at me through tired, red eyes and said “I wouldn’t bother man, this queue’s goin nowhere”. So I turned and went to the guy behind the glass for assurance. He told me I was in the correct area but if I didn’t want to wait I could post in my application. This was music to my ears. He even gave me the address and I skipped out the door leaving all the tattered, shells of human beings behind while trying to remember how many years it was that Rip Van Winkle had been asleep for anyway.
Later that day I patiently scrounged around for an envelope and patiently drove to the shop to get a stamp and patiently put the envelop in the post box. And then I waited. And I waited. And I waited (patiently I might add).
And nothing happened for a month and a half until I got an envelope in the post. with my application, with “wrong application form” scribbled across it, another blank application form(presumably the one i should have filled out), my photos attached to the top of the form with “photos not necessary as they will take one at the office” scribbled beside them, my driving permit and four postal money orders in the denomination of three €10s and a €5 with a note explaining that the motor tax office doesn’t deal with these applications anymore and that I must produce these items to “one of our new offices located near your area”.
Which is what I did. Upon locating the new office by downloading their App (I know! They’ve done to the 21st century what Bruce Willis did to the Nakatomi Plaza!), nowhere near my area by the way, although roughly a 15 minute drive into the wilderness, I parked the car and strolled patiently into the office. Where I was met by a lovely lady who was just finding her feet at her new job. She asked me what I was doing there and browsed through my application. “Oh I’m sorry but it appears you have filled out the wrong application form. This form is blue, you want the red one” she informed me.
“Do I?” I asked, “That’s funny because I sent off a red form a month and a half ago and they told me that was the wrong application form.” I said raising my voice slightly.
“Oh they must have made a mistake. You need a red one. You can fill it out over in the queue there.” She said as she pointed at the row of chairs in front of four curtains like a cheap, mini cinema theatre. After sitting down I had a look at the old, filled in application form and the new, blank one. Apart from the colour they seemed to be exactly the same application forms and upon completion of the red form it did in fact prove to be the exact same application form, bar the aforementioned colour. Then I sat back with my book and waited patiently for my turn.
And that’s where we started. Remember? Anyway eventually the lady ushers me over to the glass and she starts pouring over my application. All my work is finally about to pay off. I’m about to breath a sigh of relief when… she informs me that the postal money orders are unsigned and anyway the NDLS offices aren’t set up to accept money orders. Then she asks me if I have any other form of payment. I try to explain that it was her office who exchanged my cash for these unsigned postal money orders and no, I don’t have any other form of payment as I have spent all my money on stamps, useless photos, petrol, train fare, stationary, administration costs and, of course, the unsigned postal notes that she now holds in her hand. She appears to be looking at me impatiently as I list these expenses and retorts that if I don’t have another form of payment I will have to come back next week.
Now I’m pissed. I was prepared to let everything slide. Just put it down to a really bad overall waste of time but this, this was the last straw and I was about to lose it.
But before I completely flipped out, jumped the glass, wrapped that curtain around her throat and slammed her head off the table screaming manically, I take a deep breath, click my heels together three times and think to myself “There’s no place like home”. “There’s no place like home”. “There’s no place like home…”
Then I quietly stand up, throw the curtain back and march out of there.
- Dublin motor tax offices close for a week (irishtimes.com)