One day, I’m going to set up a Facebook group called Survivors of Island Government Bureaucracy and invite all my islander friends to join. Because no one knows the pain of waiting for government officials to do their job quite like island dwellers.
Whether it’s your driver’s license, vehicle tax, immigration papers, marriage license, or National Insurance card – it’s all part of the Circle of Hell that Dante conveniently overlooked.
Having done more than my fair share of waiting over the years, I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms. Follow the below tips and you might not end up trading your sanity for the correct documentation.
1. Contemplate the nature of existence
Nothing encourages spiritual reflection like being 97th in the queue at the Driver Licensing Department. Here, in a cramped hot room that is surely a metaphor for Hell, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the nature of the soul.
You’ll find yourself ruminating on whether Socrates was right about its immortal nature or if, like Epicurus, you think it ends at death. You wonder if your soul will survive the issuing of your permit, or whether it will become untethered and stuck behind the water cooler which holds no water, and isn’t very cool.
2. Incite Small Children to Riot
If you’re a parent waiting in a queue with an unruly child, what could be better than a stranger getting your child more hyped up than a sugar rush? I like to make friends with small, noisy children and encourage them to play games like Scream At Nothing, Slap a Stranger, and (best of all) Smash Mummy’s Handbag Repeatedly Against the Seat.
3. Take up space
It’s a well known tactic in the animal kingdom to make yourself appear bigger to warn off possible predators. This works beautifully in a small waiting room where you have a captive audience with a sensitive prey response.
Take large, deep breaths and puff yourself up to a maximum size, spread your knees and elbows wide, and hunch your shoulders. Maintain eye contact while doing all that to really hammer the message home.
4. Make a will
Inching forward in the queue can lead to the sensation that you are shuffling off your mortal coil. Make the most of these last, precious moments by drawing up your will. You could even use this as a means of procuring your escape – promising the lady behind the desk that she can have your pearl earrings if she lets you jump the line.
5. Fake a faint
This is not for the faint-hearted, but rather those with a talent for fainting. Right around the time the A/C unit gives out with a final, wheezing shudder, slide off your seat with ladylike grace and collapse onto the floor. Pro: You might get to the front of the line. Con: You may have to lie there among the dust, dirt, and bug carcasses for a bit before anyone notices.
For those of us who carry a travel mug around, this one is a breeze. Just empty out the coffee and replace it with rum. Lift it to your lips every so often and loudly say: “Damn, that’s good coffee,” just in case anyone is suspicious. The more frequently you do this, the more believable it will appear.
7. Write letters
Writing long, detailed letters home will help the time pass. Especially if you use a quill and parchment to perfect the old-timey look. Start them with the words: Dear beloved, it has been so long since I left my home shores, I despair of ever returning and sign off with: I pray we will meet again in the life after this, yours in peril and consternation.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat next to someone in a government waiting area only for them to pull out a KFC bargain bucket and shovel it into the hole in their face. There’s obviously something about the interminable wait for your National Insurance card that gets the digestive juices flowing.
Just because you’re eating in public like an animal doesn’t mean you can’t be classy about it. Pack a picnic and set the scene with a lace tablecloth over your lap, candles around your chair, and dainty, crustless cucumber sandwiches.
9. Ride the rollercoaster of emotions
The five stages of queueing are remarkably similar to the five stages of grief:
Anger (“How can it take this LONG?!”)
Grief (“I’ve lost a whole day to this!”)
Denial (“They cannot possibly have lost my form for the sixth time in two days.”)
Depression (“I’m going to be in this queue forever, until my knees give out and my youth is gone”)
Acceptance (“I’ll just have to live in this waiting room now. I should really buy some curtains to brighten the place up.”)
Only true queue professionals can pull this one off. If you’re new to the game, bring an eye mask and some earplugs to help you nod off. Bonus points if you can persuade your local health clinic to give you some Valium. Combine the meds with tip #6 and you have yourself a party.
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What’s your favorite way to pass the time while waiting for island bureaucracy?