24 March 2009

The Dreaded Government Office

"I thought I was going to have a successful visit when I heard the dreaded words "you are going to have to take a seat as I need to refer you to another person"...I was on my second round of counting the ceiling tiles when my name was called out. Actually, they called out my wife's name and I had to correct them"

There is a saying that goes 'there are only two things certain in life and that is death and taxes'. Well I beg to differ. I actually think there is a third certainty. What is it? I hear you cry from the mountain tops and the low lying valleys. Is it appearing on a reality television series? - no. Is it making a fool of oneself at karaoke? - could be, but not as far as I am concerned. The answer is spending hours waiting to be served at a Government office.

If you think about it we will all spend time at one of these venerable citadels of a Government nature. In Australia it could be at Medicare, Centrelink or at any of the other offices that have been created to make our lives easier (aka red tape, more red tape and even more red tape).

I had the pleasure, in a sadistic sort of way, of having to spend nearly three hours at one of these offices while the gurus of the Government department tried to answer my query which I had raised with them.

I arrived early on a sweltering hot Sydney day. Yes folks, global warming is alive and well in Australia! I imagined I would be there for at least 30 minutes and was in a good natured mood as I walked through the automatic doors and into the office. My mood quickly changed when I saw how long the queue was.

Undeterred, I remained positive and felt optimistic that I would be served fairly quickly. After all, the queue seemed to be moving reasonably fast (by Government standards).

I got to the front of the queue and explained my problem. I thought I was going to have a successful visit when I heard the dreaded words "you are going to have to take a seat as I need to refer you to another person". My jaw hit the ground. Translated, it meant that I would be spending a long long time sitting on a chair waiting to be seen.

I asked the blatantly obvious question '"how long will the wait be?" The response was not that comforting either "Erm shouldn't be too long. Just take a seat, please."

So I sat down and waited for my name to be called out. Unfortunately I hadn't brought with me anything to read. Certainly 'War and Peace' would have been a good book for a situation like this. I also didn't have a bottle of water (and couldn't see a vending machine anywhere). At least the television was on. Unluckily for me it was a morning show with infotainment segments.

Within 25 minutes I had learnt what sort of moisturiser was good for my skin, found out why a certain vacuum cleaner would make my life better and seen a new contraption for cooking all foods in one receptacle. Wow, I thought, I certainly have been living under a rock. To put it bluntly the show on the television was pure and utter tripe.

To make matters worse, there were frequent crossovers to Hollywood as the Oscars were about to start. Now I don't have a problem with the film industry, far from it. But when it comes to awards nights like the Oscars then I generally switch off the television. This time I couldn't do what I wanted.

Another 90 minutes passed and I still hadn't been seen to. I noticed a number of staff had been for their tea break and returned to their desks. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to see how regimental the staff tea breaks were operating. Nothing better than to let the customer wait a little longer before being served.

By now I was really regretting not having a book to read. All of a sudden a woman called out a name. It wasn't my name but I noticed something about the woman. Now it wasn't because she was a budding Angelina Jolie, it was because it was a man in women's clothes! The voice sounded female but that was all. I mused to myself (well I couldn't do much else) that at least the Government is an Equal Opportunity Employer!

All of a sudden the news came on the television. At last, I thought, something to stimulate my brain. Nope, wrong thought. The bulk of the news was all about the Oscars. Still, I suppose to some Hollywood is much more important that trivial matters like suicide bombers and poverty.

I was on my second round of counting the ceiling tiles when my name was called out. Actually, they called out my wife's name and I had to correct them. I was greeted by a deadpan looking middle aged woman who lead me to her desk. We had a brief discussion which got slightly heated at times but still my query had not been resolved to my liking. Having waited for nigh on 3 hours my actual time trying to resolve my issue was less than 5 minutes.

I left the office and headed out into the hot and sunny day vowing never to return. I made my way to a book store to search for a copy of 'War and Peace' for my next visit!

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