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The Waiting Phenomenon

SANDY GRANT
Here we are in February, and it has rained. Was it Michael Frayn in England who said that he had recently met a woman at a drinks party and asked what she did for a living?

She told him that she reigned. But reign or make rain? And don’t they do both in Africa? So reigning or raining and commanding the skies to open seems to have done the trick this year. Wonderful. 

That said we, that is us, seem to have spent most of the last month waiting at sundry medical specialists.

The average time spent this way varies between two and three hours regardless of an appointment.

If any one, being unaware of what is involved, comes unprepared without a flask of coffee and sandwiches, the wait can become distinctly vexatious. 

But then in all those hours we have not seen a single person absorbed by a newspaper article recounting in detail the most recent upheavals either in the BDP or in the various opposition parties.

But then we are not all the same, or so some may claim. Was there not a Minister who recently tore to shreds a traffic cop who was correctly carrying out his duties? And then some time ago, there was a young woman who asked if we had a job for her. Being told that there was little for anyone to do, she insisted that she would manage and that this would not be a problem for her! But this wait, wait routine is endlessly repeated.

Not so long ago, the BTC people in Gaborone were quite prepared to let people join a lengthy queue until one by one when they reached the counter they were told that the system was down. But queue is a very odd word. And is it Kew, as in London, or cue or cue?

One being a world famous garden, another being a stick used for playing billiards and pool and the other a signal for actors. Go to Google and find that the word is defined as follows:  ‘late 15c., “band attached to a letter with seals dangling on the free end,” from French queue “a tail,” from Old French cue, coe “tail” (12c., also “penis”), from Latin coda (dialectal variant or alternative form of cauda) “tail,” of unknown origin. ... Related: Queued; queuing. So it’s French! Typical.

But can anything be more obscure? But queuing doesn’t only mean waiting in a line because this country, and perhaps others in the SADC block or bloc, has developed its own variation.

Here the emphasis is indeed on the word ‘wait’.   What about, ‘please wait, I will phone

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you back’ but because there is no such thing, the more ignorant of us, which includes me, can spend days at a time waiting for a call which everyone else knows, will never come. 

But then the BTC, a really weird outfit, has brought all these issues to a new peak of obfuscation. Someone abroad who seeks to make contact hears the phone ringing but gets no response. In reality the phone is out of order and cannot ring.

In all these years the BTC has ben unable to come up with a jingle that will tell the caller that there is a problem. 

Report a fault and the standard response is that this can only be addressed after three full working days have passed. It doesn’t always work that way because if someone is particularly sympathetic, they can make exceptions.

But that very long standing policy, if it can be so described, is totally insane. Or is it inane? ‘Look, there is nothing that we are currently doing so we could easily and quickly fix your fault. But a policy is not to be trifled with.

So please wait until we get back to you.’ Hm.  What would happen if everyone else adopted this absurd policy, not least commercial businesses?

‘Yes, we would dearly love to sell you the food or the clothing or the tools you want but unfortunately you will have to wait until three full working days have passed?’ How many would survive? 

But there are ways of getting around this sort of obstacle as I found when waiting in line at a bank. A gent, of presumably sober and decent habits, made his way to the front explaining that he was very busy and needed to be quickly served.

Amazingly, we all demurred and the teller had no difficulty accepting his priority need. But as I am myself also of sober and decent habits but considerably older, I marveled how this wait, wait business can be so easily exploited by those with the necessary know-how, clout or straight forward arrogance and contempt for others.

After all, who is not busy? And what is it about one person’s business that makes it more important than someone else’s? 

But then those from traditional societies will well know that all are not and never can be equal. So why do we expect that the democratic state will have brought about significant change?



Etcetera II

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