Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to pass the time of a rainy Arusha morning

The task at hand. Buy electricity.

Go to Tanesco (the electricity company).

Its raining. Stand in queue for ten minutes. Dust off the Swahili. Exchange polite greetings with lady behind the counter.
“No electricity” she says
“Yes, no electricity” I say (I’m here to buy a prepaid voucher)
“No, I mean, no electricity” She points up to the lights.
“Oooh, no electricity”
“Yes, no electricity. Wait for a few minutes”
Okay. I go and sit in car for ten minutes, listen to funny man on radio. Peer in, still no electricity.

Drive to “Meat King”, the butchery up the road. I wish they’d call it something else. Buy some meat. Don’t get distracted by all the fancy fluffy pretty homemade rusks, pasta. Oooh biltong. Focus. Focus.

Pop over to bike shop across the road. They greet me like long lost friend. I have been in there quite a few times since I bought my bike. Clutch cable, grease, bla bla. This time. Cable for speedometer. "We don’t have it now. Come back later."
"Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow."
"No come back later."
"Okay. How much will it be?"
"TSH10,000 ($8ish) "
"Okay, I’ll probably come back tomorrow"
"Or later."
"See you tomorrow"

Back to Tanesco. Wait in line for twenty five minutes. Get to the front. More polite greetings to lady behind counter.
“Hmm, no your account is blocked. Walk outside and go round the side of the building to room seven. They will unblock it for you.”
Turn collar up against the rain, hop over the puddles and get to the other side of the building.

Go to room seven. Oh. First, sign in. Smile at man as he pushes in front of you. He signs in. You sign in. Wait in corridor outside room seven, with eight or nine other people. Wait about thirty five minutes. Pretty lady in red jacket who was in front of you in queue comes out of room seven. Your go. But another man pushes in before you. You go in too. Fuck it.

Greet lady nicely who is behind the desk in room seven. She unblocks your account. Try to go back outside but are stuck behind massive man who is blocking the doorway and can’t decide if he’s brave enough to step out into the drizzle. Urge him on in your mind. “Go on, you can do it”. Wait for a couple of minutes behind him. Ah, must be more assertive, so say ‘excuse me’ and push past. Re-dodge the puddles. Back into the other side of the building. Woow, how did the line suddenly get so long? Wait in line to pay for electricity. Ten, twenty, twenty five minutes pass. A second queue of pusher-inners is forming. I scowl at them. They ignore me. The nice lady behind counter tells them to join the queue (yesss!) Surprise myself that I have taken a silent stance on the pusher inners today. Usually I bellow. Guess I can’t be bothered today. Old lady with strange medieval, middle-ages-type get up (hair in very high bun covered by orange scarf) humphs and tries to push in front of me. I edge closer to the man in front of me, making a stranger sandwich. She tries to get her foot in. I tread on it. Not hard. By mistake, you understand. A battle of wills. I win. She goes to back of queue, grumbling. Queue moves slowly. Now only one person in front of me, nearly done, hurrah. Lady behind the counter looks up, sees me says, no, they didn’t unblock you properly, go back to room seven. Um, did I understand correctly? Is my Swahili failing me? "Sorry, did you say go back to room seven?" "Yes."

Oh. Okay.

Back out into the rain and past the swiftly growing puddles. Back into the queue outside room seven (see a pattern forming here?). Random lady comes and pushes in front of me. Ah. Whatever. Just bloody get in front of me I don’t care. Ten or eleven people in the queue outside room seven. The lady with the strange medieval getup has also been sent here. She tries to push in front of me again. I scowl at her. Man behind me says, no the queue is here. The government-blue door opens and all pretenses are swept aside as we all crush into the room at once. It’s a very small room. We don’t all fit. The man behind the counter fires off in rapid Swahili. I catch “the computer here and the computer in Dar are not aligned today…like an ATM…wait for a while…..maybe ten o’clock….maybe eleven o’clock…..” He looks at me. “Did you get that? Do you understand Swahili?”
“Sure!” I say “I got that.”

Well. I think I did. But whatever the case I’m fuckin’ outta here. But I’m now squashed in the middle of the room and can’t get out. The rude medieval lady is elbowing, but ELBOWING people out the way so that she can get in front. Pushing and squeezing. She bumps into me and jabs me in the ribs. Hard. And again. I see a gap in front of me, I swell my chest out and step into the gap, blocking her way. She pushes. I push. She huffs, I huff. She wriggles, I stay steadfast. She moves her body sideways so that she can get in the gap. I move out the way. And out the door. She stumbles into the front of the room.

Things to do when you’re bored.

Customers – push, shuffle, play ‘Snakes’ on phone (until you realise you’re easy bait for pusher inners). Test out passive aggressive skills on pushy ladies who should be in a medieval queue a few centuries ago but is so effective she’s made it to the 21st Century.
Staff – see how long you can send customers back and forth in the rain before they give up and go home.

Oh and I could have gone back to pick up my cable from the bike shop, this all took so long. But I forgot. Ah well. Tomorrow. I'll have to back for the electricity anyway.


Mud in the City said...

Queue bargers - are the lowest of the low! I admire your patience. I think I've imploded.

Reya Mellicker said...


You're right that "Meat King" is not a perfect name.

I can just see medieval lady and in fact can picture the whole episode. A trip to the Washington DC Department of Motor Vehicles is always just like your description, except there's no Swahili being spoken. Usually it's either Spanish (a language every American should know) or Indonesian, a language I know nothing about.

Hope you get your electricity soon and I'm so glad the rains have started!

Val said...

Grrr..... BLIMEY! ...... sigh....
Fabulous Miranda - so very actual!
love how you write xx

Janelle said...

effing bastards....god pole sana darlin'! nightmare and a waste of a morning no doubt..but not really because you wrote a funny story!! XXX janelle

Lori ann said...

was feeling a bit down after reading the newspaper this morning, you know, full of depressing headlines..ugh. then i read you.

ah miranda, i LOVE your attitude. perhaps this would have beena good time for a nice fart,maybe pushy medival lady wouldve backed off a little!

xx lori

Miranda said...

Mud - ha yes they really are!

Reya - thanks for the visit, hope you're feeling better. Funny you should say that - I felt quite at home when I went to DC, in some funny way. I was amazed and thrilled that you have potholes in the roads! That was then. Do you still?

Val - thanks! No really! I'm not entirely convinced yet though! Love your writing.

Janelle - ah thats okay! It was quite interesting really. A good study in human behaviour! And lets face it, I had sod all else to do today...Kept wishing you were there to see your reaction. And have some company of course!

Lori ann - I can't believe I didn't think of that! Of COURSE!! Ha ha!! Thanks for the kind comments. (I severely dislike reading the newspaper. SO depressing. Wish the world could focus on more positive things)

Janelle said...

and can you imagine???? it would be like with the police...heh heh heh! XX

justme said...

Hiya! Just found you from your comment on my blog, which I'm guessing you landed on from Black Boxes? Anyway, enjoyed the story and am impressed with your patience. Think I would have stomped on a few more feet myself! Hope you got your electricity in the end....

Miranda said...

Janelle - exactly!

Justme - yes good ol black boxes! Thanks for the visit. Yes, finally got electricity this morning after a couple of false starts and a proposal of marriage from the man unblocking my account. All a-day in-the-life-of!

And Mud if you read this I dusted off my "my husband is a soldier" line for him!

Mud in the City said...

Was reading! And well done - does that mean you now have images of men in uniform in your head? Going to see some of them myself as it happens....

Ben is free if you need to borrow him as well!