We all know what a hassle it is to renew a driving licence in South Africa and how the system seems to have been contrived to make it so. It doesn’t help then when your own family members put obstacles in your way.
By family members here, I’m referring to the wider familial circle, including the dogs, Harry and Monty, the supposedly intelligent golden retrievers. I can write an entire thesis on why I think this isn’t the case, but more of that another time.
So, getting back to the driving licence… there’s no such thing as a renewal reminder of course since that would make infinite sense and also make life easier. So, without anything of the sort, it’s up to the driver to remember. Not easy when they’re valid for five years. Impossible actually.
Anyhow, having missed the expiry date and been driving illegally for months, the average law-abiding citizen is then required to go and get it renewed. This being much more of a mission that it sounds since it generally requires a day off work.
Arriving at the unearthly hour of 7am, and in the freezing cold, I was at least gratified to see that the queue wasn’t inside but in the relative warmth. The queue moved at the pace of a geriatric tortoise, taking several hours to get through the whole process, from handing in the form, paying the money, eye test, photograph, signature, fingerprints and finally leave. And then return again to collect a month or so later.
So, having completed the whole thing and picked up my shiny new licence card, I was once again legal. Except, that Saturday morning, as I was rushing to get ready for a work thing in Soweto, Harry nonchalantly strolled into the bathroom and looked at me with his big, doleful eyes.
Something about his face registered… something that didn’t look quite right. Sudden realisation dawned and I turned and shoved my hand into his wet, slobbery mouth, finding the pieces of my new licence. I rummaged around his gums, managed to retrieve it all pulled and attempted to piece it together. Since it was partly chewed, I wasn’t totally successful.
I took a photo on my phone as a backup and popped the lot into a little plastic bank bag and headed out the door. Inevitably, I was stopped on the road and the traffic officer strolled to my car window, requesting my license.
I told her that the dog had chewed it that very morning and she gave me a withering look. Metaphorically patting myself on the back, I requested her to “hang on,” and turned to the centre console to retrieve the little plastic bank bag. It was only at this point that I realised she had assumed I was digging for something a little more valuable. As I waved the bag at her saying, “here you go, here are the pieces,” her eyes fell and lost some of the newly acquired sparkle .
Looking at me as though I were completely mad, she waved her arms in the general direction of Soweto and growled, “Go, just go.”
So that’s just what I did.