Friday, April 22, 2011

Line Obsession

I was at the police station making a passport for Aisha who's 8 and a half months and she was with me.
It was one of the hottest days, if not the hottest day in spring. Going I knew the temperature was 38 degrees celsius. For some reason the place was packed.
Aisha's fascination with paper doesn't make it easy to fill out her passport application. Perched on my left lap with the paper on my right a pen in my hand, my backpack on the floor between my legs and squeezed between three women with children talking over me. I try to fill out the application with three different addresses I attempt an even bolder feat and succeed. I take out my passport and Karim's ID to see the exact addresses used.
Balancing everything I manage to finish with a few minor mistakes here and there. I go into the official's office to get an approval and find out something is missing. So he, seemingly annoyed, hands me the application and points out what's missing and I ask him if I can complete it in his office. Like a parent who begrudgingly must approve of something, he lets me sit.
He keeps calling me Mama which is annoying.
Aisha is happy at the chance to pull at the paper again.
I fill out what needs to be filled out he glances at my eyes to make sure its me and tells me to go to window 5.
For a moment I'm happy this is almost over.
Window 5 is a line for women. The woman behind the counter is very very slow. I realize this approaching the line because it is so long.
The place is packed (I said that before). The rows of benches interrupting every line. I walked up to the line and infront of me a mother is carrying her 2 year old son. He is smiling and ready to play with anyone . He wants to play with Aisha, then play peek-a-boo with me and his mom was also very friendly.
While we were playing a woman walks up to the line and stands in front of me and the woman. I tell her, excuse me there is a line. She says yes I know and just stands there. So I tell her you're behind me. She says I know I know I aggressively tell her please go to the back of the line now. She says ok and goes and I continue to play with Daniel (We are on first name basis with the children now) and another woman comes and stands in front of me. Daniel's mom tells me the woman was there before I came and she had to go photocopy something.
Normally in line etiquette if you leave the line thats it. You start over.
I'm obsessed. I know.
But this time I decided not to say anything.
Aisha got heavy, the line behind me was growing and the people were pushing me into the people in front of me.
Meanwhile at the window a girl was debating with her mom and the official about which picture looks nicer.
Everyone seemed happy for some reason. I was getting more and more annoyed but I didn't want to seem rude, which I'm sure I already did because of the line thing (I tried to organize the line at a point in time).
The girl with the picture left.
Then a man went up to the window. So I asked the people standing, who that is.
They ALL said don't worry he's with the hagga.
So I let it go.
Then it was Daniel and his mom's turn. Aisha started crying.
It was hot and she wanted to drink.
It was stuffy. She wanted to leave.
So did I.
So the woman behind the counter, who I was by then annoyed at because she's so slow, said she would take me first because of the baby.
They told her it was my turn anyway. Of course the woman who went to photocopy her paper was standing and didn't say anything and so I had my papers done and needed to photocopy stuff (why they don't tell you that when they hand you the application I still don't understand.)
I went to photocopy my stuff.
Another line.
I'm not stuck to the guy in front of me. We are in a makeshift room under the staircase of a building. Another person decides to cut in front of me. (Maybe I have it written on my back "cut in front of me"). So I tell him there's a line.
Like everytime, the answer is I know I know.
I went back and kept thinking I don't want to be a hypocrite. I have to stand in the even LONGER line!
Hoping with all my heart there is a way out. Annoyed with myself at having principles, a woman says 3addy ya binty i7na mewaf2een inty ma3aky el baby.
So I rush to the front of the line. Give my papers, pay and leave and as I'm leaving I'm thanking everyone but they are not really answering.
I realized our people (Egyptians) don't know how to stand in line. Are no where near organized beyesta3bato everyone around them.
But in the end the kindness is constant.
This time I left embarrassed at myself wondreing when should one speak up and when should one shut up?


Anne Huffer said...

Understand entirely - what happened to "take a number"? We got tired of people on the airlines who didn't reserve seats in advance - arrived and the "man" didn't want his wife to sit next to some man. Jay was asked if he would move several times. He usually refused :)

Sarah Elmeshad said...

Lol no take a number in egyptian government offices! They still fill the papers out by hand!