The Difference of Time

2019-02-24(Sun)

tags: Misc

I wrote this almost exactly a year ago today and just rediscovered it. I like the writing, so here it is.


Five years ago I had to renew both my Passport and my Driver's License (or my OHIP card, I don't remember which). These events happened a couple months apart in the same government building, and in each instance I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. The first time I thought it was a spectacularly wonderful fluke, but the second time I thought "my God, my government has finally worked out public service" - because it wouldn't happen twice to one person unless it was a trend.

But today (2018-02) I took my form in to renew my passport. This was theoretically the expedited renewal available to those of us who have a current valid passport. When I first arrived with my form and photos, I found myself in a quick-moving line of three people, and I thought "great!" But the guy in the booth looked over my paperwork, handed me a piece of paper that said "D564" on it, and sent me down another hall to sit until my number was called. A very large room containing about 100 people and perhaps eight clerks behind little counters, where I had to wait for over an hour.

The difference, psychologically, is immense. When you're dumped into a room with 100 other bored and frustrated people to sit in a chair waiting for your number to be called, you become that number: you cling to it and pray for its arrival. When the whole process takes only 15 minutes and there are single digit count of people waiting, you remain human, you feel like your time is respected, you can go and get on with your life. But when you have to wait like this, every minute wears away at your feeling of worth: your government is saying "your time is meaningless, you can sit and wait all day and we don't care." Your schedule for the entire day has been thrown into disarray, but there's zero concern from the entity that's caused the damage: they know you have no choice and no recourse.