Of Coffee In A Fuel Queue

If you were having coffee with me I would greet you very merrily and say “compliments of the festive season” as I ask how your holiday season has been.

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you its the eve of the eve of New Year’s eve and I practically woke up in a fuel queue.

Curious fact: how old where you, when you realised that the eve in lets say New Year’s eve did not necessarily mean evening but the whole day before an important event/date……

If you having coffee with me, I would tell you that fuel, particularly of the petrol(gasoline) variety has been in short supply; in fact, a whole lot of commodities have practically been scarce, as the economy runs on fumes.

This festive season hasn’t had much in the way of festivities, when you cant even find a soft drink. Imagine it a Christmas without Coca-cola, its the signature holiday refreshment, almost seems as if the coca-cola company single-handedly created Santa.

I picture Santa Claus; after a hard day riding his sleigh, delivering gifts to the good kids drinks Coca-Cola and now you cant help but imagine that either……

Coca cola invented santa claus

The Christmas lights might have been turned on but there isn’t much of any cheer

harare city Christmas lights
Harare City Christmas Lights First Street

If you were having coffee with me, would you believe it, if I told you that we queued up at Fuel Service station, “on a rumour” that a fuel tanker might eventually deliver a load of fuel.

Random strangers would drive by and ask if we had heard any “official” tip off and we would laugh as we told them we had nowhere better to queue up….. “so here we are.”

Funny enough people came and joined up in right behind us


and some sneaky few, even silently asked themselves if they could join up in front of us too …

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that you know the struggle is real when you learn to read “the code” written on the fuel tanker trucks and you can tell which one is petrol(gasoline); diesel; Liquified Petroluem Gas(LPG) and paraffin (kerosene)

3y 1203 Petrol Hazchem  placard
\
Hazchem 3Y 1202 Diesel fuel placard
Hazchem 1075 2ye placard LPG
Image result for 3y 1223
Paraffin


Well the fuel delivery eventually arrived but just in time for service station to close at 7pm sharp and our car was locked in the queue, so we had no choice but leave it there…

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you its difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you keep wondering if the car you left by itself is safe. What if a someone steals it? Well, at least they cant drive it far, since it doesn’t have fuel ha!

Anyhoo the car was there in the morning, in exactly the same state we left it whoop whoop and I pa

You know things are a bad when people congratulate you on getting petrol in your car, because it’s an actual mission, requiring certain level of persistence, faith and a dash cold hard stubbornness as you defend your position in the queue..…
If you were having coffee with me I would ask you if you think getting fuel is an ordeal then do not fall sick in this country because getting medical treatment is could be a literal life and death ordeal.

The cost of medication and medical procedures is staggeringly high and finding yourself in a govern/ment hospital with nothing but faith and prayer because doctors are on strike (demanding they get their salary in United States Dollars because the local surrogate currency, the bond is losing value by the day even though the governments insists its 1:1 with the USD) can really humble you.

Anyhoo the government, being as it is, deemed it best to unilaterally
issue an ultimatum that all striking doctors go back to work or be on immediate suspension, well they didn’t go back to work and here we are and here we are, a nation without doctors

whatever you don’t try not fall ill or injure yourself stay healthy you life depends on it
If you were having coffee with me and ou were wondering how our free fall economy is doing as we close the year, well here’s fun informative snippet from a cartoon the captures the doom and gloom in a way that does not cause too much alarm and despondency

But hey we still sat down together as a family this holiday season and once again my mum managed to feed us a miracle since nobody knows how she got Christmas dinner done and that is why we say Grace before every meal, to bless the hands that put food on the table.

Christmas Dinner
Christmas Dinner

Here’s wishing you a prosperous New Year

~B

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Of Queue Waiting: Suggestions

A reader made the following comment after reading my previous post Of Queue Waiting:

Comment  I don’t understand. If you have a number, and you know how much time it will take, then why not head back home? You could come, as you stated, two hours before the bank opens. Get the number. Then return to your home and chill out for a few hours and do whatever you want to. You can use your 3 and a half minute average to calculate how long you have till your number arrives. And according to that you can leave for the bank. That way you wouldn’t have to wait in a queue. 

… it seems such a simple solution doesn’t it….Confession: I have even wondered the same thing myself. Theoretically it’s ridiculously as easy as that …… For half a second you can’t help wonder why people waste so much time waiting around in queues… you could hold a position leave then come back but in practise such a system would fail mainly for one reason: The Human Condition. People are generally not the most honest of beings, and if you are not there in person to witness what’s going on, with your own beady little eyes; shenanigans will happen….

Even when you never leave the queue you for any significant amount of time you still notice people worming their way into a position in front of you from out of nowhere claiming they came way earlier than you did and got a position before you or “claim” that someone else was holding the queue position for them. (sometimes it’s true) It doesn’t help that some enterprising individuals see a business opportunity in selling premium queue positions.

It’s like stealing candy from a baby, not that am giving anyone any ideas but if one were inclined to make a quick buck, all you need is a pen some paper and maybe a scissors

numbers.jpg

You get to the bank very early before anyone else does….

On the pretence of wanting to maintain “order” in the queue; you start handing out your list of numbered little papers corresponding to queue positions but here is the trick; you keep some numbers for yourself so it means that the actual positions in the queue are vacant… When people start queuing in earnest; when the bank is open and the ATM is dispensing cash, you then approach potential “clients”.

It’s easy to spot someone in a rush, desperate to get their cash, milling around at the back of the queue looking longingly at people at the front, and in their hand a lil paper that’s showing a triple digit number and little chance of their getting cash that day. Or the executive type who drive up to the bank in their vehicles and wind down their power windows and ask “zvakamira sei nhasi?” which translates to anything from “Whats up?” to “Any chances of getting cash today and what’s the withdrawal limit today?”

Those are the ones willing to pay to get a position in the queue… You spot your mark and say “Good day to you, pardon me for intruding I can see you value your time, I am selling a spot in the queue I can even organise that you get in the top 10 but those one cost you extra…” If you are of unscrupulous disposition, you can even sell the same position more than once (after all you made the numbered lil pieces of paper you could make duplicate numbers)…. Easy as pie.

And if all this is happening right beneath your nose imagine what would happen if you were to leave the queue for too long….. Not forgetting that unforeseeable circumstances might mess up your calculations anything could happen while you are away, you could come back and find that the whole queue has changed you don’t recognise anyone you see and that might be because the people you were with gave up or went to a different bank and new people showed up… what do you do.. what do you do…? Oh yeah and the bank just might run out of cash while you are away…..

The longer you spend outside of the queue the harder it is to get back to your position especially as you get closer, to the ATM people tend to become aggressive in allowing people to in front of you and they will eye you suspiciously when you say I was in front of you, especially if they sweated all day in line and never left it for a second and you expect just to waltz in ahead to the front of the queue goodluck with that…

Maybe just maybe if the banks took a more proactive role in the maintenance of order in the queues cause it seems they have a morbid fascination in having people just queuing up outside, as if they have no better place to be, and that’s also it, where can you go when you have no money going home and coming back is an unnecessary expense, so you wait…  It’s also a convenient excuse for anything, “yeah sorry about that…{insert anything from being late to not showing up for an appointment or work or school or even forgetting to buy flowers for that special someone’s birthday] I was at The Bank the whole day you see…” It could even be an alibi for how to get away with murder…I was at the bank the whole day…

If banks wanted am sure they can even tell you the exact number of people they can serve before cash runs out so you don’t have to just wait and hope… It’s fascinating I have been reading in our local financial papers how banks have made massive net profits in the region of million dollar figures. If they wanted, they could afford it, to make a wait in the queue such a pleasant affair, ice cold refreshments, chairs, benches, entertainment, free WiFi while you wait…

How about even making a system like those pizza places where you get a timed buzzer when you place your order and it a buzzes when you order is ready, or better yet use a system like at the doctor’s. Where you make an appointment you know exactly the time to the minute when you will get your money. How about a Queue Buddy mobile banking app that lets you track your position in the queue giving you real time update as to how long you have till it’s your turn to get served… The bank could even send you an sms remainder or call you to confirm if you are still coming to make sure the system runs smoothly and you never have to wait in a queue with longer than five people (That’s 15 minutes at the bank tops…)

Anyone with any suggestions on innovative banking solutions please do share….. maybe we could start our own bank and make million dollar profits too………….

 

Of Queue Waiting

…..Greetings from QueueWait,  I have spend so much time waiting in this here bank queue, one might think I went on vacation to  QueueWait….

I usually somehow manage to survive without setting foot in a bank or bank queue, resorting to plastic money in all its expensive charges glory…. Its not that I have lots of money to spend or anything but its just more convenient than spending a whole day in a bank queue… The struggle is real….

The cash crisis situation seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as a result I have been forced to wake up at the crack of dawn to forage for cash at the bank……

I arrived at the bank at what I thought was a decent hour, two hours before official bank opening time, figuring not many people would be there, boy was I wrong….. the were already 57 people in front of me and I am the 58th. I even have a number that says so…

58

A handy system that helps curb the scourge of queue jumpers, nobody likes a queue jumper; we all have places we would rather be, than here, now, waiting for money, our money not handouts or charity but our blood sweat and tears… where did all the cash go again?

 

It is weird standing in a neat queue long before The Bank is due to open and it is not even waiting in line to get into the bank, its waiting for them to put money in the automated teller machine, which they do after The Bank opens, which is after The Bank gets its consignment of money I guess from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RBZ. So you wait patiently not even sure if The Bank will get its delivery of money and then hopefully you. You ask the people next to you how this particular branch operates, they tell you the money comes around 9.30am and then the ATMs start dispensing money an hour and a half after that. In hindsight  you realise maybe you should have had something to eat before coming to the bank, that’s what you get for thinking a bank run is a simple in and out and thank you for your time mission…..

You stare at yourself in those bank windows that are really one way mirrors, but at least you can wile away time checking out your posture starring at your reflection and reflecting…. its a good thing you took a bath and decided to dress decently because by the looks of things you wont get time to go back home and change for your meeting for later during the day…

You pass time by turning on your Wi-Fi and searching for any open Wi-Fi Hotspots, you might get lucky and find one too. Its something to do until your battery level goes critical, you should have charged your phone before you left the house, or brought a power bank….. Next Time remember that…..

Queue1.jpg

You start talking to your fellow queuesmen (hmmm a red squiggly line appeared on that word, not surprised considering I just made it up) There is always that one guy who is overly friendly who tries to engage everyone in conversation telling you how you must entertain yourselves otherwise you could just drop down dead of stress. Someone even makes a suggestion about how The Bank must take out the TVs in the banking halls and put them outside since people spend more time outside The Bank, than inside….

Shout out to that one guy whose idea of making small talk is asking inquisitive personal questions that no one feels like answering and most of the time ends up just having one sided conversations with anyone who dares make eye contact with….

After a while the stranger next to you becomes familiar like an old acquaintance and it pays to remember what they look, in case you have to leave the queue for a short recess to stretch your legs then you can come back and just say “I’m back” and squeeze back into your position without having to take out the piece of paper verifying what number you are in the queue… and just when you are thinking your number is far from the ATM, someone taps you on the shoulder and asks you what number you are… you tell them and ask why, and they say they are number 205 and looking for their position in the queue…. they are waaaaay to the back… Where did the cash go?

Finally the armoured truck delivers the day’s cash consignment for The Bank.. People cheer and generally get a little lighter spirited, money does that doesn’t it? This is when the Queue jumpers usually make their play, trying to persuade people that they were here earlier, even greets you with  the “hi! I am back“…. “But If you were here earlier then you have a number?”… “I lost it”…”Too bad!”… aint nobody got time for that

Some ladies are prepared for this; If you ever wondered what they carry in their those handbags, a change of “sensible” shoes from the heels and wrap fabrics to spread on the ground and sit. Its a good plan sitting because now you have been standing for close to three hours and your feet starting to ache. Queue

You think you are suffering, you are wrong, there is a pregnant lady who seems ready to pop, should she even be here in that condition? But what if she needs money for hospital, and the money is in the bank? Some hospitals only accept cash or take medical aid cards but with a cash co-payment….. where did the cash go?

Finally the security guard announces that the ATM service has now started and the limit per person is $300 which is also the weekly cash withdrawal limit, so if you get your $300 you don’t come to the bank till next week. The next part is the tricky part, the notes come out in $2 bond note denomination and the ATM cash slot tray can only dispense a maximum of  15 notes per transaction which is $60. So to withdraw your full $300 you have to do five $60 transactions. I am sure The Bank is quite happy with this arrangement as they get to bill you cash withdrawal charges five times……

The thing is with everyone withdrawing their weekly limit, it takes an average of 3 minutes and 30 seconds for one person to complete their business on the ATM. (I timed it)

I am number 58 which means I’ll be standing here 3hours 22 minutes and 8 seconds

There’s always the impatient person who complains real loud about everything and anything and how they have places to be and keeps threatening to just quit and go, but they never do, but they talk about it, a lot. While others just quietly disappear from the queue without telling a soul, they never come back…. but the queue moves ever forward, slowly…

….And then just when you get within a two people away from the ATM you are so close you can hear it beep as the person at the ATM punches in their transactions… you get told that it’s run out of money…..

How long does it take to refill an ATM with cash; approximately 1Hour 30 minutes judging from the time it took in the morning… how long does it take to realise that the bank has run out of money and no money will be dispensed by the ATM 2hours, at least that’s how long you wait for before deciding this is pointless and no one has come out of The Bank to tell you anything about anything ……

You just start walking home, because frankly you don’t have cash for the taxi… maybe if they accept a bank transfer ? Where did all the cash go??????

~B

wrote this post to pass time while standing in a Bank queue