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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

If it's Tuesday, it must be Ulladulla


After a quick chat with our neighbours across the fence, we were off to Ulladulla for our weekly roast beef at the club, our weekly swim at the pool, and a few other not so weekly things like cashing a cheque and renewing the car rego.

As I stood there at the bank counter, signing the cheque, the florish of my signature was cut short by the chain with which they had tethered their cheap ballpoint pen to the counter. What is it with these people? They want you to trust them with your money but they won't even trust you with a 50-cent ballpoint pen?

I had made out the cheque to "Cash" and written across the top "Please pay cash" and duly initialled it and also produced my driver's licence which was scrutinised at great length even though I'd been in that bank so many times that some staff already greeted me by name. None of which seemed to matter as I was sternly reprimanded for not having crossed out the "Not Negotiable" already printed on the cheque by the bank. What must I do next to get my own money out? Genuflect and grovel?

After she had counted out the fifties in slow motion, she asked with a frozen smile, "Anything else we can do for you today?" Why the royal 'we' and why the qualifying 'today'?

Walking down the main street, I thought for a moment that some epidemic of earaches had broken out. People were all walking around with one hand jammed to the side of their head. Then I realised they were talking into their mobile phones. When did it become mandatory for everybody with an index finger to own one of these damn things?

The Road Transport Authority is never a busy place. I mean, they never have an end-of-season sale or offer 30% off, do they? The old guy who sat behind the counter in past years used to spend more time reading the sports page of the local rag than issuing licences or renewing regos. There was never a queue: you just walked up to the counter and within minutes your business was done.

Not anymore! Technology had caught up with our small motor registry: I was stopped at the door by a computer touchscreen which required me to "Press A for Car Registrations", "Press B for Licences", "Press C for ..." - well, you know those things, don't you?

I was the only customer (or was I a "client" now?) as the idle counter staff - all three of them and just three metres away - watched me from behind their bullet-proof screens (are they afraid of somebody coming in with a licence to kill?) as I navigated my way through "Press 1 for New Registrations" and "Press 2 for Renewals". It took so long, one of them - he must've been trained by the old guy - began to read the sports page again.

Eventually, the machine grudgingly issued me with a computer-printed ticket which read, "WELCOME - Your number is R004. Please wait until your number is called". Presumably mine was the fourth registration for the day. And that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon!

Some minutes later, a tinny computer-generated voice rasped out, "Arrh Zero Zero Four". I walked up to the chap reading the sports page and plonked down my rego paper and credit card. All done! I asked him how much it had cost to instal all this space-age junk but he had already turned back to the sports page.

I was glad to return to the sanity and serenity of "Riverbend" where I gave a quick wave to our new neighbours in that brilliantly white cruiser who had been moored across from us for the past three days.

My motor-sailer in front; our new neighbours in the distance

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.