Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Now Serving: B147

Lines beget lines beget lines. It seems to be the way of things.

Long before the invention of telephone menu trees, that leave you listening to scripted conversations instructing you to press one for this, or two for that which ultimately lead to "all our agents are busy, please call back later," there were government processing lines.

I was at 777 Bay Street in Toronto Ontario, walking into Services Canada, through a delightful underground route directly from College Subway station. If you have any health care, or drivers license issues, this is where you want to situate yourself.

Just be sure to bring a book.

And some games.

And maybe a pillow.

Yes, Services Canada is where you need to go to get everything done, but that doesn't mean it's efficient.

When I first walked in, I found myself in a line with only four other people. What fun, I thought. Reaching the front of the line, I told the man behind the counter that I needed to extend my out of country health care. He gave me a form, and told me to fill it out. No problems there. Then I was given a number. B147. I wrote it on my hand, as I knew I'd lose the slip of paper. After that, I found myself a chair, and I sat down.

I waited. And waited. And waited. The signs all around read G123 window 12, M102 window 9. What these letter number combination meant, and why we weren't all in one giant que was beyond me. But more importantly, where were the B's? After another ten minutes, I saw B109 window 2: This was going to be a long day.

I texted friends. I read my books. I tried to nap (but became terrified that I would miss my calling, and thus lose out on everything I'd waited so long for.) There would be no sleep for me.

For the next, who knows how long, I was kept alert by screaming children running in circles, and the dance party created by hundreds of peoples cell phones all ringing apart, and yet somehow together. B120. B131. B139. B145. B146. Nothing.

This wasn't funny. After watching, over the hours, every number from B109 to B146, without ever skipping a beat, pass by there was now nothing. Only a gathering of M's and G's, and D's, and - and not B's!

Tick - tick - tick. Like the barely moving red second hand on all classroom clocks, I felt time slowly passing by. One moment lasting forever. I was like a race horse ready to burst from the starting gate, and yet I had nowhere to go... This would last forev- B147 window 16! I was off!


  1. Aaaahhhh the Canadian system. I, too, always arm myself with provisions when stepping into a Service Canada office. The one at 777 Bay is actually not bad because they have seats. Have you gone to the one in Scarborough (Lawrence & Brimley or around that area)? No seats at all!! You have to STAND in line for hours. Of course, if you're familiar with this location, most people who come to this Service Canada office are immigrants.
    As per my last post also...have you been to City Hall lately? Applying for a building permit is hell!!!

  2. you know - I wonder what it must be like in other countries. I think Canada, as slow as it is, is probably one of the best systems. But it could just be us, with our store hours that keep the same and make sense, I am tricked into thinking our government works just as well.

    But no - I've not had to stand in line for hours. That sounds worse than a day at Wonderland... without the delightful rides at the end.


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