Woman on Topmain hd:

Just smile and wave

That’s the key to handling life’s pickles

Image: Pixabay

Our village is connected to the world by a single bridge. When it collapsed, it had to be fixed.

Months ago, repairs started – and months later, we’re still crossing a construction site to get there and back again.

Unless you’ve manoeuvred across a bridge that’s still being built, you couldn’t fathom how much patience – and fortitude – is needed. There are rock-solid speed bumps, “stop and go” delays, trucks to avoid and diggers to dodge.

But, as in life, the best bridges are built to last; so being willing to slow down (and stop, actually, sometimes for up to 10 minutes at a time) obviously brings its own rewards.

While waiting my turn to bumpety-bump over the narrow, single lane this morning, and then cocking a sympathetic nod towards the dozens of cars halted at the other side to let me through, I considered how extremely differently people react when faced with life’s pickles.

It’s said, and rightly, that how we react to circumstances is more important and telling than the circumstances themselves.

Did you ever see Life is Beautiful, one of my film favourites – the one in which a Jewish Italian bookshop owner uses his imagination and positive attitude to make imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp far less traumatic for his young son?

It’s a miraculous piece of story-telling – and sobering. If Guido Orefice could conjure shreds of hope and beauty amidst such horror, then surely we can deal with a repetitive telesales voice, or a bureaucratic bungle?

The looming reality of red tape – be it for bridge-building, going overseas, or the onerous task of verifying that you actually exist, for FICA purposes – is an instant trigger for most of us.

Apparently, the historical context of red tape is that it was literally used to bind official documents. Appropriately, it’s still binding us, and getting us tied up in knots.

The Western Cape government even has a website section dedicated exclusively to red tape reduction. True story – I saw it on the internet.

Officials say that “the amount of red tape and bureaucracy faced by business when dealing with government is considered a key constraint to economic development and growth”.

We’ve all been there – but that’s the point. Your bad day in a traffic department queue is a shared experience; the officials aren’t having a particularly perky time either.

The secret, then, which shouldn’t be one, as it’s maddeningly simple, is to be nice. I don’t swear at, talk down to, or enunciate my opinions patronisingly to anybody who is trying to sell me something, get me to sign an umpteenth form, flag me down for a driver’s licence check or asking for a fourth round of details before my insurer will settle down to consider, over a lengthy, relaxed period, my claim.

Instead, I smile, and I say thank you. If I’m there in person, I smile and wave. Sometimes, I shoot back a word or two of sympathy, especially to banking officials, who hate that automated press-one-for-new-accounts-press-two-for-fraud-press-three-operator as much as you do.

This morning, after a very smooth transition over our half-built bridge, I rolled down my window twice – first to say thanks to the guy at the “stop” end for managing us so well, and then to the lady at the “go” end, for keeping the lines of cars in order, and well-mannered, and straight, rather than inching over onto my side of the lane, which is narrow enough as it is.

As I drove off, I heard the “stop” guy being asked by his assistant what I had been complaining about.

“No man!” he yelled over the noise of the digger, which was reversing gracefully into position for another day’s work, “she’s just mos saying thanks for the good job – we are mos on fire, my broer, on fire!”