The first circle of hell

I never read Dante’s Inferno and I probably never will (is there a movie of it I can watch?). I reckon the first circle of hell is people just waiting around for stupid shit.

So, Michelle, why are you writing about such a depressing topic? Glad you asked. It’s because I recently had to apply for and collect my passport and it got me thinking about its likeliness to hell.


In January I went with my soon to be sister-in-law and her husband and kids to Home Affairs. We drove to a small town two hours from here because we heard they work a lot faster.

When we got there, it was clear as daylight that nobody knew what was going on. We all sat in a crowded room waiting to be called, which is a horrifying exercise in the middle of a pandemic. Often the officials didn’t speak English, so we didn’t understand the announcements, but within just a few hours (five to be exact) they sent my application through.

Then, just the other day, I had to collect my passport, and this excursion stretched over two days.

On a Thursday, my fiancé and I went to Home Affairs and first stood in the wrong queue. Luckily, some random guy asked us what we were there for and showed us the correct queue. I came so close to the front, but then we had to leave because I had a work meeting.

On the Friday, we got at Home Affairs ten minutes later than we intended, and the lines were much longer than the previous day. We sat in that line for FOUR hours, just to collect my passport.

I decided that I just had to push through because my heart wouldn’t make it to go home empty-handed.

This type of thing happens at all government institutions here in South Africa, not to mention the banks. I had a similar experience with the South African Revenue Service. They sent me away three times because I didn’t have the right documents, but how am I supposed to know which documents to bring if they keep changing the rules?

I hate those places

It’s so annoying that the employees always look at your application or documentation like you put a turd on their table.

Also, you have to fill in forms and bring copies of every certificate you own. Then they inform you that those are the wrong forms with the wrong combination of certificates. I mean, why make things convenient when they can fuck with your life? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

That is why I think that the first circle of hell is probably some kind of state/ethereal institution set up where you wait half an eternity just to get into proper hell.

What it would look like

I imagine there’s only one help desk with a blond, named “Margery,” chewing gum behind it. She has long pink nails and files them while shouting ‘Next!’ in a high-pitched voice.

Worst of all, she has that annoying middle-aged- white- lady-from-Pretoria accent.

I can see it all now.

She greets everyone with the same monotonic, “First circle of hell, how can I help you?” You then state that you would like to get into proper hell and get it over with already.

“Alright, hand me your ID,” she says. She looks at your photo and starts laughing. “Wow, you are one ugly fucker.” She then holds it up so that everyone can see.

“Okay, let’s see how long you’ll be with us,” she says and starts slamming on the keyboard with those ridiculously long nails. “Oh, eternity,” she laughs.

“Hand me your other forms,” and you give her the forms you have been filling in for a lifetime while waiting in the queue. She simply skims over it, “‘Reason for damnation.’ Adulterer? Sir, you have the wrong form. This is an A68, they’re for lawyers. You need the A69, they’re grey. Now go sit your ass down.”

“What’s that?” she asks. “No sir, we don’t have bathrooms. You’re going to have a bad time.”

The next person in line gets up and makes his way towards the desk.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” she snaps at him. “It’s my lunch break.”


I think about weird things while sitting in queues. Do you have a story about your experience in the first circle of hell? Tell me all about it in the comments.



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