As a Kenyan, it is unequivocal that one day; you will require a service offered at the Huduma Centre. If you are like me, the first service that will take you to the Huduma Centre will be an ID replacement and the Huduma Centre nearest to you will be the one at GPO Nairobi.
Retracting back, you will not realize you need an ID until on a random day when an MPESA agent asks for your original ID. You will instinctively dig into your wallet to hand over the ID only this time; your ID will be a rumour.
A further search later around where you would normally place your ID but your original ID will still be a rumour.
This is how an online search for the nearest, convenient and easily accessible Huduma centre to replace my ID led me to the GPO one.
However, due to limited knowledge at this time, my first stop was the Nairobi Central Police Station (one eventful situation that needs telling but I am torn on if I should tell) to obtain a police abstract which I only came to realize later that it was not necessary as you can easily get one at the Huduma Centre as you also apply for an ID.
‘Sema’ the Huduma Centre agent at the ticket booth gloomily asks when I get there at around 2:00 pm
‘Nataka kureplace ID.’
‘Kureplace ID tumefunga leo. Tumefikisha 500 za leo so kuja kesho before 12:00 pm.’
‘What do you mean before 12? I did not know one has to be here before 12.’
‘Madam please songa. Unasimamisha queue.’ The agent sharply dismissed me.
Upon enquiry on the information desk, I learn that, due to the massive number of ID applications, the centre can only process a maximum of 500 ID applicants per day.
It was also clear from the number of people, waiting for one service or the other in that hall, that GPO Huduma Centre is a favourite of many too.
Fast forward to a month later and with a few days to spare, I decided to follow up on the ID. I made it to the Centre this time at around 11:10 am. Thankfully, the previous agent was not at the ticket booth on this occasion and the one there was more forthcoming with information. I was handed ticket number A391 and proceeded to perch myself on a seat someone had just vacated in the waiting area. The waiting bay was already full at this hour. On the upside though, the hall has a loudspeaker audible enough across the entire room.
A minute after I take a seat and even before I acclimatize myself with the different dimensions in that hall, ticket number A112 is called to the counter.
To this, I smiled.( In situations where I do not know how to react, my default setting is always a smile.)
Calling ticket number A112 meant over 250 people were waiting to be served before me. I let that sink in and opportunistically checked the floor to see if someone had accidentally dropped his or her ticket that was a better number than the one I was currently holding. It is consistently pressed upon us to always be on the lookout for opportunities, so this was I being on the lookout for one. Hehe . Let it be known however that, that exercise was in vain.
After a few internal deliberations, I decided to wait it out. It was also a chance to test if my impatience has mellowed with age. Patience as a virtue might have also crept up on me, and this was my chance to find out. The fact that I also had a relatively free day and I had just started on a good book (‘Silent Scream’ by Angela Marsons- Look it up if sarcasm is your funny) were enough motivators to let the waiting games begin.
Two hours later, I took a lunch break, ran a few errands in town and was back to the Huduma Cente at around 4: oo pm. They were then servicing ticket holder number A350, and it now looked promising.
At around 4:30 pm, the automated voice calling out the ticket numbers went silent for more than ten minutes. My patience at this point was wearing thin, and I went to enquire at the information desk on the reasons for the delay and whether it meant they were done for the day. The lady behind the counter poked at her monitor and flimsily replied.
‘I do not know what the problem is. Do you have a waiting ticket?’
‘Don’t worry; you will get served.’
Thank you for that informative answer. Who would have thought that all I needed to do is to continue waiting
At 5:15 pm and then serving ticket number 363, a gentleman from the service desk walks to where we were seated and barely audible announced.
‘The machines have gone down. Enyewe leo tulikuwa tumejitolea kuweserve lakini machine zimekwama’.
Again, I smiled.
It may have been true the computers went down. The timing is what was rather suspect. How convenient was it that the machines stopped operating just past 5:00 pm when government offices close?
The waiting crowd refused to budge from their seats. I too remained seated though by then it was not clear what I was still waiting for. A few minutes later, the negotiators in the group struck a deal to have those of us waiting served first thing come the following morning. Stamping of the tickets evidenced this promise and the group reluctantly dispersed.
Come Thursday Morning; I was at the Huduma Centre at 9:05 am. The waiting bay was relatively full, but I had no reason to worry. I had a stamped ticket securely tucked in my pocket.
Since there was already a queue from the Wednesday’s applicants, I decided to engage a few of the other services offered at the Huduma Centre as a way to pass the waiting time. First stop was at the KASNEB booth (which was relatively empty). A few minutes chitchat later, I moved on to the NSSF booth, which was not operational on Wednesday due to network glitches but at least it was operational on Thursday, and very fast while at it.
With that done, I headed back to the ID waiting area to wait out the three people before me.
Just as I took my seat, the hall went dark.
‘Stima zimepotea na hatuwezi endelea bila stima.’ The attendant behind the desk announced
‘But isn’t the generator just supposed to kick in,’ I thought
Apparently, there is no backup for that section of the building, and we could only wait for the peeps over at KPLC to get the services back on.
Again, I smiled.
Clearly, something was against me getting an ID.
Did I not pay my dues for past impatiences the previous day?
I waited for approximately thirty minutes this time walking around with no patience left to even look at my book. A significant number of people walked out but what was even more buffering was that nobody seemed to be complaining.
From across the hall, a stout lady in the NHIF section with thick glasses was shouting to the waiting crowd still seated there;
‘Kama uko na haraka enda Upperhill.’
Again, I smiled
I walked out after the thirty minutes because evidently, I had not replenished Wednesday’s spent patience reserves.
At around 2:30 pm I passed by again at the Huduma Centre and still no lights.
Left with no speck of energy and having spent all my patience reserves, I made my way home thoughtfully deliberating if an original ID is something I really need.
As I stood near the entrance totally beaten and just about to walk out, a lady who had crept beside me asked
‘Walisema shida ni nini?’
‘Wamesema shida ni?’ she repeated
‘Ndiranyita urau urauga’…I responded and shook my head
‘Kithwahiri…..mmmmm ’ I continued and vehemently shook my head to show I had no understanding of the Kiswahili language.
She also shook her head and sauntered off to the information desk.
At least now I had something to smile about as I walked out with my ID still a rumour.