SOME people consider the compulsion to keep things orderly to be a personal disorder and they use that connotation to intimidate people within our society who insist on having things done properly.
Wikipedia confirms this by saying of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), “In English, the phrase obsessive–compulsive is often used in an informal manner unrelated to OCD to describe someone who is excessively meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed, or otherwise fixated.”
I don’t encourage the intimidation and often find reasons to highlight the value of ordering things a certain way. My children now being old enough to get sent to my wallet, for instance, approach it with repeated warnings that the privilege will be withdrawn if they don’t order the notes therein following the pre-set rules.
Whereas we are used to seeing that predilection for disorder in ordinary places, it is particularly disturbing when it shows up where people are educated and carrying out activities for which they are paid serious money.
For instance, when the person in a shop is handing me back my change (or balance) and places the notes in any order facing different directions and upside down and with some of them folded two ways, one folded three ways and the fourth with an ear bit bent back, I show little surprise.
The habit I have of then slowly making a show of unfolding and flattening the notes, then re-organising them so they are in order from the largest to the smallest note could be considered to be “Passive Aggressiveness” but I take it to be a brief practical demonstration or orderliness the shop attendant might benefit from.
There are other instances where I can’t do this because it is impractical and because I freeze up in horror – like when a financial institution or an educational one pays tens of millions of shillings for newspaper advertising to publish lists of names and numbers.
I share this pet peeve with, among others, Paul Bagyenda, an ICT Guru with a penchant for orderliness that he hides from the general public. There was a time when we’d act as a support group for each other on the days such publications interfered with an otherwise good tropical day in the sun, because he is as avid a reader as I am.
We once called up a Kampala bank that kept doing this – publishing pages upon pages of names arranged in no specific manner even though they had the option of alphabetically using Surnames (most logical), Forenames (harder but do-able), or numerically using Account Numbers (well…).
Our wrath once got directed to another financial institution for listing defaulters alphabetically by district, but then using some randomly illogical method underneath the district title – not even attempting to list them using an ascending or descending order based on the amount by which they had defaulted.
This week I found a lesson in patience when I experienced first-hand in person the time-wasting result of this lack of orderliness.
Back in November last year I made a decision to quit using the Gaz petrol station nearest to my home because the attendants refused to discourage people from driving in using the ‘Out’ side of the station – which always caused exit angst when one wanted to drive out having entered through the ‘In’ side in an orderly manner.
Worse, they had no problem using the first pump when a single car drove in, even though that blocked access to the second pump ahead – causing delays in the fueling process as one had to wait while two pumps with pump attendants in front of you stood idle.
By the time I quit I had signed up for their loyalty card service using a phone app and was accumulating points as I awaited the card itself. So for months now I’ve been getting notification messages that my card was ready for pick-up but was too pre-occupied and disinterested.
Until I had ten minutes to spare this week and had a Christian urge to forgive and forget.
I was asked to park my car and go into the office for a few minutes to sign for my card, which was fair enough so I complied knowing I would be telling a manager that day about how to improve their service.
The young man in the office had clearly had a long day and didn’t mind making this obvious to me but I kept my cool and watched as he commandeered a lackey to sift through a box of plastic cards wrapped up in bundles of 200 each.
At the start of this process I hoped to myself that these were thousands of people who had also quit the station on the same premises or principles as I had.
After many minutes of observing the process my optimism gave way to despair. They had identified my card number using the details I gave them and now needed to physically go through each stack of cards to find the individual one assigned to me.
A third person had been added to the list and, because the office was too small to hold many more people than the four of us and six other people doing similarly tiresome paper-laden tasks, nobody else could join the assignment.
To make matters worse, the fellows were ripping the rubber bands off the stacks, shuffling through the cards to identify my number, and then putting the rubber band back and placing the stack in another box – without placing the cards in better order, following their numbering.
“They are all mixed!” complained the manager, which the other two fellows echoed verbatim.
“They are all mixed!” they said.
I could believe that, watching them mixing the cards up even further as they sought my single card, and had to take matters into my own hands.
Sifting quickly through two batches of cards told me the numbering sequence of each batch of 200 within two minutes and I tested two others to confirm it, then simply checked the top card in two other batches to find the one that most probably held my own.
I found it.
The manager was somewhat astonished, because at first he had watched me and seemed to roll his eyes at how I was too lazy to go through each and every card in each batch I had held up.
By that time I didn’t feel generous enough to launch into a session of lugezi-gezi and just signed documents in a couple of places but insisted on walking him out to the forecourt to explain the reason I had left the station in November last year – hoping that at least that simple level of orderliness would one day be enforced.
He politely appreciated my issue, and promised to effect change. Right there and then, the fellow who should have taken up my first fuel purchase using the loyalty card attempted to exhibit his deep-seated disorganisation but the manager was on hand to set him right.
For the next five minutes, at least, I observed utmost organisation at play, and I kept hope alive.
One day, we will all be organised, orderly and we will all stop thinking that it is a disorder. ‘We’ being Good Ugandans!