How long does it take to register your child in swimming lessons?

Well, if you live in Montreal and like to make things over the top stupid complicated, 3 hours. Yep. 3 hours. In a registration period that was only supposed to last 2 hours.

But let’s start at the beginning shall we? Every year, all of Montreal’s public swimming pools shut down at the same time. After labour day you would think, wouldn’t you? Well, you would think wrong. In fact, their last day of business was Saturday August 22nd, right when we were actually getting some good weather. They close down in order to do some mysterious maintenance, which I am sure we are all grateful for. But how about in the fall- when it’s too cold to go swimming but it hasn’t snowed yet? And for the indoor pools, what does it matter?

Okay. So they close down for a period of almost a month. But they open for 2 nights in September in order to take registration for all the classes for the fall session. The times? September 8th and 9th from 6- 8 pm. So I know the drill- I mark the date on my calendar try very hard to find a schedule in advance so I can be prepared when I get to the registration booth and make it go smoothly.

I arrive at around ten to six to find a huge line-up out of the door. Now this is the first year where I have actually had to wait outside and my heart sinks. I phone home and tell them not to wait for me for supper. The doors open and a few people are let in. An hour goes by, and I have barely entered the threshold. What is taking so long? Finally I see someone I know, who shows me her number- 47. She tells me they just called 17. I don’t even have a number yet.

I start rubbing my eyes and my face in an attempt to wipe the annoyance away. I resist the urge to yell at the pimply faced lifeguard who is standing in front of me twirling her hair waiting for permission to finally give me a number and let me in. She finally lets me in. Number 55.

I think to myself, I picked a bad day to quit drinking.

In the room are a bunch of parents looking just as angry and irritated as I feel. The kids are running around like crazy and because it is a pool their yells echo throughout the hall. They are calling number 33. I talk to my friend a bit. She gets her mom to come and pick up her kids who’ve been waiting outside for the last hour and a half. Her turn finally comes at around 8pm. She goes and then comes back to tell me that this is just the first line up, we then have to line up to pick the courses.

In order to not start screaming and yelling, I am now shutting off the parts of my brain that require logic and reason to function. Because they just can’t handle the absurdity of it all. Luckily I have a book, but I can’t read it as I have to pay attention to what number they are at- you see, the teenage girl got distracted and is no longer calling out the numbers. You just have to be aware of what number the woman is serving and jump up when it is your turn.

Finally number 54 with 4 small kids in tow leaves in a huge huff- apparently she didn’t need to wait for 2 hours and nobody told her. I take my place at the desk, the woman looks at my daughters’ names, checks that they are in the system, writes down a number and sends me to the next line. 2 and a half hours just to check that my daughters were in the system. At this point, Ghandi would be proud of me. I have successfully trapped the yelling me inside my brain and am putting on a calm exterior. So a few swear words escaped my mouth as I walked by the third line? Ghandi wouldn’t care, would he?

I make it to the second line and #54 is bouncing her 8 month old on her hip while her 4 year old is running around screaming. She is trying to pick the course for her 4 children however, it is so late, all the ones she wanted are now taken. She is getting more and more frustrated. The baby is starting to cry. Finally they come up with some times. I hear something about 8 am on a Saturday. I am glad I am not her.

My time comes. I bark out my times, she gives me a laminated card with two stickers and tells me to wait in the third and final line. The whole process takes 30 seconds. I, once again, resist the urge to pull my hair out.

The final line. About 30 minutes all told. I read my book, because now there are no numbers. I have to just wait my turn. The baby of #54 has finally fallen asleep, but the 4 year old is still screaming. It is finally time to pay. But I can’t hear what the clerk is saying due to the obnoxious yelling of kids. That’s it. I have had it. I turn to the kids, and tell them to quiet down. I don’t look to see whether the mother is upset at me. I don’t care. I just want to hear what the clerk is telling me so that I can get the hell out of there.

The debit card has been passed, I have my receipts and I escape into the dark, fresh night. Now, after a nine and a half hour day of work, don’t you like to go wait in line for 3 hours?

I think there may be a letter to the burrough in this…

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4 Responses to How long does it take to register your child in swimming lessons?

  1. carrie says:

    I am concerned about your mention of quitting drinking. Why ever would you even consider quitting drinking? That sounds like crazy talk. I would even recommend picking up a drug habit, if this is the kind of crap you have to deal with for gd swimming lessons.

  2. Diane says:

    I can't believe a city the size of Montreal has such a fucked up way of registering. If I had been you , my head would have exploded long before 3 hours had passed. I take my hat off to you.
    Even in the backwoods place where I live you can register by phone at any time during the day. I think they even have an internet option.

  3. Carrie says:

    Oh, Montreal is a large city, but then there's that whole cities-within-the-city thing that screws everything up, where every little neighbourhood needs to be in charge of their own weird little system without actually communicating with each other.

    This is actually bringing back memories of registering for French classes….memories I thought I had successfully repressed…. damn.

    How about a letter to the burrough, a letter to the city, a letter to La Presse, a letter to the Gazette, etc.

  4. Pamplemousse says:

    I'm sure someone thought they were quite brilliant creating three lines when one would have been enough.

    One thing I will not miss is the francophone love of making simple administration tasks unbelievably complex.

    And that is why they will never ever get around to separating from Canada.

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