Numbers Do Lie, or a Story of the Most Patient Visitor Ever

Gather round, kids! It’s high time for some amusing bonfire stories. (Sorry, we don’t actually have a bonfire, so just pretend.)

This will be a tale about queues, and tickets, and mistakes. But above all else, this will be a tale about perseverance.

Our story, like all the other good stories, begins in the Police and Border Guard Board located in Tartu, Estonia. An old lady who wanted nothing more than to renew her passport came to department at 11am in the morning, on 13 March.

Little did she know that she wouldn’t leave this building for a long, long time…

You see, this department used what they call a ticket-based queuing system — the kind you only see in decades-old movies. For any trained professional like ourselves, that would be a red flag number one. The lady pushed some buttons, got a queue ticket and took a seat in the waiting area.

Now, the crux of the story is that…

Hold on, hold on! How about we put your deductive reasoning to test. See if you can spot a problem here:

queue management story

While yes, the number 69 would be a good punchline to a Facebook anecdote shared by your not-so-close cousin, the true point lies elsewhere.

(Wink-wink. Notice a zero there, it’s very important.)

Another important detail: the lady forgot her glasses at home.

Long story short, she kept patiently waiting for her turn, not deterred by the long time she was made to endure. One hour passed, then another, then another…

Finally, at 16 — five hours in, mind you — the lady summoned the courage to come to the reception desk and ask the question we all would have asked three or four hours earlier:


Of course, this being a nice old lady, the question sounded more like “Excuse me, when will my time be?” She handed the service officer a ticket with the order number of… wait, 690?

queuing ticket

That’s right! Without the ocular power of her glasses, the lady simply thought that she was half a dozen hundreds spots down the queue. And hey, it only took five hours to see the mistake!

She laughed about the situation, but whether that was a joyous laugh or a tear-filled one, the history may never know.

So for all you kids out there still listening, the moral of the story is simple: paper tickets are a waste of not only rainforests but also time. And in our highly cynical times, we could maybe forgive the former but not the latter.

Huge shout-out to the South Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board who first published this story on their Facebook page. And of course, give it up to the lady with the patience of an entire monastery of Buddhist monks.

Seriously, she should be writing help books on how to be patient.


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