Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Damn you, Mr Murphy.

I wrote this piece sometime in January, but forgot all about it. Until now. And so, I shall inflict it on you.

Last week, I flew from Ahmedabad to Delhi. A very pleasant flight (Kingfisher Airlines - thought I'd try it out just to see if it was worth the hype. Verdict: It is!)

I got to Delhi airport in a reasonably good mood. My baggage didn't take inordinately long to arrive, and only one person banged his trolley painfully into my shins, as opposed to the usual three or four.

Yes, it seemed like a nice day.

Three seconds later, I realised it wasn't going to be all that nice a day - the queue for the prepaid taxi services stretched for atleast 45 people. Two queues of 45 people each. I sighed, got out a book (A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson) and settled down for a long wait.

As I inched closer to the ticket window, I was able to observe the activities on the other side of the glass window. It seemed immediately obvious to me that the person meant to manage the prepaid taxi booths had no clue about
a. Service time,
b. Resource optimization, or
c. Efficient man management.

There were six windows. These were manned by four men, and a surprisingly agile bit of mathematical calculation told me that meant atleast two windows were closed for service. Of the four men, two were actually taking money and disbursing the prepaid tickets. One was counting huge stacks of cash (and yet refused to offer change to the customers) and the fourth was, almost unbelievably, sipping on tea and working the Sudoku in that morning's newspaper! And it wasn't as if he was taking a quick break. He was doing that (tea + Sudoku) for the full period of 45 minutes that I waiting in the queue. And this, when there was a flight landing every 5 minutes and an increasingly irate line of tired grumpy customers waiting for some service.

I parked myself at the end of Queue 1, and steeled myself for a long wait. As expected, it was moving at an annoyingly sluggish pace. Soon, the sluggish movement slowed to a crawl. And then a complete halt. No one seemed to know what was happening, and the head of the queue was too far away to allow a detailed investigation. All of us just stood about, resignation writ large on our faces. And then, like a bull that has had a hot iron placed against its rump, Queue 2 began moving at breakneck speed. Before the disbelieving eyes of us poor chaps in Queue 1, the folk in Queue 2 were served twice as fast as we were (before we came to a standstill, of course. I know two times zero is zero.) It was at this point that a helpful official cut into our line about 15 people ahead of me and recommended we move to Queue 2 for faster service. Letting a collective whoop of joy and victory, we swarmed towards the second line.

Four minutes later, it came to a screeching halt. A complete standstill. All due to two people at the head of the queue arguing over the fares and the change. We stood in position for about 5 minutes, muttering and cursing under our breaths. The man behind me said something that sounded like 'Monkey', but was decidedly in Punjabi. And then, suddenly, the line began to move at a phenomenal speed. Except that this wasn't Queue 2 moving, it was Queue 1.

Cue (heh, heh) for everyone in Queue 2 to run helter skelter to Queue 1. And there we were back where we started. The queue moved fairly quickly, and I finally got myself a ticket. I strode out of the airport triumphantly, only to deflate when I saw the long line for the taxis themselves. It was at that that I decided to stop being a nice guy and become a Delhiite. I resolved to kick, punch, scratch, bite and claw as necessary to ensure I did not lose out. Life became a big red blur...

Anyways, I somehow wrestled my way into a taxi and gave the driver my address. And that's when Act 2 - the thriller - started. My driver weaved in and out of the morning rush hour traffic, tyres squealing and chassis creaking (and I am NOT exaggerating!) as he swung wildly across the lanes in the general direction of Gurgaon. He very nearly hit about 12 cars in a 5 kilometre stretch. I counted. At one point, he drove over a divider on the expressway - I kid you not - just to get to a relatively free lane. I thought it prudent, after that harrowing incident, to ask how long he'd been driving. It turned out he was a 19 year old kid who'd got this driving license only 4 months ago. And through means that were not strictly legal. Just my luck. The death ride somehow came to a satisfactory end, with neither the car nor its occupants much the worse for it. I paid the driver and trudged upstairs to my flat.

Life wasn't done throwing me sucker punches yet. I had locked the keys to my house in my pants (my other pants, I was wearing a pair at the time), which were in my suitcase. There followed a five minute session (liberally punctuated with the choicest expletives) as I unpacked the tight-to-the-seam box at my doorstep to get at the keys.

I stepped into my house, and collapsed on the nearest sofa, worn out by the morning's experiences. The simplest of tasks can be so phenomenally tiring at times. Sigh.

But wait, dear reader. Act 3 unfolds.

I had not had a bath for quite a few days, and decided it was only fair to my coworkers (I was planning to go to office later in the day) that I cleanse myself with liberal use of soap and hot water. I am all for not having a bath, so long as one does not stink. But there's only so far that deodorants can work. So a quick bath was chalked into the agenda of the day's activities.

I went into the bathroom, peeled off my clothes (I see you swooning, ladies, and not because of the smell!) and turned on the shower. I stood there for 5 minutes, oblivious to all in the world except the lovely feeling of water running down my face and body. I reached out to the soap, and proceeded to lather myself well and truly. I even sang a cheerful little ditty as I did so. Midway through this operation, the power died. As the comforting hum of the geyser died down, an eerie silence descended upon my house. Not that I minded - at 10 a.m., this kind of stuff isn't really scary. I continued singing the aforementioned ditty. Just as I finished lathering myself all over and placed the soap back in its tray, the water stopped. Without warning. The shower, pleasantly gushing mere moments ago, gurgled and made a sound like it was clearing its throat. It slowed to a trickle and then stopped.

A rather shitty situation to be in, this. Buck naked, wearing nothing but a 3-day stubble. Covered in soap lather and with no idea of what to do next.

The tap at the wash basin wasn't working, and I didn't fancy washing in the commode. After 5 indecisive minutes, inspiration struck. I trudged to the kitchen (dropping little soap suds all along the way) and washed myself with mineral water and beer. (Seriously, I'm not making this up.)

And there, dear readers who have survived to the end of this post, ended my ordeal. The rest of the day went pretty smoothly, thankfully. Even though my beer-sticky legs did cause me occasional discomfort.

20 comments:

Nandan said...

I wish you would inflict on us more frequently :-) Wonderful post. Tere saat hi queue hota hai aisa?

Gopinath said...

Hey Dude, u might not know me neither do i, but just stumbled across ur blog and it was really AWESOME yaar, by the by i liked the Tag posted in heading part which i used it in my blog without ur permission. Do pardon for this palgarise

Divya Das said...

Awesome read!
Nandan, that was a good kadi! :)

Anonymous said...

ac,
I have posted a comment in your "memories" post .. check that link...

check this one too

http://gomathy.blogspot.com/2008/01/missing-home.html

wat the heck's happening???!?!?!

Arjun/Srikrishnan Ganesan said...

dirty fellow

AC said...

@ Nandan: Wow, thanks man... that means a lot! And yeah, good one :)

@ Gopinath: Thank you! And don't apologize to me, I think we both owe one to Mark Twain!

AC said...

@ DD, GB: Thanks :) Not sure if 'dirty fellow' is a compliment, but I'll take it as one!

@ Anonymous: Thanks for the info; I'm not happy my stuff's been plagiarized without reference, will act on it... though, at one level, it's kinda flattering :)

Vivek said...

LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL!

vivek said...

btw, I like your earlier disaster story (http://arvindc.blogspot.com/2007/08/true-story-i-kid-you-not.html) more!

Sheks said...

Reminds me of an earlier post of yours--when you got your hands stung by the acid kept inside the soap dispenser in a mall loo.

Srividya Jayaraman said...

Hey, man..got to ur blog by jumping several links, but have been hooked ever since..so have even blogrolled you, tho I officially dont know u..

Amazing narrations, all of them..and I can relate to many of them too.

Richa said...

I like the way your writing makes me visualize stuff... "Buck naked, wearing nothing but a 3-day stubble." Hmmmmm :)

AC said...

@ Vivek: Thanks, that's a lot of LOLs!

@ Sheks: Yup, that's the one's Vivek's referring to as well...

AC said...

@ Srividya: Welcome :) Nice to know you like my stuff! I guess it's easy to relate to stuff when one is from a similar background...

@ Richa: If the "Hmmmmm :)" means "That's funny", thank you. It it means "Mmmmmm that's so hot" then you've obviously never seen me :)

Patchez said...

eh? Dun curse Murphy.. the guy only tried to warn us! :P :P
yea.. had loadsa murphy-experiences too! :P
very well written :)

bobzufig

AC said...

@ Patchez: Thanks :) You're right, perhaps we're all doing Murphy a great disservice!

Abhi! said...

Hehehe. Good read.

Jaya S said...

With all the twists in the tale, it was great fun reading this. Things do have a knack for going wrong all at once. (Is this too many comments coming from a stranger, visiting the first time? I don't know, but I really enjoyed reading your posts, and I'll be back for more.)

AC said...

@ Abhi: Thanks man :)

@ Jaya S: These things have a habit of snowballing... one bad thing leads to another, then another, then another... Glad you ejoyed my stuff :)

squarecut.atul said...

I must say it was a classic case of Murphy's law with you. It apperas that you have been chosen as the model to demonstrate the infallibility of Murphy's law.