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Tuesday
Mar162010

Queues & Dongles

I wasn’t going to write anything today, but I have had a slight attack of dodgy tummy, so I have had a sleep, and I daren’t move very far, so here I am. (It’s not a lethal dodgy tummy, it’s just a loo roll consuming, inconvenient one, and I have been able to move as far as the bar, just outside my door).

So what shall I write about? I only really do this to keep some kind of mental juices flowing. It is not hosted on a conventional ‘blog’ area, and I don’t say ‘tits’ a lot so that the search engines flag me up as good sex site. This results in me being quite amazed that anyone ever finds it, or more so that they read it. I was quite surprised, therefore, to get an email something along the lines of ‘Dear Bilious, you said that you were going to write about Indian queues, so what about it?’ So I have a consumer, and everyone knows that you have to keep consumers happy. So, I will do Indian queues, and for good measure, I will do buying an Indian dongle. Apart from anything else, dongle and two mentions of ‘tits’ in the same post will get the search engines interested. The other problem I have is that security don’t like you taking pictures in Indian airports. There are lots of men with scowls, and guns, so this post is going to be difficult to illustrate. I will probably post a picture of my lobster supper, just because I can.

The first time that I joined an Indian queue, two interesting phenomena occurred. 1) The queue didn’t get any shorter, and, 2) I was always at the back. Now, I don’t normally do queues, other than Tesco when they are trying to enforce ‘no more than two in the queue’, and then I deliberately make a three. But there are times when you can’t avoid a queue, like when you are going through Chennai Airport for example. The first time I spotted something wrong was when I looked up and, lo, there was an Indian gentleman with orange hair in front of me. He wasn’t there 30 seconds ago, I mean you couldn’t fail to notice an Indian man, with orange hair, and a nylon suit, but he was there now. In front of me. In the queue. He had pushed in.

So, I sort of jabbed myself alert, and started watching what was going on. It is a fact that no Indian ever joins a queue at the rear. They start at the front, and keep trying to insert themselves at various points until they succeed. If that doesn’t work, they form a parallel queue and claim that they are the legitimate queue and everyone else is in the ‘wrong’ queue. And then the back end of the original queue joins the parallel queue, so you have two queues. And then new arrivals have a choice of two queues to push into. Then an ‘official’ pops up, and arbitrarily decides which of the, by then, seven queues is the right one, and even more chaos ensues. The worst example I had was when I was finally getting close to check-in at the airport, I mean close enough to be in the taped off bit that normally forces a queue to behave itself. An Indian gentleman, with about 10 bags on a trolley, started forcing his way down the taped off bit. By now I wasn’t having it, so I blocked him off and wouldn’t let him past. ‘You are checking in’ he said. ‘Yes’ I said, ‘And so is everyone else’. ‘Well you stay in your checking in queue’, he said ‘I am doing something else, I am not checking in, I am in a different queue, now let me past’. ‘No’ I said. So he went off in a bit of a flurry and pushed into the next queue. He was checking in, and I beat him to do that, and through security, and onto the aircraft. Sometimes it is the small victories that satisfy. I don’t say any of this nastily, it is the local culture and the thing about local is that it is local for the locals, and it is their culture, so live with it. Just don’t leave the smallest suggestion of a gap, in an Indian queue.

My lobster supper - well, there had to be one picture!

I was extremely fortunate when I got to Goa. I found an open Wi-Fi internet link. This is gobsmackingly unusual for India, so I was duly amazed. However, all good things come to an end, and after a couple of days, I couldn’t connect to it any more. So, I decided to go into Panaji to buy a pre-paid ‘dongle’ that would connect me through the mobile phone network. Now, I have been here before with my mobile phone, so I took all possible variants of any paperwork they might want: Passport, photocopy of passport, photocopy of visa, proof of UK address, proof of Indian address, and a colour photograph. Good job I did, ‘cos they wanted the lot.

Now one of the features of Indian stores is that, if they have 10 customers, they don’t serve them one by one. Instead, they serve them all simultaneously, going down the line giving each customer a little bit of what they want, and then back up the line giving each a little bit more. I suppose it is a variant of the queuing system. Another feature is that there is only one boss, and he makes all the decisions. There may well be other people working there, but their job to follow the boss around, and hand him things when he needs them. In these circumstances, you can imagine how long it took to complete the paperwork required to supply a strange Englishman with an Indian internet dongle. It felt like half my life.

The deal was that this dongle was going to cost me 4,000 rupees (£60), but that would include 1,250 rupees worth of credit. I agreed, but only on the basis that the boss would install the thing and get it working. The problem was that there were 9 other customers in the store, so I was only getting 10% of the boss’s time (plus his two assistants, of course). The moment when he installed the thing was priceless. He waited till there was a moment of almost total silence. He checked that assistant 1 was at his left shoulder, and assistant 2 was at his right. He then cracked his fingers like a concert pianist about to give an important recital, and solemnly pressed the ‘install’ button, and then went off to 10% serve someone else.

I won’t go through the whole charade, but I had to go back in the afternoon, ‘cos the dongle wasn’t working. Serious problem for me, and I got my full 10% of the boss mans attention while we discussed why it wasn’t working. It did, suddenly, start working at about 7.30 that evening. I have worked out why it took so long to work. Mr Boss didn’t want to pay Tata Indicom the 1,250 rupees to put any credit on the thing until he had to, i.e. just before he was about to close for the night. I am pleased that he did eventually pay, ‘cos I would have had to go back in the morning with some home-made sharpened implements, toothbrushes, and the like.

I am very pleased to say that it now works extremely well. So well, that I am going to investigate operating my internet connection in the UK the same way. I may have tried to be humorous about my Indian encounters, but you have to accept that everything in India works, eventually, and in the Indian way. I now have an Indian cell phone (AirTel) that is spot-on. I also have an internet connection (Tata Indicom) that is also spot-on. Long may they remain so.