Thursday, July 10, 2008

The petridish saga

It was the last day for submitting scholarship applications to this country’s embassy in the Republic of the Paramecium. The week before that was spent worrying on whether the necessary supporting papers will be delivered on time. But this morning, everything was finally in order. The only thing that needed to be done was to be at the embassy before 12 noon. Piece of cake. Scenes and dialogues from a Looney Tunes episode were running in the head. The family went on vacation and left Sylvester the cat all alone in the house. The poor cat frantically searches around the kitchen. Relief at a shelf full of canned food. Then that memorable line that young boys used to recite, “All I need now is the ca-aan opener.”

Yep, all that was needed that morning was to get into the embassy on time, submit the papers, and head for the office before the boss did. The only problem is that to do all these one had to take the strong republic’s ultra-modern light rail system. There goes all hopes for a quick happy ending. One small mouse had the can opener and gives the cat one hell of a time. But wait. Going up the station, one finds an orderly line of people heading to the disembarkation platform. Maybe the managers of the MRT in the Republic of the Paramecium have finally worked out a system in getting people safely into their trains. At last, signs of intelligent life.

But alas, falling into that line, one ultimately found out that everyone was directed back to the loading platform at the other side where an impatient mob awaited the arrival of the next train. One had to go through again the harrowing experience of being pushed and crushed by that mindless mass of humanity. So apathy finally gave way to a firm resolve for action. And before the brain that had been reduced into an unthinking automaton by a mismanaged train system knew what was happening, one was suddenly standing in front of the MRT station supervisor and eyeing him through orange-tinged sunglasses.

The argument focused on the need to manage the unruly crowd at the loading platform and on assigning more security guards to do this. In response, the supervisor harped on limited resources and personnel. The guy was noncommital about making changes but remained quite polite, even suggesting that a letter should be filed to the managers at the central office. But there was this other guy, an assistant or head of a unit within the MRT station, who had a different appreciation of the problem that was raised: people were simply undisciplined; nothing could be done about it; and, thus no system would work. When informed that a dean in a university and a boss both lost their mobile phones recently in the chaos in the train station, the guy did not hesitate to blame the victims ("They shouldn’t have rushed in with the mob.").

The encounter ended quite civilly. Insight: if those two guys at the MRT station represented the common lot of government people in the Republic of the Paramecium, half of them would have to go through some kind of seminar to improve their creativity, and half would have to be fired outright – like that poor assistant, they would be better off finding another job where they could at least do something and be of use to themselves and to society. At the office later in the day, finally got a sense of accomplishment at being able to do what used to be just crazy plans.

And, oh, the scholarship application made it through the deadline.

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