Friday, September 30, 2005

Your time vs Their time

Three days back, 11 am:
I give my scooter for -- not servicing but -- carrying out a few checks. The mechanic agrees and tells me that I can come back the same evening. But I tell him, since I won't be able to come out of office, I will come the next morning. He says fine, and says I needn't even call up.

Two days back, 11 am:
Even though the mechanic told me that I could just walk in and pick up my scooter, I think I should call up. I am told that the scooter will be ready only in the evening. Once again I tell them that I will be able to pick up the scooter only the next morning.

One day back, 11 am:
I call up the service centre. A very apologetic voice tells me that since there is a shortage of mechanics, they will be able to deliver the scooter only in the evening. Since I can very well understand what shortage of staff means, I tell them to keep it ready and that I will pick it up the next morning.

The current day, 11 am:
After three days of waiting, I am quite hopeful that the scooter is ready, and in a tone of eager anticipation, I pose the rhetoric question: Hope I can come and pick up the scooter. But the receptionist (or whoever) is double apologetic, tells me that a little more remains to completed and that the scooter will definitely be ready by evening. I tell her that the scooter was given three days back. But she says that the staff position is very bad and pleads with me to bear with them. Once again she tell me that I can pick it up in the evening.

By now I have run out of my huge reserve of patience. Instead of waiting for the evening or the next morning, I rush to the service centre. I have known this mechanic for some three to four years. So, it is with more disappointment rather than anger that I confront him. He trots out excuses, which are all very obvious lies.

"Sir when do you have to go to office?"

In the afternoon. "Sir, just wait for half an hour. Please be seated. We are really sorry sir."

I tell him I have to call on a friend nearby. So, I will be back in half an hour or 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes I am back. He tells me to wait. I wait and wait and wait. Another hour goes by. In between I keep expressing my impatience, disappointment, resentment, frustration... Finally the scooter appears.

"Sir, everything is fine. But I couldn't change the shock absorber."

But that was one of the main problems. "Sir we need to get that from outside since the shock absorber for your scooter is of a different kind. Sir, many of my mechanics are not well, some have gone to their home town. Sir, I am going through a really bad time.... Sir, just bring the vehicle tomorrow. I will do it in half an hour...

If he can't do this in three days, how will he do it in half an hour the next day? He has only apologies and assurances.

The lessons I learnt:

How this mechanic could deliver the scooter in three hours flat (after I landed up there) when he couldn't do that in three full days was an all-time educative experience. They say "share your knowledge with others". So here I go:

Lesson 1:
Everyone (other than you) has all of sorts problems and limitations. If they can't stick to their word, keep their promises, and deliver you what's due, then it's your problem, not theirs.

Lesson 2:
Your one minute = 'n' minutes for others. There is no way of figuring out this equation. There is something wrong with you, if you find that 'n' is less than one minute. Rarely you will find that 'n' is equal to one and most often it will be more than one. Behavioural patterns have defied logic and wisdom. We learn from experience the value of 'n'. Modern management gurus call it "experiential learning".

Lesson 3:
It's never enough to know just what you mean. Also learn to understand what others mean. When they say today, it is tomorrow. If they say two days, they actually mean four days. If they say this week, they mean next week.

Lesson 4:
You must have heard spiritual and management gurus saying: Never wait for others to act, you must always make the first move. Be proactive. How true they are! Remind others about their work. If not they think you are ignoring them. Since all people, except you, have lots problems, they can't remember what has been promised to you. Without making it so obvious, bug them, pester them. But don't harass them, because your aim is to get the best out of them.

Lesson 5:
Never lose cool. Going by the "law of diminishing returns" it makes no sense: you lose energy and don't gain anything. Just understand that this is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be. If you have any doubts, check Newton's First Law, the law of inertia.


  1. The lessons I have learnt - Mechanics and tailors have no sense of time nor any respect for the customer's time. The date/ time of delivery promised has no sanctity. However late you go after the promised time, there will always be something left undone for you to wait.
    Even if you can go only the next day, always tell them that you will be back in the evening to collect. Call up a couple of times once the delivery time is past.
    And after all this, still be prepared to wait at least an hour when you reach the shop.

  2. Hi Usha, How true with tailors too as you said.... I guess it is a very pan-Indian phenomenon

  3. I can understand your frustration. I think you wouldnt have been this angry if the mechanic had told the exact timeline in the beginning. Atleast then you woudnt have had expected your vehicle to be fixed until that time.