Tuesday, April 4, 2006

A bizarre experience

A week back, my friend ABC asked me if I could help him out with some work. Initially reluctant, after hearing from him on the nature of the task, I agreed.

Last Thursday, he called me. "When will you be free for a meeting?"

Me: Saturday...

ABC: But on Saturday Mr XYZ won't be in town. So will Monday be fine?

Me: Yea, perfectly okay. But not in the afternoon...

ABC: Around 11.30 - 12?

Me: Perfectly fine.

Monday 11.15 am. A car comes to pick me up. I reach the destination. An office. I am ushered in by a peon at the door. I walk to the reception. To the welcome smile of a lady, I pose the question: "Can I meet Mr ABC?"

The receptionist tells me that he is in another office of the same organisation. I begin to wonder if I have come to the wrong place. But quickly I calm myself with the thought that the driver couldn't have been wrong. He must have been told specifically where to take me.

In a strange place, I don't know who else to ask for. Then my thought quickly goes back to the telephone conversation on Thursday. ABC referred to one XYZ. May be I am supposed to meet him? So, I quickly recover ground and ask for XYZ, without even knowing who the person is. The receptionist confirms my name; and nods in approval. She then directs an attendant to take me upstairs.

A typical office. The attendant shows me a person who is sitting inside a (transparent) glass-covered chamber, and tells me to take a seat. I look around. I am not alone. There are 5 people seated on a sofa. I keep looking into the glass chamber and try to catch the eye of the gentleman -- supposedly XYZ. Initially, I am delighted at the success rate of the eyeball hits, and eagerly expect a smile from him and an invitation to come in, as and when he is free. Anyway there are five people who have come before me. I must wait.

Suddenly the sight of the clock with just one needle on it strikes me. I realise that it is 12 noon, which means it is well more than 15 minutes since I arrived for the meeting. I also observe a curious phenomenon. Some people are just walking into the chamber instead of waiting for their turn.

As it gradually becomes evident that nothing is happening, I begin to feel uncomfortable.

My earlier thought, that I have to wait for my turn, slowly gives way to confusion. I wonder if I too should just barge in. But I decide against that since I don't know Mr XYZ one bit and probably the people who barge in, out of turn, might be his close confidants.

Since I am supposed to meet (Mr XYZ?) around 11.30 - 12, I also wonder if I should make my arrival in the office evident in some way -- maybe Mr XYZ doesn't know me or hasn't been told that I have come.

But since even the peon and the receptionist seem to be aware of my schedule at the office, I thought it is only natural that Mr XYZ is also aware. Or at least the receptionist would have told him. I did see Mr XYZ taking quite a few calls. One of them should have been the receptionist's.

I decide against barging in without being called. I think it will be rude. I decide to wait patiently. Probably Mr XYZ is busy or he is waiting for someone else to join us.

As a steady stream of people keep going in and out of the chamber, I feel a sense of restlessness welling up within me. I shift my posture on the sofa, throw my head back and look up letting out a deep of sigh of resentment.

Headline writers in newspapers have a favourite expression: "left in the lurch". I couldn't help thinking if the headline has now come to haunt me.

What do I do? I get up and head for the exit. The peon looks at me. I ask him, gesturing to the gentleman in the chamber, if he was Mr XYZ. The peon says yes, and tells me that I have to wait. I shuffle my way back to the sofa and sit down.

I look into the chamber. As usual there is someone. Within a minute he walks out, the peon walks up and tells me to go in. (Why the heck couldn't he do that 45 minutes back?)

Finally, I meet Mr XYZ. I introduce myself. He seems to be totally unaware of any plan for a meeting, except for the fact that my friend ABC had spoken about me to him... Since I am short of time, we quickly get into our discussion...

The meeting with him got over. Still reeling under the pre-meeting experience, I wasn't quite sure if I would be dropped back. So, I was greatly surprised when the attendant at the door told me, "Sir, the car is waiting for you."

What baffles me still is how could the well-placed gentleman, Mr XYZ, be unaware of my plan to meet him, when even the peon, the driver and the receptionist of his own office was aware!

And I wondered how foolish I was to have waited for close to 45 minutes... Probably I should have checked with the peon much earlier, or just thrown my wait around, or even begun to walk out since no one seemed to recognise me!

I couldn't help getting back to my friend ABC. He was profusely apologetic. And explained what could have gone wrong. I know my friend well. So, there was no need for an apology at all.

But at the end of it all, you find there is nothing more enlightening than such experiences in life.


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  2. how bizarre indeed!
    It makes me so angry when people take my time for granted and I am penalised because they cannot manage their time properly.