I know there are over a billion people in India. Its not lost on me. Also not lost is the sense of pride and self confidence that a job provides, but honestly these three jobs have to be eliminated.
1. The parking ticket hand-outer. Driving to Bangalore airport the other night to pick up my wife, I entered the parking lot. Well actually you cant really call it a parking lot in the real sense. Its more like a cluster-park, anyway I digress. The driver slowed down at the toll booth to pick up a ticket. I expected him to lower the window, stick his hand out and press a button, get a ticket and go past.
Its not quite like that. There’s a man in a booth, who presses the button for you, and since he’s in the booth, he does not want to hand it to you. Kinda like my professor at U. Md., who sent the teaching assistant to give us our reviewed reports – since he felt beneath him to hand it to us direct. So this man hands it to another kid who’s outside the booth and he hands it out to my driver. So there are 2 people doing the job of none.
I asked my driver why this was the case. Turns out the system was automated. The ingenious (or nefarious, depending on your point of view) Bangalore crowd would take the ticket from the machine, park, return to the toll booth on exit, “pay about 50% of the fee direct to the toll-booth-operator (in essence a bribe) and keep the ticket for “return next time”. So vastly underreported parking fees prompted officials to keep 4 people to “check, double check, verify and confirm” the parking at the airport.
2. The Elevator call button depressor. The large (and swanky too) elevators at high-rises world-wide have an “elevator operator”. A person that operates the elevator so you dont have to press buttons to tell the elevator which floor you want to go. I dont quite understand even those, but lets move on. One in every 2 elevators in Bangalore has one of these “elevator operators” – they are called “lift-boys”, since elevators are called lifts here.
I wonder why they need these elevator operators since most times there’s no electricity and you end up taking the stairs. Anyway, back to the main story.
I was attending a dinner last night at one of the local “5 star hotels”. Over 15 floors. Here’s the best part – EVERY floor had a elevator call button depressor. Basically a kid that stands all day waiting for someone that wants to go either up or down and presses one of two buttons.
So the talented Mr. Mohan asks them why they had this person on every floor. I should have expected this – some of their neuvo-rich rural clients, kept pressing the buttons (just to be sure) and broke the buttons on a few floors – which had the elevators not working for 2-3 days each month. The clients expected instant response from the elevators and thought they have to keep it depressed for the elevator to show up faster.
3. The staple-remover and re-stapler. Oh! the horror of mountains of paperwork. Every organization (including the progressive Vodafone India and Airtel – the local mobile carrier) makes you sign every piece of paper in triplicate, provide your father’s date of birth and his favorite color, essentially every piece of information you will never remember after filling out that form. A simple cell phone connection (since there are no credit bureau’s like Equifax here) takes you 4 different forms and 3 photographs and 13 signatures. Plus they will physically send a person to your home or hotel to check that you really are staying there.
The Regional Transport Office (that’s the Indian DMV BTW), I was at the other day, is one of these government organizations. I wanted to “tag” along with my cousin and dad – we wanted to get his license renewed. After submitting a lot of paperwork, 3 photographs and his previous 3 license cards – all stapled together, there was a lady who looked at the form – DID NOT CHECK ANYTHING on it EXCEPT the staple on the paperwork and seeing it was stapled horizontally, removed the stapler, then re-stapled them in vertical orientation and send it off to the next counter, where they check to verify your form is filled correctly.
I know you are thinking “Come on Mukund, you are pulling a fast one”. I was actually surprised myself, and asked my cousin who clarified that horizontally stapled paperwork is harder to review quickly – I am not kidding.
Here’ the best part – that lady who’s doing the restapling has NO other tools at her disposal at the desk she was sitting at – no pen, no bar-code-scanning unit, nothing except a stapler, the back of which was used to remove the previously stapled paperwork.