Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rediscovering The Stack

ALL Egyptians complain ALL the time about the state of affairs in our beloved country. And since I am Egyptian, I proudly do the same thing. But what do we do to improve things? NOT MUCH.

Last summer, my sister & her husband invited us to their place in a resort in Sahel Shamali (at the Northern coast of Egypt). My brother-in-law, kindly volunteered to go buy us some fava beans & falafel for breakfast, from a famous chain which has a branch in the same resort.

He came back with a story to tell. This is normal. Every time an Egyptian leaves home, there is a story to tell to demonstrate how bad things have become. The interesting thing is that even if an Egyptian does not leave home, there is still a story to tell, cause some thing weird will happen to you whether you are watching TV, reading, eating dinner, taking a shower, or even sleeping. Calamity is never too far away.

So back to my brother-in-law (BIL), who paid for his order, took his receipt, gave it to the person making the sandwiches, and then waited to be served. He waited patiently while the sandwich guy (SG) served people who were there ahead of him. After ten minutes or so, he noticed that SG was preparing & serving orders of people who came after he did. No big deal, BIL thought, and he waited on. But the SG kept serving new customers and did not touch BIL's receipt.

Annoyed by the long wait, he approached SG and pointed out the situation. The SG  nodded his head and started looking for BIL's receipt to prepare his order. Others, realizing that the only way to be served is by  capturing SG's attention, they started begging, yelling at, or cursing SG.

BIL calmly turned around and went to talk to the cashier. Explaining what happened, the philosophic cashier,  also part-owner, explained that because BIL lives abroad, he does not have the skills required for such situations. The delay was his fault cause he should have done or said something to indicate that he was a big-shot ( give fat Baksheesh in advance, say that the kids are alone in an expensive car brand parked outside), associated with a big-shot (drop the name of a big-shot who he will visit after eating his breakfast). Failing to do so meant his receipt was  put  among the "non-special" customers pile, thus falling victim to the random serving process that SG follows.  Taking care of big-shots first, and then serving 'Others" in any random order, explain the unsatisfactory service.

Not convinced, BIL asked: "But why leave the sequence of service up to the SG. Just serve based on the order of arrival." Mr philosopher replied: "You are used to the technology available in the rich countries, here we have no means to do so." BIL:"I am not talking about any sophisticated expensive gadgets to buy, I am talking about a very ancient system. The system of the stack. First In, First Out. Just number the receipts, so SG can know which order to prepare next. And have him stick to this sequence. Even if the service is slow, as long as it is fair, people will almost never complain."

The above and other similar stories show that as long as even small problems in our jungle, I mean our country, are approached with the mentality of survival of the fittest, then the chaos we live in will continue. The minute we stop and use the most valuable organ in our body, yes the one that is supposed to differentiate us from animals, then we will discover that simple solutions do exist, and that they usually do not require much to implement.

I thank my BIL for the story, but I salute him for suggesting a solution to the store owner. That is a great attitude. Did Philosopher follow his advise? I have no idea. Will let you know next summer. But at least BIL tried.

I guess the moral of the story is: Think of solutions to the daily problems you face and complain about all the time, and whenever possible, implement and share  those solutions with others. And if the situation still doesn't seem to improve much, don't be discouraged, just remember this quote by Samuel Beckett: “Try again, fail again, fail better. Try again, fail again, fail better”.

BTW, everything aside, the sandwiches were really yummy!!

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