My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Singapore foodcourts and the art of queuing

In Singapore, the foodcourts, at lunch time, provide an amazing Serengeti safari experience. The seating space in a foodcourt is common and is shared by multiple food stalls. Since typically there is just one food court for a large building employing thousands of people, office workers in Singapore become homo animalis during lunch hours. They rush towards empty tables, leave their territory marks, and then set on their hunt for food. To occupy a table, they drop tissue paper, kerchiefs, or any used paper at the tables just like tigers scratch trees, urinate or leave droppings to mark out their territories. For those humans lagging in evolution-related skills, they just surround the occupied tables like polite hyenas, waiting for their turn. But don’t get fooled by the polite demeanor of these hyenas, deep inside they have very nasty thoughts. They look agonizingly at the people eating, let out a sigh whenever one of the seated people pauses from eating, and after ten minutes, these hyenas hate the sitting eaters for their very existence. From the looks in their eyes one can sense that they are intensely praying to their gods that this meal of the sitting tiger or tigress is his or her last one.

Indeed, one must sympathize with the hyenas, having to wait is always a frustrating experience. Whether you are standing in an airplane aisle waiting for your turn at the toilet or at a taxi stand outside a popular shopping mall, queues make everyone go restless. And while queues have been mostly associated with communist societies, the longest of them are inevitably associated with bastions of Capitalism (think Disneyland, Macy’s on Thanksgiving, Heathrow shopping mall..err airport, credit card call centers). After all, wasn’t the serpentine queue invented by Wendy’s? And typically, the most oppressive queues are outside the US consulates; in Mumbai, you have to stand for hours in the sun facing rude officials, unsure if you will be let into Ellis Island.

Several mathematical geniuses have spent their lives to come up with optimum solutions for handling queues. But being skeptics, they failed to learn from religious sites that are especially good at removing this frustration of waiting by allowing you to jump the queue for a fee. However, though people accept the right of the rich to have faster access to Gods, they are less appreciative of the rights of the rich in other aspects of life. In such situations, there are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs. For example, in most cases, by rule or without, people with toddlers are allowed to jump to the front. So imagine a baby-rental service near such queuing hotspots that allows people waiting in the queue to rent a baby for some time. Cry babies would be especially popular. More ambitious entrepreneurs can even roll out baby-rental services for long-haul flights, allowing customers to avail the front seat in the airplane. But as for getting a table at the foodcourt, may be you can try what the tiger does.


Anonymous said...

Good one Shivu..came to your blog after a while and updated myself now with all your new posts..
Good one mate..keep it up.. any write-up on the new T-20 craze all over india !!
chal..keep posting.

Shivaji said...

Hei Papai
Thanks for dropping by..
So much has been written about T20 man...that its has changed India and all that crap...
Anyways, hadn't been following cricket for many years now