Monday, July 12, 2010

The bane of apathy!

I went to Gandhipuram bus stand to purchase tickets to Rajapalayam. No online booking was available and so the onerous task of booking with a Government agent fell on my lap. As expected, they did not disappoint. I first went to the counter and found no one there. Two men were inside busy on some files. My first impression was that the counter was elsewhere in the bus station. So I spent five minutes going round the station looking for an alternate counter-like arrangement. None! So I came back here, and near the entrance door of this booth was a uniformed ticket inspector. He confirmed this was indeed the counter. So I went back to the counter.

"Sir?"
No response. I am not sure if he heard me or not.

"Sir?"

He turned back.

"Need to book a ticket."

"Where are you going?"

"Rajapalayam."

"When?"

"Friday night."

Deep sigh from him. Implied that he is supposed to do the job he is paid to do.

"Wait for a while."

He continued to rummage through the file with his mate for about 10 minutes. It appeared to be some legitimate task they were supposed to finish. He then comes to me to the counter.

"Give me one rupee".
My lucky day - I had one rupee.

He gives me a reservation form to fill out. It asked for my address, phone number. I was wondering why they needed all these to give me a bus ticket. Even railways don't ask these information. Besides, I couldn't help wondering why he could not have handed me the form in the first place when he was busy with his files. I filled out the form after borrowing a pen from a lady nearby. He looked and pointed out some additional information on the reverse side that was missed out. My mistake! I went back to that kind lady, borrowed the pen again and handed the filled form to him.

He then was looking at the computer for close to 5 minutes. The uniformed guard came next to him and started chatting with him. I kept staring at my booking officer intently. I wanted to find out how far he would take this. He briefly looks at me and then goes back to the computer. In this time, two folks came and stood behind me and then dispersed. Not sure if they got fed up or if they were misguided here.

"Which seat?"
"Some seat in the middle and near the window."
Finally, the printer starts printing. He pulled out the ticket, signed and asked me to verify.
"114 Rs."
My really lucky day. I had exact change. Otherwise, there is no doubt he would have sent me to fetch exact change.

All this time, I kept reminding me that my job was the get the ticket and move away from my place. Another reminder in my head was that this was a test. Not becoming upset or angry with this attitude and apathy was also on my mind. But I couldn't help feeling sad. The truth is, there is no accountability for performance in places like these. I wonder what can be done!

I hope SETC/TNSTC bring online booking soon!

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