Minding of the Meet

I attended a “soft skills” seminar some years ago. The purpose of the seminar was to reduce confusion and any potential disagreements by being aware of and making concessions for differing viewpoints. All attendees were asked to describe what various chronological terms meant to them personally and to assign a percentage to each of the terms. The instructor provided an explanation saying that the term “sometimes” might mean 20% to some persons and 40% to others. That seemed logical enough. The instructor then asked us to provide a percentage to the term “always” and most of the attendees automatically assigned the term a value of 100% while some assigned values ranging from 10% to 40%. After a spirited debate, the instructor ended the discussion by noting that “always” could mean 100% of the time to some persons and 40% of the time to others. After many years of trying to understand the concept of “Always is 40% of the time to some persons”, the meaning became obvious thanks to being an observer to events in India.

“The trains always arrive on time” is applicable to some nations (Japan, Germany, etc.-always is taken to mean 100% of the time). In India everything is relative (with apologies to Einstein and not in any way alluding to the quasi-national and regional political dynasties in charge). “The trains always arrive on time” is a broad guideline which may not be enforced all the time (always in this case is less than 100% and might even be 40% at times). This same laissez-faire philosophy pervades many other areas.

Taxis and auto rickshaws are always supposed to run based on the automated meters – this rule is almost always followed in the breach rather than in the observance. The fares will always (as in 100% of the time) fluctuate based on the time of day, the state of the weather and whether the driver is in an amenable and amicable frame of mind.

Quite a number of smaller local businesses may state that they always deliver on their promises and signed agreements – always in this case is always less than 100% and more likely 40%). The same small businesses will always (as in 100% of the time) demand and receive full payment from the customers – in this case the customers are not always right but always left in the lurch having fulfilled their side of the bargain.

The common rule that customers should always wait in queues is always (as in 95%) of the time disregarded – many persons understand the concept of queues to mean parallel queues (crowding shoulder to shoulder in solidarity) rather than serial queues (waiting at arms length in solitary). The customer service representatives should be commended for their patience and prowess in handling the multiple insistent and irritating interjections and interruptions when they are supposedly always (as in almost never) handling one customer at a time.

With the ordinary citizens having to face so many inconsistencies and uncertainties on a daily basis in almost every public and private transaction, it is a wonder that the vast majority of them are always (as in 90% of the time) so grounded. It might be a defensive reaction to living in a chaotic environment not conducive to punctuality and discipline, that most persons have adopted passivity and detachment to get them through the barriers and roadblocks en route to their destinations and dreams. While everything may always function (40% of the time), the enlightened philosophy will keep everyone balanced and focused on their quests in an uncertain world and that is a good thing always (100% of the time).

(www.embar.net – for additional articles)

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