Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Flash! Aaa-aaaaah! Saviour of the Universe!

So, you may have noticed technical difficulties of late. These started acouple of nights ago when the card reader in here kept crashing, so I could only upload 3 of the 100+ photo's I took last weekend. I thought nothing of it, a mere technical fault in the cafe, no biggie.

Then yesterday I got out my camera in class to show Edgar his photo from Ciao Bella. Immediately the thing starts pinging like a WWII Submarine flick, and the message "format error" keeps flashing. It was then I realised that something had gone wrong with the Sony Memory Stick. The sickening thought that all my 223 photo's might be gone was my food that afternoon, and it was worsened by the fact that I knew I couldn't do anything about it for a couple of days.

Last night I checked in here, and to my relief I could access at least 100 of my photo's (the first lot). But for some reason it couldn't read all the ones I did since I last updated the photo gallery. So I'm thinking they've been corrupted by the system crash in here. But what can you do?

Well, off to Camera Citi tonight, on nearby Radhakrishnan Salai - a photo shop that doubles as a money-changing place. And there the fun begins.

I walk up to the counter with the Memory Stick and show it to one of the sales assistants. It says I can transfer to CD for a mere 60 Rs (80p), but I know better than to assume this. I ask one of the many sales assistants.

He head-wobbles, then walks away out of sight.

I wait a few minutes, customers being served all around. Another moustachioed assistant comes up and sees the Stick, asks me what I think is "Do you want to transfer that to CD?", though in not so many words.

I tell him, "Yes."

He walks away and disappears.

Now, we're used to this by now. The words piss-up (UK parliance for a drinking session for you International readers) and brewery never come together in India for sure. As Colin later reminds me, it is a worry that this country have nuclear weapons - not that I think they'd use them intentionally, but...

So eventually Moustache comes back and leads us to another sales counter with a computer, where we stand for a few minutes before number 3 comes along. Within a minute he has transferred the images to CD and Praise ! the images are all intact!!!

So that's it, we're done, time to pay and get out of here, right? WRONG!

Having crashed through the 110m hurdles of obtaining desired services, it's time to approach the pole vault that is the bureaucratic process of retrieving goods from salesperson and paying for same.

First I stand about a bit as the Moustache has disappeared again. Still, no probs as Colin is now getting his card burned to CD. And a few minutes more. Colin is now finished, and a fourth salesman is waving an unmarked blank CD at me and asking me if it is mine.

I consider my possible responses:

a) surrender to a higher power, hoping that it is in fact my CD, and say, "Yes"

b) unleash the full extent of my sarcastic powers and ask him to turn it over so that I can read the CD with my laser vision

c) politely explain that it's really not that simple a question to asnwer, and could he pop it into a computer to check.

So, I decide to go with the flow and say, "Well I guess so".

After all, how many blank CD's can be getting burned in the shop at one time? Of course I'm forgetting Colin's, but no biggie if we have swapped disks. Number 4 runs about with his CD and eventually finds Moustache, who chastises him in Tamil over some infringement that sounds along the lines of, "You moved my cheese".

Then I must fill out my name on an envelope, and after I tell him I don't have a phone number he disappears for another few minutes. Salesman 5 then bar-code scans the envelope, which I suspect contains my CD by now. Number 4 asks me to pay the 66 RS (10.2% tax added) and I give him a 100 RS note. He looks aghast and hands it back, asking, "No change?"

To quickly explain, having no change here can be a big problem as shopkeepers pretend to have none in the hope you won't care about the paltry amount of change and leave it for their retirement fund. So you keep as much small change as possible. I have about 70 Rs in change in my pockets. So I lie.

He then points to number 6, standing at a computerised till. He hands me the stub from my envelope, gives the envelope to 6 and walks away. 6 then adds my bill and Colin's together and asks for 132 RS. We point out we are separate (a frequent restaurant battle-cry is "bill separate") and he head-wobbles. He takes our 100 Rs notes and hands over our envelopes with CD's.

Colin's has a Tamil name written on it, nothing like his name at all. "Excuse me, that's not my name," he says. Number 6 looks puzzled, then takes out the blank CD inside. "Is that yours?" he asks.

By now we are about wetting ourselves in laughter. The options are presented again, but Colin chooses option C, and the guy seems to realise how dumb his question is. He finds number 4, who wrote the name, and points out the problem. 4 has a classic(ally Indian) solution.

He takes a pen, scores out the Tamil name, asks Colin his name and writes in a close approximation. He hands the envelope to Colin, and 6 gives us our change. We can only stop ourselves bursting into laughter as we leave, resigned to the probability that we have CD's of a Madras graduation and a Bombay wedding in our clutches. Which of course we don't, as fine detail and precision are not the problem in India.

Bureaucracy, on the other hand, is a fish that is yet to be fried.