<%-- Page Title--%> Straight Talk <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 144 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 5, 2004

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- 5% Text Table--%>

The Punctuality Gene

Nadia Kabir Barb

How hard is it to get dressed, hop into a car and go to a theatre? Not too complex a task, is it? But get a group of deshi people together and combine that with Murphy's Law which states that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong", and you have a recipe for disaster. Why is it that we Bangladeshis have no concept of time? Maybe we have a missing gene i.e. the punctuality gene! We just cannot seem to begin, accomplish or end anything on time? When you invite people for dinner at eight o'clock, no one will show up till at least half past nine. In fact if you happen to be on time for anything, you are almost guaranteed that the hosts themselves will not be prepared for your promptness.

Before I go off on a tangent, let me get back to my recipe for disaster. We were invited to a play called "Play This" written by a friend of ours who is also an actor by profession. It was his first production and the show was running in a small theatre in London, so a group of us decided to go and see it on Valentine's Day. What started as a few of us snowballed and began increasing each day. Initially, I called the box office and booked seven tickets. But in true deshi fashion I had people telling me the day before the play and even on the day itself that they would like to join us. So I called the box office again and told them that I needed to amend the number of tickets to twelve. By the end I had called the box office at least four times and the final number had reached seventeen.

The first of our troubles began when we discovered, a few hours before the show that we had a flat tyre! So after the initial panic my husband managed to change the offending tyre and replace it with a new one. I should have realised that this was only the tip of the iceberg and more obstacles were going to be thrown our way to hinder our departure. But I just ignored the alarm bells going off in my head. The plan was to congregate at our house and head off in a convoy to the theatre. This was partly to ensure that everyone left at the same time and also because the bookings were under my name. Our latest time of departure was supposed to have been seven o'clock sharp. The saying "snowflake's chance in hell" does come to mind but being foolishly optimistic, I assumed that being a play people would get their skates on and be on time. But true to nature, by the time we actually got in the car and set off, it was half past seven. Now at any other time, we might have made it on time but with Murphy and his Law having been thrown into the mix, we had our second unpleasant surprise. It seemed that the whole of London had decided to take the route we were taking and on top of that, there were major road works everywhere.

We sat in the car and watched the clock, staring in growing dismay as we got closer to eight o'clock, i.e. the time the play was due to start. To make things worse, the play was only one hour in duration and my husband made the valid observation that there comes a time when it is even more discourteous to walk into the play nearing its climax than not to go in at all. All we could do was try and call the box office to tell them we were on our way but all we got was the answer machine. Out of pure desperation we decided to leave a message not really believing anyone would hear it until after the play. Profuse apologies and excuses such as alien abduction were going through my mind when my husband pointed out that we had actually arrived at the theatre. We parked the car and ran as fast as is permissible in high heels and other pedestrians coming between us and our destination. To our utter amazement, when we got to the box office, we were told that the show had been postponed until our arrival. Being the largest group of people, they had decided to wait for us. We walked in very sheepishly into the theatre while people looked at us with disapproval for our rather late and dramatic entrance. However the show started almost immediately and we sat back in the darkness and watched the story unfold in front of us.

The play itself was a black comedy, very well written and performed. Thankfully, it had nothing to do with punctuality. The summary read something along the lines of "Tom loves Jenny, but Jenny doesn't know and Dale loves Samantha but Samantha loved Greg and Greg loves himself but Jenny is Samantha and Tom is Greg." Sixty amusing minutes later this all made perfect sense.

After the play and the initial apologies for our tardiness, it was time for me to shepherd all the people (now closer to twenty people as we had a few people from the cast join us for dinner) to get back into their cars and head for the restaurant. Easier said than done. I knew at that point exactly what a sheep dog must feel like trying to herd a flock of sheep back to their pen! A friend of ours said it was more like herding cats! Once that task was completed, we realised that we were incredibly late as the table had been booked for half past nine and it was closer to ten o'clock and we were nowhere near the vicinity of the restaurant. I had a feeling of deja vu as the familiar feeling of panic set in. What on earth was I going to do with twenty people if they had given our table away due to our very late arrival? Given the fact it was Valentine's Day meant that most restaurants would be packed. Once again I should have known that this was not the end of our troubles.

Halfway to the restaurant my husband informed me that we were now almost out of petrol and would have to stop at a garage. I had to refrain from banging my head on the dashboard (Hindi film style) out of sheer frustration. Anyway having found a petrol station and filled the tank up, we were on the road again. When we got to our port of call, we were told, as I had feared, that they could not hold our table indefinitely and it was no longer available.

But lady luck once again seemed to take pity on us and the gentleman at the door gave us the name of another restaurant down the road that might be able to accommodate such a large group. The manager at the other restaurant was very helpful and said they would have a table ready in a few minutes. Within a short time we were all comfortably ensconced in the comfy chairs pouring over our menus and the trials and tribulations of the evening gradually fading from our very short-term memories.




(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star