The waiting game in the UAE that is no fun at all

Visiting the office of a big UAE utility proves a painful experience for Frank Kane.

Human beings are already great at wasting time. Think of all the hours spent aimlessly internet surfing, or TV vegging, or just plain navel gazing. So we don’t need any help in frittering away the precious commodity. This is probably why we get so het up when somebody does it for us.

I recently had to make a routine visit to the office of a big UAE utility, a small but essential chore that had to be done in person. The office was one where I’d been many times before, with a mixed record of achievement.

Sometimes long bouts of frustration, other times a surprisingly quick in-and-out. The place – it would be wrong to identify the company by name but it is a household name in the UAE – has made efforts to brighten up, installed a coffee shop and given it a new lick of paint. The number of desks serving customers has been increased. So I was optimistic.

But look how wrong you can be. Despite the facilities, it was still apparent from the start that this was going to be a frustrating experience.

I got my ticket from a smiling man at the reception desk, informing me that there were 24 customers ahead of me. My heart sank.

That could be a long wait. Assume an average of 5 minutes per customer, and I was looking at a two-hour wait.

My spirits rose when the queue began to move, however. It was obvious that quite a few people had taken tickets and then given up when they saw the numbers ahead of them, so it could be relatively quick. But even so, I – holding ticket A48 – was still a long way from my turn.

And I realised that A was not the only ticket designation. All of a sudden, there would be a long run on B numbers called, effectively knocking me back in the queue. I began to secretly and irrationally hate the B ticket holders.

I could pass the time by dealing with some emails on my laptop, maybe? No I couldn’t. The facility does not provide public Wi-Fi services, even of the pay-through-the-nose kind.

So it was back to twiddling my thumbs and watching the service staff. The most frustrating thing was the long gap in between the end of one customer’s session and the calling of the next ticket, and this was almost entirely down to the desk staff.

Sometimes they would wander off inexplicably when finished with a customer, and return 10 minutes later, or just spend the same amount of time on a keyboard with a dreaming smile on their faces.

They need a break, of course, and there must be lots of fiddly information to input and file after a customer is dealt with. But this looked far more like a Facebook interlude than a work chore, judging by the chuckles and sniggers. I began to hate Facebook too.

Finally my number was called. The lovely lady at the desk could hardly have been more helpful, apologising for the delay and dealing with my request efficiently and quickly. In two minutes, in fact.

My ticket – I kept it as a souvenir of my frustration – had been timed 11.14am on issue. I left the premises at 12.55pm.

I could have watched a whole football match, with some injury time, in the time it had taken me to wait for a two-minute service.

Some might regard 90 minutes spent watching 22 men kick a ball round a field as a waste of time too. But at least it’s MY waste of time.

fkane@thenational.ae

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Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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