Managing time

Published: December 14, 2017
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The writer is a public policy student working on human rights and fundamental freedoms

The writer is a public policy student working on human rights and fundamental freedoms

Some days, the most important thing for you to do is manage your time. Simply put, 24 hours are too many minutes. Manage each minute effectively and by the end of the day a good many things from your to-do-list, done. We all live days like these, when we check the clock every five minutes. Cheer ourselves for saving a couple of minutes on a green light. Not travel but shuttle from point A to point B. The day when the phone rings after every two minutes, and it is always work checking up on you.

On a day just like this, an incident happened. It actually made my day easier. A package nicely wrapped in the unspoken norms of our society. A package of convenience that is mandatory for everything to flow smoothly here. Find a solution to your problem out of the system. Although, rules and guidelines are there to serve a purpose, they do not facilitate. They are hurdles to the well-lubricated process. A restrictive red tape that neither party wants to refer to because not getting results on time is bad business.

On that day, I had travelled enough more than enough and desperately wanted to get home. I was already feeling tired, too much to even get up from my seat in a waiting area and walk towards the ticket counter. When I finally did manage to get up, the sight of stretched limbs in front of the window were enough to discourage me. I did not want to find my way to the window. I dialled their customer services. It takes a minute or two. I am booked for the bus leaving after an hour.

Just when I was about to walk the other way, I noticed the ticket agent looking at me. Maybe he was expecting me to walk over through all those waving arms and risk possible injury. With an hour to spare, I had just mentally fit in a bite and tea. By God, nothing is simultaneously more overpriced and substandard than the food available at a bus terminal.

Within 20 minutes, the hunger and caffeine fix had recharged me. I finally thought of getting my ticket. There were fewer people at the counter this time. I saw the man behind the glass busy at work. An expert sales man, making sure all the seats for the bus scheduled for 3:30 are sold. With a clock on the wall showing 3:25 I could see he was behind schedule. He sold three tickets in a minute. Three thirty all cleared.

Now he started calling in customers for the bus leaving at 3:45. After giving out some more seats, I was the only one left at the counter. I told him I was booked for the bus at four and instead of looking at his records and getting me my ticket he offered me to take a ticket for the bus leaving 15 minutes earlier. He made a nice proposition with the time I would save and that too at a less price. I look at the clock, 3:40. I am sold.

He picks up an already printed ticket. I notice it has details of some Mr Masood. I just do not care. I pay and drag myself towards the bus. I want to smoke a cigarette before I board the bus. I light one up and with quick long puffs I hurry with it. Believing I might be causing a delay, I stomp on the half-smoked cigarette and hop on the bus. To my surprise, the clock on the bus showed 3:35. There are still 10 minutes to departure.

Now all the rush that I went through seemed unnecessary. While I was walking to my seat I realised something. In the time difference between these two clocks, a very inherent convenience is at work. I do not get to wait. All seats in the bus are occupied. A win-win.

It is just another example of how even in our basic public interactions we compromise legal, organisational and ethical regulations to find convenient solutions. Replicate it in all sectors and at all levels; we form a society that is economically sickened by convenience. This convenience makes way for unregistered vehicles, illicit arms, large sum out of the banks transactions, and name every other worry that stems out of corruption.

I have no intentions to criticise policy solutions in practice to curb corruption. However, mine is a query as to whether any regulatory framework intended to reform public dealings is effective without positive changes in social behaviour. Moreover, what is necessary to drive such changes instead of poorly planned text message campaigns? Saying no to corruption is very inconvenient in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2017.

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