A Comedy of Errors

I apologise for borrowing the name of Shakespeare’s play for this post. But while it may not be the most original of titles, I found it to be the most appropriate. I hope, in this one instance, imitation will be considered as the sincerest form of flattery.

Life isn’t all smiles and roses. And, all moments in life are not worthy of being captured on camera. At least, I hope no one is waiting to “immortalise” the moments when I don’t land on my feet, both literally and figuratively. Embarrassments are an inescapable fact of life. We don’t want them but, try as we may, we can not avoid them. And, alongside the happy moments and the miserable ones, these incidents are forever etched in our memory, much to our dismay. So, I thought, why not laugh at them instead. Here are some “bloopers” from my life.

At my first job, I’d start for office at the same time every morning and catch the first bus to the railway station. Because of the routine, most days, I ended up catching the same bus. On one such day, I was late by a couple of minutes and was rushing so that I wouldn’t miss a bus. On exiting the building gate, I glanced back and noticed that a bus to the station was arriving. The stop was some distance from the gate and there was no way that I would’ve caught the bus. So, I resigned myself to my fate and prepared for the uncertain wait for the next bus. But the bus came up and rolled to a halt beside me. I had not tried to hail the bus but the driver recognised me as a regular and stopped. And, I was extremely grateful. And, as any grateful individual would, I thanked him as I got off at the station. From then on, every time I boarded the same bus, I would smile in acknowledgement at the driver as I alighted. When winter came, the bus driver started wearing a balaclava. One day, as I was getting off the bus, the driver was looking the other way. As he turned around, I smiled at him only to realise, to my extreme horror, that it was someone else. I was not in the habit of smiling at strangers and was embarrassed, to say the least. I expected the same driver because he was wearing an identical cap. My expression changed from, smile to shock to frown in a matter of seconds. Looking at my face, the driver must have wondered what he had done to deserve that scowl. But, this incident put me off smiling instinctively for quite a while.

Well if you enjoyed the first one, here is one more to tickle your funny bone. When I had started my first job, leaving at 8:00 PM was the norm. Bag checking was a regular security procedure when leaving for the day. One day, on reaching this checkpoint, as I opened my bag for the check, the security guard said, “Good Night”. Without thinking twice, I replied, “Good Night”. And then I heard him say “Sir”. That’s when I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw one of the training faculty members behind me and I realised who he had been greeting. If the place had been well-lit, he would’ve seen my face turn red but it wasn’t. I tried my best to appear composed and pretend as if nothing had happened as I left the exit behind. But, my attempt at damage control had been a big failure. From then on, whenever I left the building, that security guard would wish me Good Night with a big grin on his face. What’s worse, it’s likely that the guard had narrated the story to his colleagues. As a result, all the other security guards started greeting me. So, whatever the time, whoever the guard, I was always wished Good Night on the way home. Looking back, I guess, it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, it always brought a smile to my face as I left for home after a long day’s work.

Then, came another incident. It had been raining for days together. I was nursing a sore throat and the weather was not helping matters. I’d been drenched on my way to work that morning and then, again, on the way to the canteen for breakfast. My condition had exacerbated to a level that if, and when, the words came out of my mouth, it sounded as if a frog was croaking instead. I, then, realised that I would have to step out again for some other work. If that was not enough, the rain showed no signs of abating. So, armed with an umbrella, I proceeded to the elevator and braced myself for another battle with the rain. The elevator I got into stopped on another floor. A client I didn’t know got in, smiled and greeted me. Now, after the previous two incidents, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation. After recovering from the initial surprise and looking around to ensure that he was not addressing someone else, I made an attempt to reply, as common courtesy would warrant. But, as I reciprocated, my voice stayed trapped in my throat. I felt like a person who was lip-syncing with the audio input missing. Any polite greeting requires an immediate response. Any more attempts would’ve seemed like an afterthought. At that moment, I wanted to dig a hole right there and bury myself in it. But considering that I was in an elevator, that wasn’t such a smart idea. I wonder what he must’ve thought about my manners. He might’ve stopped being courteous to people altogether and the person to blame would be me.

The following experience proves that lack of awareness can lead you to make a fool of yourself. A while ago, I was having breakfast in the office canteen with a couple of friends. One of them casually remarked, “I heard Osama’s getting married.” The other replied, “Me too.” On hearing this, I said, “But, doesn’t he already have three wives and several children?” I was not prepared for what came next. They stared at me for a few seconds and, then, burst out laughing. And, for the life of me, I had no idea why. Then the explanation came. They weren’t talking about Osama bin Laden. They were talking about a batchmate from our training days who had been nicknamed Osama. Now, how in the world was I supposed to know that? But, I should’ve because everyone else did.

These are a few of the many “goof-ups” that have been an indelible part of my life. Some have managed to overshadow the others over time. I guess it’s never too bad to have a laugh, even if comes at your own expense.


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How I ordered my first chequebook online

My disastrous experiences with technology never seem to end. Apparently, technology doesn’t like me very much and I am afraid the feeling is mutual. You might wonder how one person can have so many ill encounters. Truth is, even I can’t claim to know the reasons. So, let me tell you about one such instance and if you can figure it out, please be kind enough to let me know.

We live in a modern world. Internet has seeped into every aspect of our lives – be it business, education or, even, travel. With terms like e-commerce, e-learning and e-medicine dominating our vocabulary today, everything seems to be just a mouse click away. If only things were that easy. Most of you might be familiar with the term e-banking. Banks offer online services to customers for the convenience of those who are too busy to visit a branch. At least, that’s what I thought.

I had exhausted all the leaves in my chequebook and had to get a new one. I had seen my friend B apply for one online. So, instead of submitting a written request for a new chequebook to the bank, I decided to bypass all the hassle and try my hand at this online business. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

Day 1: I haven’t the faintest idea about how to apply for a chequebook online. My forgetful nature means that I have to set a reminder to ask B about it. The reminder goes off and I march to B’s desk and inquire about the procedure. It might seem strange but, at the very moment that I ask her, I realize that I need my customer ID to log in. I don’t have it at that point and, not surprisingly, can’t recollect it. So, the task gets delayed by a day with a new reminder.

Day 2: I reach B’s desk before the reminder goes off. B launches the bank website and I enter the Customer ID to log in. The trouble is I remember logging into the portal once and changing my password but can’t recollect what I had set it to. The first and last time that I had logged in was more than a year and a half ago. I enter what I think is most likely to be the password and cross my fingers. Miracle of miracles, it works! “That wasn’t so bad”, I say to myself. A few mouse clicks later I reach a point where it asks me to confirm my request for a new chequebook. When I do, it prompts me for my internet transaction password. At this point, B tells me that this password is different from the login password. She says that when you log in for the first time, the portal prompts you to change both the login and transaction password. Now, I remember changing the former but not the latter. She says that if I haven’t changed it, it is probably still the one provided by the bank. Unfortunately, that password is at home. And, so, it seems like I’ll have to wait another day.
B then logs into the bank site and applies for a new chequebook for herself and the entire process takes no more than a couple of minutes. I am fascinated and optimistic that, once I have my password, I will have the same experience. After she is done, I decide to try my login password as my transaction password hoping that I had set both the passwords to the same sequence. The truth is, after B made it look so easy, I am tempted to give it another shot. So, once the login screen appears, I key in my login ID and select the checkbox to use the virtual keyboard.
Now, this virtual keyboard is a fantastic feature. It is an application that provides a keyboard on the screen in which the key locations change with each character entered. The user has to enter the password by clicking on the keyboard with a mouse. In this way, the virtual keyboard is designed to reduce the risk of password theft. Seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, after I select the option to use the virtual keyboard, I wait and I wait and then I wait some more. A few letters show up but the rest of the keys show no signs of getting loaded. After a frustrating few minutes, B suggests that I stop waiting for the virtual keyboard to appear and enter the password using the normal keyboard. So much for password security! I manually key in my password and log in.
After waiting for a few more minutes, all I see is, “This page can’t be displayed”. On further investigation, to my dismay, we realize that the internet server is down. What perfect timing! We decide to try later when the server is up. A little later I manage to log in and key in my login password as the transaction password. It doesn’t work. No surprises there. So, the only alternative is to get the default password and try my hand at it the next day.

Day 3: I don’t need a reminder anymore. I log into the website and use the default transaction password hoping against hope that things will finally work. Well, somehow, where I am concerned, that never really happens. Now, I see a new notice which says that your account has been locked and you have exceeded the number of attempts to log in. This means that I have to apply for a new password. When I click on the link to do this from the company’s restricted network, I see a notice which says, “This page can’t be displayed”. B suggests that I call customer care and raise a request to reset the password. So, I dial the number, select the appropriate options and a recorded voice at the other end asks me to enter my ATM/Debit card number and PIN. Caught by surprise, I ask B, “What number?” She, in her trademark style, replies, “You fool, the number on the ATM card and the PIN that you use to withdraw money”. Now, I didn’t know this was a requirement and don’t have the card on me when I call. So, I hang up. I rarely carry my ATM card but, on that day, it happens to be in my bag. Thankfully, I had forgotten to remove it from my bag a couple of days ago. Being forgetful can be a blessing sometimes. Or maybe, God decided to give me a break after so many spells of rotten luck. So, armed with my card, I place a second call only to have the person at the other end tell me to raise an online request for the new password. So, there I am, back to square one.
The only way to do this is to use the lone PC in the department which has unrestricted internet access. So, I log into the site and place a request. The request fails. This is just great! Now, the bank server is busy and unable to service my request. By now, I am at the end of my tether and cursing the bank and the whole concept of e-banking. I log in a second time and place a request again. This time it goes through. But, there is no elation or sense of accomplishment. Only a sigh of relief. I get a service request number for tracking purposes and a confirmation that I will get the new transaction password within 8 days. I try to track the request just to confirm that it has been logged. And guess what? It says that the record does not exist. I am so fed up at this point that I abandon any more attempts. Since, the password will arrive in eight days and I can only request for a new chequebook after that, it is clear that I won’t be seeing my chequebook for, at least, another 15 days. And, here I was, thinking that internet banking made things simpler and faster. That’s one myth shattered! I decide to submit a written application to the bank instead.

Day 4: It’s a Saturday and brings home an unexpected, but pleasant, surprise. A courier has arrived from the bank. I almost snatch the envelope from my brother’s hand and confirm that it is, indeed, the new password. My happiness knows no bounds. In fact, I am smiling so much that my mother and brother probably think I have gone mad.

Day 5: After four tiresome days, I think I deserve some rest and that is exactly what I do.

Day 6: B starts dreading the moment I mention logging into the bank portal. I don’t blame her. I feel the same way. I call her to my desk this time. Knowing my track record, she asks me to log in and call her only if I am fortunate enough to get through. I try logging into the portal twice and, as usual, fail. After waiting a while, the efforts bear fruit and, with B’s help, I finally complete the procedure.

Two days later my chequebook is delivered. And, what’s more, it even arrives before B’s chequebook. So, I guess, all’s well that ends well.


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