Struck by lightning… twice!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.12.2008 at 16:16

Talk about computer systems gone completely crazy.

I recently brought one of my relatives here on a visit visa. Getting the visa issued, by itself is a fairly complex job involving a lot of legwork. As per the local law, I am supposed to deposit an amount of money as a security deposit, which will be refunded once my guest leaves the country.

My relative left, and so I went to the immigration department again – this time to get my money back. The dept. is a compound with a number of buildings. At the entrance, there was a person seated — no matter what you asked him, he would listen and then say "Rooh Daakhil" (go inside), which wasn’t very helpful. Sad 

Luckily, I was briefed by my friend about the complex process to accomplish the simple task of getting my money back. I was supposed to go to "the typing center" inside the compound where I had to get an "application" (apparently requesting the release of my money) to be "typed" (and paid for). The typed document needs to be presented with another amount of cash to another counter with the original receipt for my cash deposit, where they will provide me with a letter to the bank. (BTW the cost of "typing" the "application" and getting the "letter" to get the money back itself will cost 16-17% of the actual amount they owe me.)

Anyways, I went ahead to the typing center and found my place in a large queue. There was a row of desks with typists seated. After waiting for a long time we realised that the "typists" where just staring at the screens and weren’t quite "typing". After an hour and a half, we realised that "the system" is down.

After more than 2 hours of useless waiting I gave up and left. It cost me half a working day. I decided to check with a private ‘typing center’ outside. They informed me that "the system" has been "down" for 2 days.

A day later, I finally got the "application" typed outside. Off I went to the immigration department (again taking a half day off from work).

I presented the typed up application to the counter, where they issued me a letter for the bank instructing them to refund the money. The guy at the counter asked me to make a photocopy of the letter he just gave me (apparently, the 16% that they charge for giving me my refundable money doesn’t include charges for making a single page photocopy). I made a copy (at another queue) and after presenting this copy back at the same counter, the gentleman placed a seal on the original and told me to go to the bank. A lot of legwork indeed!

I found myself in a long queue at the bank inside immigration dept. The bank made sure that there is no token system and not more than two windows to service the large crowd. After an hour of standing in a queue that didn’t seem to be moving, I heard someone shouting —

"System down!".

This was the second time that "the system" let me down. Only that this time, it was the bank’s system! Ahh.. struck by lightning – twice!

It seemed ironical that IT Pros like us, who are committed to keeping systems alive in our own turf and write/talk volumes about infrastructure optimization, fall victims to such repeated mishaps elsewhere and feel pathetic when we realize how mismanaged information systems can mess up our own lives!

PS: After an hour, the system was back online, and I got my cash.

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