Friday, July 10, 2009

Behavioural Inefficiencies

1. Here’s a puzzle with straightforward answer but many come up with incorrect solutions in real life: Imagine yourself seating on a chair (not extremely comfortable but decently so) in a closed air-conditioned room for an hour doing almost nothing. There are around a hundred more normal looking human beings in a similar situation in the same room and the room doesn’t have enough space for all of you to stand and roam around in it. Also, let’s say there are about a hundred bags (corresponding to each human) stacked up in the racks above. Now there’s an announcement that the doors of the room shall be opened in five minutes from now. What would you do? :

A. Remain seated for the doors to open.
B. Stand up, squeeze yourself into the little standing-space with others, pick up your heavy bag, and keep hitting yourself and others with elbows and bags.

Most of those who travel by plane between Bangalore and Mumbai choose option B immediately after the plane lands. Those who sit at the window-seats, stand with bent backs and hit their heads against the rack above. Sad part is that they don’t reach the airport any sooner than those who choose option “A”. The bus that takes the passengers to airport doesn’t differentiate based on caste/gender/common-sense-level.

Don’t let the opportunity slip by, to make eye-contact with those who stand, next time you are on board. They would be embarassed at their troublesome situation, but their ego won’t allow them to sit back.

2. If you have a friend who constantly complains of honking on road while he drives, before you sympathize, please check which lane is his favorite. Driving safely is a virtue. But driving at 40km/hr in the rightmost lane is a crime in a country like India where the square-feet road per head is agonizingly low. Sit with your friend while he drives and if he is of the safe-but-drives-in-right-lane kind, point out the five-cricket-pitches of distance between his and the next car ahead. That is the amount of national real estate he wastes every times he takes his vehicle on the road. And if a white Santro takes over from the left side, honking incessantly as if to punish your friend, say “Hi” to the driver and I shall wave my hands too.

Take your friend to a park where an entire bench is rendered useless because a couple is sitting at its corner, indulging in activities that better be carried out somewhere else. Such abuse of public property should not be tolerated and hence your friend should drive in the left lane.

3. This third point is probably taking intolerance too far. I am a sucker for Andhra-food and eat a lot of rice despite not being from east or south India. However, most of my last ten years have been spent in these very parts of India. This means I have spent a lot of time looking at people eating rice, mostly with hands. Here’s a tip for them to increase their efficiency.

Do not try to wipe your plate clean to the last grain of rice if you are going to take the next helping in the same plate. Do it only in your last serving. Once you notice that the rice in your plate needs replenishment, go and help yourself with more before your run your hands to every corner of the dish. If you are hell-bent on not letting a single grain go waste, let me assure you that the amount of rice you eat remains the same even if you clear the last grain of rice only in your last serving. So no food gets wasted and you do the hard work only once and not thrice (if you took 3 servings).

Another related observation, applicable to whole of India and the world population in general, is the way non-vegetarian food with bones is consumed. Contrary to the economic principle of diminishing marginal returns, the last bits of flesh stuck to the bones are pursued with extreme effort and greed. One sees a lot of teeth and forks involved once the piece of chicken is 99% consumed. To the naked eye, the difference would have gone unnoticed, had someone removed the two grams of crumbs before serving the piece.

But I guess eating up the last bits has its joys. The “diminishing marginal returns” principle doesn’t apply in this case, much like the way one values the last days of a long holiday much more than the initial ones.


Preeti Shenoy said...

:) Rightly observed. Have no idea why people keep standing inside the plane. In UK I have noticed people have more respect for 'personal space' and are so much more polite and nicer. Even in queues there is a very respectable distance (almost like the distance you describe in point two which when it comes to queues you'll agree is a good thing) Does it have anything to do with population and numbers? I wonder.

Eating rice--many people (when poverty was common and rice was scarce) have been brought up saying that they should not waste even a single grain of rice as that might be the grain which holds your luck and your fortune to riches.
(Now we know why you didn't win that million dollar lottery, Prashant) :)


Hopeless Romantic said...

I totally agree with first point, i have seen people making a hush as soon as the planes landed, as it they would reach hours early to the airport, its totally disrespectful.

PDA at public parks has still not reached unmanageable proportions back in India, so i would go with it as of now :P


Stillness Speaks said...

I so totally agree with you. I guess people have been on board long enough that the moment they see an opening they feel if they don't make a rush for it, the doors will close again and they will be trapped for life. No one waits for no one else! Which is queer.

In the US they maintain a great distance between 2 cars and here you'd find many vehicles (read two wheelers) cramped in that little a space. Three extra passengers on board, just goes to show how much punch we want to pack in so little a space!

Food. Yea.. In a way it's nice we've been taught to not waste food. Which is nice when we compare ourselves to our western counterparts!

AJ said...


Unfortunately, I come in this "indisciplined category"... :D

1) I too stand up n try to be the first to get out of the plane!! :)) (or movie hall)!! Reason being, its my habit that I cant remain seated in any place for more than 30-40 mins... (and that includes my work place too) :P

2) When my boss came from US, and while driving on Pune streets, he suggested me , "drive withut honking even once, lets see how far u go!" ,guess what, I lost the challenge, in first 5 min itself.. Impossible maahn!

3) About rice, I agree to what Preeti said!!.. :P , but if u r having andhra special (pappu (*daal) or perugu) dont wait for last grain to clear, ur hands will get dry by then... :D

but these r all the things which we dont observe commonly!!!... apan jaise Vella log chiye.... :D


Anonymous said...

This was an awesome choice of topic(s)!!!

I belong to (A) in (1). But if every one were an (A)the world would be too courteous. They would go all pehle aap pehle aap!
Right lanes sloths...Argh!!!
& Rice eating!?! ROFL!!!!
Have seen it my friend and it ain't a pretty sight :))

AJai said...

Buddy, you trying for an ISO 9001/CMM level 5 award in personal conduct/behaviour? You'd make a great evaluator for sure. ;)

BrownPhantom said...

Your guess might be right.Population has its part to play. I'll check with someone in China or Japan.

I don't object to eating the last grain. Just that it must be done in the last serving. No point cleaning the same plate thrice :).

But yes, I never win even the housy/tambola, let alone the lotteries :).

Thank you so much.

BrownPhantom said...

More than disrespectful, I find it funny and slightly foolish :).

About the PDA in parks, it has reached the level sufficient enough to scare me away from those benches :).

Thanks a lot :).

BrownPhantom said...

@Stillness Speaks,
I would understand if ppl make a rush when the door opens. But why do they make themselves uncomfortable five minutes before that is something that I fail to grasp :).

Thanks :).

God help you :)
Yeah, when in Rome, be a Roman. Got to honk. Thanks .

BrownPhantom said...

Good, I knew you are smart :).
And yes, that definitely is not a pretty sight. Thanks :)

Somehow the post has come out looking like I am preaching manners, while in fact my purpose was to point out the inefficiencies :). Thank you and I might edit the post to make my point clearer :).

Satans Darling™ said...

Indians in particular make a fool of themselves especially with the 1st point all around the world. I mean WHY does one need to be in such a hurry! If you're taking off then the plane would take off when every one has boarded in anyway. And when you're about to land, well, the rushing out would not help because the baggage will come down on the conveyor belts at the same time! I don't get this, but find it very funny :D

The sad part about it is that "firangs" refer to all these people generally as Indian. I mean people who are not like that have to bear that name and the blame too.

numerounity said...


For the ideas you pick, for your command on the language...for your presentation..for everything!!

What a comeback! Trust you do not eat ur non veggie this way...heee hee

The plane thing was just right!

Meghana Naidu said...

you know, for a minute there, i actually gave it my full dose of concentration. i thought it was a 'lateral thinking' puzzle.

imagine my confusion when it slowly morphed into a saga of seat-grabbing-rice-eating-honkers.

SNORT-snort-ROFL @ 1.B

MY favorite catch phrase in Bangalore's legendary traffic honkers;

"sorry i cant fly over the vehicles today, you see i left my jet pack at home."

and as always it was
*completely snort worthy*

Megha said...

I think it's our fast daily life that has got into our blood that makes us to hush and hurry even where it's not required. Forget about flight, you'll see it happening everywhere(I mean in India).

Harshita said...

Ahem! Ahem! What an observation...

It is funny in parts though... :)

As for standing in the plane...I am one of the irritating co-passengers who wud never stand up until the doors are completely open and I always take up aisle seat... :D

And abt right lane driving... sometimes I just want to shout it aloud to the slow n lazy guy caressing the steering wheel... ;)

I have been in Andhra for 2 yrs.. ofcourse the food is yummy when u r eating alone.. :D :D if u knw wat I mean...

Shruthi said...

Ah! A come back post. I likes.
That’s one of the reasons why I avoid eating at Andhra mess(s?). You also find people give nasty looks and get nastier when they don’t get whatever they’ve ordered. I once made a mistake of eating Andhra food and vowed never to step inside nagarjuna/nandini type restaurants.

And I do know of a person who drives like that. Sitting in his car is an experience. Such people are not particularly bothered even if you drop a bomb next to them. It’s a bit awkward for others though :P

Hope you had a nice vacation :)

p.s. did you send your story to the contest? published?

BrownPhantom said...

@Satan's Darling,
Yeah, but believe me, I've seen this happen in US too. And the firangs did it :).

Really !! Thank you so much for such kindness :)

BrownPhantom said...

Thanks a lot. Love your snorts :).

Yes, correctly put. Thanks :).

Me too ( abt the aisle sea). Honk, if you can't shout :) Thanks a ton .

BrownPhantom said...

Yes, but the food is great :).
Trip was great, thanks for asking :).
I'll put the story on the blog as soon as it is done; haven't had the time to start even. Though I have the idea, but putting it in 250 words would be a challenge perhaps :).

Indyeah said...

coming back to read this:))
feeling sleepy right now:)

Rahul Anand said...

Standing inside a plane/train when there are a few minutes for the doors to open is indeed a useless exercise unless one is tired of sitting. Nevertheless, people do it all the time. Good observation

Pesto Sauce said...

Thats the way I eat chicken...using bones as tooth brush

Seems you getting a good idea of Jamgalore...thats what the city has become

Indyeah said...

Prashant your brand of humour/sarcasm/lets coin a new term forit rocks!:D:D

Scenarion 1:- I belong to category A :)

Scenario2 tell me about it..yeah I KNOW such ppl personally...and no I dont want to be so safe that life passes me by while I grow old waiting for the damn light to Change

And if a white Santro takes over from the left side, honking incessantly as if to punish your friend, say “Hi” to the driver and I shall wave my hands too.

LOL!! now THAT was humour:) slipped in ever so gently:D:D

I agree about the ric eating(or any otehr'eating' for that matter) and non-veg stuff..
actually come to think of it..any food should be eaten properly(translated to mean that it shouldnt turn me off food for the rest of my life)

and I expect this courtesy only in the circles one moves in cities..
that is to say educated urbane...
not asking for the moon is one?:/

love how you randomly choose points from life and make a post out of it..and that too one that drives home the point in such a manner!:)

Grayquill said...

I want to argue the diminishing returns priniple on bones. It is quite the opposite as the most flavor comes from the meat next to the bones. ie. ribs.
Second I am quite concerned about how your mind works. Do others say you are a little crooked?
Oh well... I loved reading your blog and if it was a stright line I would not have had the many laughs. For that I thank you.

numerounity said...

Sigh...Tsch tsch...

but all the best for winning

Shanu said...

Hilarious!! And awesome observations!

BrownPhantom said...

Yes that is a more appropriate name :)

Yes, that is a contributing factor, but I am sure that ppl wud continue doing that even if the last bit stpo being the tastiest .
In real life, I am an agonizingly straight line :).

@Ekta & Shanu,
Thanks :).

BrownPhantom said...

Wow, You ARE a voracious writer :).
Thank you so much for the appreciations and time. I am humbled beyond the limits :).

tarjeta r4 sdhc said...

Rightly observed. Have no idea why people keep standing inside the plane.
i have seen people making a hush as soon as the planes landed, as it they would reach hours early to the airport, its totally disrespectful.