There was a time when the family doctor came over, shoved a spoon in your mouth, made you gag, gave you some ghastly-tasting medicine and then spent an hour talking to your parents. Often, there was no fee because he was a friend and you got better anyway and all you remember is that he carried a black bag with a clasp.
Now, you take appointments. And the old chumminess has vanished. Which is fine for medical science but when it spills over into other spheres then we are looking at big trouble.
I am at friend's place in Europe spending the day and he has a plumbing problem. Now, a plumbing problem in our part of the world is solved by just ringing up the plumber and he comes along, you haggle over the price, he takes a wrench and does what he has to and that's it.
Not so in the West. You have to get an appointment first. So the day is spent something like this:
'Ajax Plumbers, how may I help you?'
"Our main kitchen pipe is leaking."
'Do you have a reference number?'
"Yes, it is K654YT."
'One moment please, I am getting you on the computer, are you on our frequent user reward programme, may I recommend that you sign on, it gives you many privileges including lounge facilities at several airports and you can also be eligible for our take-a-break vacation promotion.'
"Thanks, but talking about breaks, can we just get the leak fixed?"
'It isn't that simple, according to your dossier...'
"My what..." 'Your dossier, your file, it shows negligence, you haven't had your four-month plumbing servicing done now for eight months.'
"I am sorry about that, see I was traveling and..."
'I am sorry, Sir, that would mean higher premiums on your long-term contract, otherwise we cannot be responsible for the state of your plumbing and according to clause 9, para 4 sub clause IVC our obligations are rescinded.'
"So, what do we do now, the leak is causing us to shut the mains off and we have no water going anywhere, it is an emergency."
'We have a 50 per cent emergency surcharge and if you will give us your credit card number and accept these conditions I will feed the symptoms into the computer.'
"Yes, yes, yes, I accept, whatever, take my card number."
'Please wait, Sir, I have to get clearance for your credit rating.'
"Can I cry?"
'That is your prerogative, Sir, now, please respond to the following questions: When did you first notice the symptoms, is the faucet area affected, have the walls got damp imprints, is there any hissing sound, is the water muddy coloured, are the pipes suffering from multiple leakage?'
My friend gives the answers.
'According to our initial diagnosis, your pipes are affected by mildewusfungitis and there are suspicions of metal fatigue leading to multiple fractures, did you try self medication because we have a strict warning against amateur repair works, it puts the whole system in danger.'
About here you get the first heaving sob.
"I am sorry, forgive me, can you save my plumbing?"
'Do you want to do it via teleplumbing or does your insurance cover house calls?'
"Anyway at all, can you just get on with it, please, please, my plumbing is in critical condition."
'I can give you an appointment for July 8, 2001, with our Resident Chief plumber (Pipes) but if you have a drainage problem then we'll have to refer you to a specialist and that would mean you'll have to fill out a special form and also furnish us with your plumbing history and the house plans for damage assessment, excuse me, do I hear the sound of sobs?'
"Yes." And little gasps.
'Yes. What's wrong?'
"I am having a stress seizure, if that's fine by you, I want to call my doctor."
'Ajax medical clinic, how can I help you?'
"I am not well."
'Do you have a reference number?'
See what I mean, no difference!
Article by Bikram Vohra
Courtesy: Gulf Today