Monday, January 25, 2010

The case of the missing seat

In one of Sherlock Holmes' stories, I forget which one, he tells a visitor to his apartment that he knows that before taking the train to London, the visitor sat on the right hand side of a horse-carriage with one missing mudflap driven through the roads of some county etc etc etc. I forget the details but you get the picture. The vistor is astounded and wonders if Holmes followed him. In response, Holmes explains that it was just logical deduction since only the right side of the man's coat had tiny spots of mud etc etc etc. At the end of the explanation, both Watson and the visitor marvel at the genius of Holmes.

But I have a case which would stump even Holmes. There is absolutely no way Holmes could deduce my seat number on the bus from Dar-es-Salaam to Morogoro. In fact he could not even guess which side of the bus I sat on - even if I showed him my bus ticket with seat number 42 printed on it. Why? Elementary, my dear Watson! There was no seat number 42 in that bus. 40 yes. 41 yes. 43 yes. 44 yes. But no 42. I searched for it everywhere. I walked up and down the aisles thrice in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive 42. But no, there was just no sign of it. So I alighted from the bus and told the driver,conductor and their cronies, who were contently sipping some tea near the bus that there was no seat 42. So where should I sit? They seemed annoyed that I disturbed them during their period of rest for such a flimsy reason. "Sit anywhere, the bus is half-empty as you can see," was the retort.

So I boarded the bus again and sat on a seat which seemed empty and hoped that no one would board the bus on the next stop who had that seat. Of course at the next stop, only one person boarded that bus and he had been assigned the seat that I was sitting on. So I moved to the other side of the aisle. And to prove that Murphy's law was working overtime, at the next stop, I had to move again because my current seat had been assigned to the person who boarded there. By this time, I was slightly irritated and decided that I would not move again and just have the bus conductor solve the problem. Of course, after my firm resolve not to move, there were no more stops and the bus reached Morogoro without event.

So my dear Holmes, there is no way your extraordinary powers of logical deduction and reasoning could conclude what seat I sat on, because I myself don't know the answer. And what happened to seat number 42? Was it a seat-sign painter's mistake or was the seat abducted by aliens since everyone knows that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. We will never know!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


When I had started writing this blog, I had promised myself something. 72 virgins? No! It sounds appealing but could be somewhat of a logistical nightmare, plus it would not go down well with my wife; so I just promised myself something simpler - that my blog would not be a personal diary. But some events occurred over the last 2-3 months which I wanted to capture before my already failing memory became more fuddled. So this is my attempt to build a time-capsule for myself. Maybe in a few years from now, I will read this again and relive it all over again. Also, for my few friends who actually waste their time reading the useless drivel that I churn out every now and then, maybe it will provide a glimpse of what I was doing in the last 2-3 months.

On Thursday, Nov 12, I got an email from my manager's manager saying that he wanted to set up a call with me on Nov 13. For some reason, I was quite sure that it was regarding my promotion which I had been trying to avoid for the last few years for the very simple reason that my salary would go down if I got promoted. Yes, that is a strange compensation structure. Anyway, I spent some time on thursday thinking up arguments on how best to present my case. But the call that came on Nov 13 had nothing to do with my promotion. I had picked up the phone and had just said 'Hello', when my manager's manager told me that I was being laid-off and Nov 13 was my last day of employment. A large chunk of people from my department were laid-off that day, including my manager (which explained why my manager's manager had to do the unpleasant call) as part of a general reduction in force.

For some strange reason, I did not feel upset about it. In fact I felt no emotion at all. Maybe it was a consequence of knowing that it was only a matter of time before my number was up and the sputtering economy was going to get me. But atleast now, some day I can proudly boast to my kids and grand-kids that I lost my job during the big recession of the late 2000s.

The next thing I did that day was look up tickets to Tanzania and India. Within 36 hours, I had booked my tickets. I left for Tanzania in a week and there in commence the interesting parts of my narrative.