How Difficult Can It Be?

October 5, 2010

Apparently, the answer is: very, very difficult. In fact, it may yet turn out to be impossible.

I went to Manipal Hospital twelve days ago for one of those executive health check packages. I opted to have them courier the reports to my residence. I know it might not have been the best option, considering that we’re never home, but… we do get couriers all the time. They ring the bell, nobody answers, they call you on your cell, you tell them to try the neighbours or drop the letter in the letter box, they do that and go away happy. Or, you co-ordinate a time when they can drop it when you are home. Or, in the worst case, you go to the courier office and pick it up. How difficult can it be?

Last Thursday, one whole week after the health check, I called the hospital to find out when they were planning to send me my reports. “We’ll get back to you,” they said. They didn’t, so on Friday I called again.

“Oh, we sent it out on the 25th,” they said. “Didn’t you get it?”


“Ok, I’ll check and we’ll get back to you.”


“Oh, within an hour or so…”

Three hours later, I called again.

“The courier failed to deliver due to door-lock,” they said accusingly. “The courier person tried to deliver it three times.”

“Weren’t you supposed to call me before couriering it?” I asked. “And how about calling me back in one hour, what happened to that?” All of that was a waste of breath, so I changed tack and came to the solution space. “Can you tell me the name of the courier company and the Airway Bill (AWB) number?”

I got the same runaround again – the “we’ll-call-you-back-in-ten-minutes” runaround. By the time I called them again, I’d had enough, so I screamed at them. I told them I was going to be out of town and they had better deliver by Saturday. It was Friday afternoon already and Saturday was a national holiday, so that was a waste of breath too.

I took up the battle again on Monday. This time, the hospital’s beleaguered health check receptionists hastily put me on to somebody else – a certain lady doctor, Dr J. She let me rant for a few minutes and then said, “Can I speak now?”

“Only if you have something useful to say,” I retorted. She didn’t – though she spoke at great length trying to convince me that she did. She also tried to convince me that the courier company’s failure to deliver was no fault of the hospital’s. “What about your failure to communicate, exemplified by your complete inability to call back in “10 minutes” – or ever?”

“I don’t want to get into an argument with you ma’am,” she said, side-stepping the question. Bah!

“Talk solutions, then,” I said. “At least tell me the AWB number.” She gave me the 10-minute answer yet again and I hung up as frustrated as ever.

Finally, a couple of hours later, somebody called back with the AWB, the name of the courier company, and a phone number. It wasn’t Dr J. It was 1.15 p.m.

I called the number. They gave me another number. I called the other number. Nobody answered. I kept calling until they must have got fed up of the ringing and deigned to answer the phone. Then they gave me the “10-minute” answer. Two hours later, I called another 20 times, to be given – an even better delaying tactic than the 10-minute answer – another number. I called that number. At last – somebody took the AWB number from me and checked something and said: “Your package has gone to Hosur.”


Around 5 p.m. I called one of the many numbers and got somebody on the line who took the AWB and said: “Your package has already been delivered.”

Great, I thought. Maybe they finally dropped it in the letterbox, like I’ve been asking all along. “When?” I asked.

“On 1st October.”

Yeah, like hell it has been delivered on 1st October. Not to me!

“We’ll check and get back to you in…” Yeah, yeah, yeah.

At 6.30, I desperately dialed the number for half an hour, but nobody answered. I decided they must have left for the day, so I called one of the previous numbers, which was a mobile number. I got a ringtone that said “India’s number one courier company.” That really got my blood boiling. When somebody answered, I was all set to explode. I started off calmly, then, when he first tried the 10-minute answer on me and followed it up with yet another number, I blasted like an overdue volcano. I was at home by then, and I could probably have been heard several houses away in each direction. The domestic help must have been quaking in their shoes. Tara came to me with a solicitous query and hurriedly got out of the way when I merely turned to look at her.

All to no avail – I was turned away with yet another number. I had completely lost track of the number of numbers I tried, how many times each, and how many different people I yelled at. But this last number yielded someone who actually had a clue about my package. He didn’t need the AWB number – he knew me by name and address and even knew a landmark close to our home. Ah – the right person, at last. I vented at him too. Why did I never get any notification from the courier boy, informing me that they had not found me at home? Why did nobody call me?

“The package has the wrong mobile number on it,” he explained. “It will be delivered tomorrow before 10.30,” he assured me.

I explained for the nth time that nobody would be home so would the courier chappie, please, pretty please, just drop the infernal package in the letterbox? Please!

He said he would inform the courier chappie to call me.

Yesterday night I was so worn out by a whole day of calling people and screaming at them (it’s not as much fun as it sounds) that it took a whole bar of Bournville Dark to restore a modicum of peace to my countenance. I should bill Manipal Hospital for it. Is it even worthwhile going for a health check at this rate? I’m sure if they ran all the tests on me now, they’d get very different results!

This morning, I resolved that I would not do any more follow-up. I was too frazzled from yesterday. I didn’t want to have to shout at anyone for a long, long time. Well, at least not for a day or two.

At 10.35 sharp, I got a call. “Madam, your package could not be delivered because it was door-lock.”


I was all out of lung power for more screaming, so I just sighed and said with the greatest restraint, “Sweetie, just tell the fellow to drop it in the letter box.”

An hour later, I got another call. This time, it was a smooth, cultured voice speaking impeccable English. This Voice politely told me that they could not possibly drop the package in the letter box because then they would be responsible if it went missing, see? So, could they come and drop it sometime in the evening? In fact, the Voice said, he would come personally to drop it. Around 6.30-6.45 would be ok, ma’am?

I began to wonder whether I had finally become unhinged and started fantasizing about imaginary and impossible solutions to this quandary. Could such things really happen? It was as unlikely as the princess kissing the frog. Is this knight in shining armor real and can he really deliver the goods? On time? In person? And despite a nonexistent doorbell? If I’d known that such a thing were possible, I’d have suggested this right at the beginning.

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