unexpected protocol failures…

Often in life we make fairly sophisticated protocols, to simplify things and minimise difficulties. Twice I had trouble with apparently harmless protocols – both times with air-travel.

Yesterday evening I landed at Chennai airport. Due to heavy congestion at the arrival area — thanks to airport renovation — the protocol was that the driver will call me after my flight has landed. Once we are on sync on the call, he will bring the car to the pickup area and then I get in. This has worked often, and before even arriving at the exit area, I know he is around due to the call. Yesterday, my phone decided to play a prank. After switching it on after landing, it refused to connect to any network — of course, I did not notice this. I did not get a call, and I could not find my name in the pickup boards being flashed around at the exit area. After some searching, I decided to call up Chennai CDAC to find out the situation. Then I noticed that my phone has no signal. It is an open area, and hence not likely to be lack of signal strength. So waited a while, rebooted the phone, etc — no luck. No network was being recognised. Then I realised the protocol failure – the driver may have been frantically trying to reach me, and I am trying to reach him too. Both are in the airport, and still unable to connect. He may not guess my situation…

After some experimenting, manually changing some setting, etc finally managed to get signal – about 30 min after coming out. I think the driver gave up by this time. I called Chennai office, and asked them to tell the driver that I am waiting outside. Finally, all worked well, and minus the delay no other problems. We are so dependent on the cell phone, the probability of the phone not working or being inaccessible just does not even occur.

The second incident was worse. It was at Ahmedabad a few months back. Like most pickup people do, this driver was to wait with a placard with my name. No cell phone plan. So the protocol was more reliable, it may seem. But airlines make the best testcase scenarios for such cases. I came out of the airport and started looking for the board. There were only a handful of people – so no chance of missing. But the name was not there. I surveyed the entire airport area, including those sitting idly with a board in hand. No luck. I had no idea what to do – I had no contact numbers of the people (trusted the protocol blindly). Then I realised the problem – the display board in the area says the flight is ‘expected’. It is a large board visible even from the car parking area. 30 min after my coming out also the board said the same. For all other flights, the information was getting updated. So, my driver friend may be watching the board and waiting for the flight to land! And to make it worse, after 45min or 1 hour, the board did finally get updated – the flight entry was just removed! So the flight just disappeared into thin air!! Imagine the plight of the driver.

After a lot of chain-calls, finally managed to get some number, and eventually reached the driver about 1.5 hours late!! He said what was expected, he was in the car, looking at the display board.

This is what happens to what appears to be dependable protocols. They collapse in really tragic ways. Life is no different at times, no? Dont take anyone and anything for granted.


One Response to “unexpected protocol failures…”

  1. selva Says:

    Dont take anyone and anything for granted.

    Take home message. 🙂

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