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Our "Queue Discipline", or the Lack of It
1/23/2007 1:31:39 PM

I must admit I learned the queue discipline the hard way in December 1970 when my soon-to-be-hubby and I were waiting for a bus ride in San Francisco back to Berkeley where he was a student. There were a few people, mostly sitting down on the pavement next to the bus idling at the bus stop. Being new here in America at the time, we decided to ask the bus driver if his bus was the one going to where we want to go in Berkeley. When the bus driver confirmed so, we asked if we could pay for our tickets, and since it was almost time for the scheduled departure at that particular bus stop, the driver said yes. We paid for our tickets, boarded the bus and got seated. Seeing that we boarded the bus, the rest of the folks seated on the pavement stood, formed a line and started boarding the bus as well. Well, one of the passengers got enraged that we boarded the bus ahead of him and made sure to let us know that he was one of those who were waiting to board the bus ahead of us! That was an unforgettable lesson which made us learn to ask anyone who appears to be waiting if he/she is waiting in line whenever and wherever we needed to be served.

A few years later, my hubby had a related experience as a field manager at the Department of Motor Vehicles, specifically at the time when the DMV was notorious for its long waiting lines of customers. A Filipina customer requested to speak with my husband, asked if my husband was a Filipino, introduced herself as one related to the vice-governor of an Ilocos province and requested (something like "paki...") my hubby to assist her with her DMV transaction ahead of the many customers waiting in line. Luckily, my hubby was able to get out of this jam by pointing out to the Filipina customer that the restless customers waiting in line would wring the life out of his neck were he to help this "kababayan" ahead of the waiting horde. Of course, this Filipina was one unhappy customer!

I'm simply citing the above experiences because we, Filipinos, have a predilection to eschew ("Bareng macalusot..." or "Baka makalusot...") the queue discipline--and I have a suspicion we didn't learn this from the Americans. I suspect it is indigenous to us as it is enshrined in one unforgettable line in our folklore: "No natibbin, Nanang, badon?" I think this is the same predisposition that drives us to want to leapfrog something we want to do or copy and want to realize instant results without going through the whole shebang.

How, may I ask, can we change or re-engineer this attitude? How do you eradicate "Ang lagay..." when it's so woven practically in every facet of our lives, in our legendary bureaucracy--scaring away some would-be foreign investors? I remember reading in the Los Angeles Times a few years back about some enterprising Filipinos who, for a fee, would pray for anyone for any desired Almighty blessing or dispensation or whatever--just another blatant form of paying (making "lagay") for one's way to heaven or to be in the good graces of the Lord? Do you think installing a "Take a Number to be Served" system or some such thing would help? How are we going to learn to be patient and not short-circuit the system? These, I think, are some of the basic issues we've got to confront head on and I hope to God we could muster the will to do it... But then again, that's wistful thinking...


1/26/2007 8:58:53 PM

While Philippine society does not have monopoly of the "it's not what you know but whom you know" syndrome, we seem to be notoriously reliant on the "padrino" system--just another way to sabotage the queue discipline. Other societies, like in the United States, are less tolerant of this syndrome; however, in the Philippines, it seems we are more prone to countenance it, accept it as a fact of life and it seems we are less likely to raise a voice against it.

2/14/2007 1:27:06 AM

Any updates Ms. Zeny?

Hmmm... here's for everybody:

How many muscles do you need to put up a nice smile?

...was in a queue yesterday on my way back from a quick trip to the Philippines...dun sa first X-ray screening. I tried to help an elderly so I left my PC bag and my 15K luggage behind. Suddenly, the guy behind me unceremoniously put his travelling bags ahead of the lady. I threw him a questioning smile but he seemed unconcerned.

....and the lady? not even a wink I guess.

...then came the long baggage check in line. (blame my tardiness hehehe). I noticed how serious these guys and girls are with their business of making sure that they bleed every excess weight they can from the passengers. I tried to say good morning to the clerk attending to me expecting a smile but helas, didn’t even look me in the eyes!

What’s wrong with this people, I asked myself. Are they really that serious with their work they forget that it costs nothing to smile?

On boarding my plane, a European airline, the ambiance was totally different- all smiles! Of course, we expect that, don’t we? But as I turned to go to the appointed aisle going to my seat, one of the very attentive stewardesses tapped my left shoulder and asked me, all smiles, if ‘she’ liked it. At first, I was puzzled but realized immediately that I asked her counsel for ‘something’ during my flight to the Philippines.

I never expected that she will ever remember me, after more than three weeks.....

I gave her a big nod and of course... a thank you smile.

Next time, I‘ll fly the same airline again!

Ranvylle Albano
2/14/2007 2:38:47 AM

Happy Valentines!!!

Zeny Padre
2/15/2007 10:48:56 AM

VF: I live in a neighborhood close to West Covina (CA) where the original mainstream Filipino restaurant was Goldilocks. Then came Pinoy Pinay. Then came Salo-Salo. Of course, there are a few other Filipino one-restaurant operations among them.

For some reason, I got the impression early on that the Goldilocks "front employees" didn't have adequate customer service training because they seldom smile at the customers when attending to them--very seldom do you see them indulge in "small talk" with the customers in an effort to develop customer loyalty.

I'm not so sure if Pinoy Pinay and Salo-Salo are doing better in the customer service area. However, the last time we were at Salo-Salo, we were lucky to be attended to by someone who had a ready smile and cared to inquire where in the Philippines we came from, and then started to exchange some small talk with us. The dine-in went simply super and we know we'd like to go back there. In fact, the first time we were there last year, we were attended to by another employee who was so pleasant with her smile--she's always ready with a nice greeting when she sees us there even when someone else is attending to us.

To make a long story short, a few months ago Goldilocks in West Covina, CA, relinquished its favored location on the corner of Amar and Azusa (it's now occupied by a major pharmacy) and retreated to an inconspicuous and smaller location in the back of the same strip.

In this day and age, you're right about the power of a simple smile...

Ranvylle: Thanks. Hope that little guy with the bow and arrow did something really, really nice for you, Ading...


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