Of Queues and Randomness

Imagine this, you booked an appointment at the doctors’ and landed up there on time, only to find out that they are accepting walk-ins and hence, you need to wait until the current set of customers have been attended to. After all, they have been waiting for a long time, right? Wrong!

It has happened to me twice now, once at Manipal Hospital in Bangalore and again, at a private clinic in Kerala. I made an appointment with a doctor, got there on time, only to find myself waiting for an hour or more because of walk-ins. To begin with, you either should not accept appointments and if you do, you should not accept walk-ins. I don’t know about others, but I feel offended by this behaviour, in particular. It really does not work when you try to straddle both the worlds. The excuse the receptionist and sometimes, even the sheepish doctor makes, is that the walk-ins are more than the appointments and the appointment timing requests vary randomly. When there are breaks in appointments and the walk-ins show up at the door, we attend to them and then the appointments get delayed depending on the need, even if the person shows up on time, it is simply chaos!

Randomness and “being unplanned” rules! You just land up somewhere and wait around for sufficient time to get in, because visible amount of time spent in the doctor’s lounge seems to be the criteria for getting ahead in the appointment queue. Calling in advance and reaching on time is passe – the new queue has just gone random.

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