We’re All Anguilla Now

Times are interesting, and only bound to get more wooly. While this blog has been on an unofficial hiatus, one part of Douglas Coupland’s piece in the Globe and Mail (“A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years”) caught my eye enough to demand a personal anecdote in support of his conclusions:

7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores

In Mexico, if one wishes to buy a toothbrush, one goes to a drugstore where one of every item for sale is on display inside a glass display case that circles the store. One selects the toothbrush and one of an obvious surplus of staff runs to the back to fetch the toothbrush. It’s not very efficient, but it does offer otherwise unemployed people something to do during the day.

A couple of years ago, Ashley and I were living in Anguilla, a British protectorate in the Caribbean. It’s a small island with a similarly diminutive population and economy. At one point we had to visit the immigration office to get appropriate documentation added to our passports to allow me to work. At the door, we were greeted by an immigration employee who instructed us to sit in the chairs until we were called. There was no one else in the office, but we did as we were told.

Despite the lack of other patrons, we waited for ten minutes until a second employee called us up to the counter. She asked us a few questions and eventually asked for us to provide our passports. When we surrendered our passports, the second employee handed them to a third employee, who dutifully noted our passport numbers in a large, leatherbound ledger.

Keep in mind that this was, by all accounts, rush hour in the immigration office and we were the only patrons. One couple being served by three separate employees for a single transaction.

At the time, I thought it was a unique incident; however, ever since returning to North America I’ve noticed similar patterns with increasing regularity. Whether it’s the DMV, customs, and even areas of the private sector, the pattern of surplus labour leading to invented jobs and weirdly inefficient processes has become inescapable. In my eyes, we’re all Anguilla now.

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