Service….que?

This post is a nod to John Cleese’s magic and brilliance of Fawlty Towers.
How many Sri Lankans does it take to change a light bulb?
8.I kid you not. There was a power outage on a main road outside Matara after a bus had crashed through some houses’ walls, taking out a major power line, before coming to an abrupt halt in someone’s front garden. There was one person up a ladder looking unremotely like he knew what he was doing, with a serious SERIOUS lack of occupational health & safety awareness. I’m not sure he was even wearing shoes. It only took 7 hours before the power came back on. In the meantime, we were starting to sweat – not from the heat, but from concern with how our beers were going to stay chilled.

We asked how long the train journey is from Kandy to Ella, a particularly beautiful train trek through the tea plantations. Our driver’s face breaks into a half smile and he shrugs casually, as if he is apologising for the state of his country’s train service. “Six and a half hours,” he says. There is a slight pause. “But sometimes it can be a whole day because the train has to climb up the mountains. Sometimes there is a landslide.” Great. I am filled with confidence.

I decide that like most things in Sri Lanka, there is no real urgency to anything, not even if it means throwing an entire city’s population, or a hefty number of tourists, into disarray due to delay.

I can’t be sure if some people working in the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka have absorbed their nation’s colonial background too much; so much that they now model a standard set by Basil Fawlty. Maybe it’s just those who work at one of the outlets around the beach areas. Maybe they got too much sun. Maybe they have been hypnotised by the amount of flesh (see my first post) on display. Yet, I found it difficult to accept the fact that it took FOR-E-VER to get any service, and a further eon to actually be the beneficiary of our order.

Me: Hello, Could we please have 2 teas with milk and one coffee.
Waiter: 2 teas with milk and one coffee.
Me: Yes. Perfect. Thank you.
5 minutes pass. 10 minutes pass. 30 minutes pass. Don’t tell me there’s another power outage.
Waiter [approaches our table]: Sorry madam. The other guy did not understand your order. You want 2 teas with milk and one coffee yes?
Me: Yes. Please.
A further 20 minutes pass before we get our two teas with milk and one coffee.

I finally understand how Bruce Banner feels before he morphs into The Hulk.

I know we’re meant to be on holiday, but the saying “on Sri Lankan time” makes me shudder and my face contorts like I’m agonised. Before heading to Sri Lanka, I knew that things might be a bit slower than what we’re used to. But I wasn’t prepared for just how much slower. I kept wondering what Gordon Ramsey would have to say if he saw how half these kitchens ran – you’d get an episode consisting of a soundtrack of bleeps and it’d make for a very short series.

In the end we adjusted (as you do when travelling). We brought snacks for our 8 year old to tide him over or ordered for him first, and we partook of the Happy Hour(s) menu which ran from 5pm to 10pm. Gold. Ordinarily this would be a costly exercise, but when mojitos, the local Arrack Attack cocktails and a raft of other spirits are only AUD$4, why would you not? The irritation from terribly slow service is numbed and all is right with the world again. If only Happy Hour was 24-7.

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