Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A lesson in numerology

Numerology is very important to many people in India, particularly South India. People take letters and convert them to numbers, then the sum is either lucky or unlucky. So it's not at all uncommon for Indians to change their name -- sometimes even just adding a letter -- for a more "auspicious" sum. It makes security namechecks real fun. But that's not what I learned today...

I do all the appointment scheduling for visas here in Chennai, one of the busiest non-immigrant sections in the world. We interview anywhere from 1400 to 1800 applicants per day, depending on the day. So I plug in how many we plan to do of each category per 15-minute period, then applicants make their appointments online. This has a big effect on workload, so I keep an eye on it several times a day.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that one day just wasn't being taken nearly as much as others. This Tuesday. So I began to joke that it was an "inauspicious day" for visas. It turns out that although we opened up 1400 appointments, only about 900 were taken. Now although we have high availability, we don't normally have that disparity.
Today I mention the inauspiciousness to someone, and one of our Indian local staff hears me. "Well," he said, "it's Tuesday." And? "It's Tuesday, and it's the 13th. It's unlucky."
Of course it is.

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