Thursday, May 28, 2009

Long Name No Can Say

A few weeks ago when I was buying airline tickets for one of my trips there was a Uyghur couple in line ahead of me. They were having troubles buying a flight for themselves. However, their problem had nothing to do with overbooked flights, conflicting time schedules, lack of cash or any of the other common problems one might anticipate when trying to fly somewhere. The problem started with the guy's name.

Names derived from the national language normally only take up an average of three spaces in the computer. In comparison a full Uyhgur name, (first name combined with the father's name acting as their last name) can be much longer. The computer system at the travel agent's office was equipped to enter a name up to 8 spaces long. This gentleman's name, however, was a whopping total of 10 spaces. The man behind the desk kept insisting he couldn't sell him a ticket. He was denied his right to fly based on the length of his name.

There is a saying here that literally means "there is no solution". Often people say it when a task seems a little difficult or the normal means won't work. Coming from a culture where I have been taught "where there is a will there is a way" or "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again". It is hard to hear over and over, "there is no solution". This seems like an excuse to me, like people are just to resigned to the system to try to figure out new and inventive ways to do things. The longer I live here, the more I hear these same words coming out of my mouth. But the other week I refused to believe their was no solution. The guy working at the office kept trying to dismiss his Uyhgur customer and motion me to the desk. I just sat back and said "Oh no, take your time and find a solution for him first. He is here trying to buy tickets".

Even after 45 minutes the Uyhgur guy left empty handed, cursing and saying he was going to buy a bus ticket (now he has a 24 hour trip instead of just 1h 30m). Poor guy, his name was just too long, he couldn't travel by air.


Anonymous said...

oh, that is too sad for him. Doesnt he have a nickname??? hehehe

Randy M said...

That sucks for that guy. By the way, still reading your blog. Read every one of them.

Meena said...

That is incredibly frustrating and so upsetting! I can't believe he wasn't able to buy the ticket based on such an easily fixable problem. Slowly, slowly things will change, right? Hopefully.