Tuesday, March 27, 2018

taking the citizenship test

Well-placed sources tell me this is question number 234 on the Mexican citizenship test. I will translate it into English for your convenience.

"You are in a hurry. But you need a bottle of mineral water. So, you stop at your local Kiosko.

"There are two cashiers. Seven people are waiting in one line, each holding one or two items. There are only two people in the other line, each looking at his telephone and holding a piece of paper.

"Which line do you join?

"A) The line of two people.

"B) The line of seven people.

"C) It doesn't matter; you are going to be late either way.

"D) Who cares?"

The cynic in me would pick either C or D. But, I know the correct answer from experience based on personal field studies.

The temptation is always to join the shorter line. After all, two people with no merchandise in their hands at a convenience store has to result in quicker transactions than a line of seven people -- all burdened with goodies.

But it is a trick question. There is no certainty, but the seven people will be processed and out of the store before the first guy in the other line is done.

And why is that? Because this is a convenience store, more than goods are sold there. Convenience is. And one of the conveniences in Mexico is the ability to make a myriad of payments at the equivalent of a 7-11 counter. (Or an actual 7-11 counter. The stores are prevalent is certain parts of Mexico.)

Land line telephone bills. Electricity bills. Wiring and receiving money. Additional time for a cell phone. And all matter of other transactions that once were handled by pharmacies in the 50s up north.

There is a high probability the two guys standing in line are buying telephone time. That is why they have their telephones in their hands. For some reason, the purchase of cell minutes can vary from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

But that is only half of the clues in the citizenship question. The other is the piece of paper each holds. It is undoubtedly a list of telephone numbers of family and friends who have asked the intrepid buyer to purchase minutes for them. Those transactions always take a long time. It is like adding an additional seven people in line.

Based on a perfectly unscientific analysis, the seven customers will complete their purchase in 1 minute and 13 seconds. Total. The second of the two cell time buyers will still be at the cashier when the stopwatch creeps past the 5 minute mark.

The answer is B.

The Mexican citizenship test is replete with such cultural questions. And the best way to get the answers correct is to get out there and experience the mysteries of the culture we call Mexico.

While you are in there, could you buy me a package of those Bimbo cinnamon rolls? The ones with the topping.


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