|Will this sign keep hungry people from their brunch? Holey Bread, Dhaka.|
Dhaka has a great new brunch place: Holey Bread. They started a few months ago with just a bakery, but now have expanded to full-service dining.
A few weeks ago, we were having a peaceful discussion over an omelette and French toast, when an argument started behind us. A foreign couple was really angry that a pair of local guys had taken a table that had just vacated, while they had been waiting patiently by the sign out front (pictured above).
Who is right?
When I moved here, I would have sided with the sign readers. But now I'm not so sure. Generally, signs in Bangladesh are meant to be ignored unless there is a human being enforcing them. Bangladesh takes "you snooze, you lose" to a new level.
Every system breaks down when stressed beyond its intended limit. In Dhaka, that's the norm. The combination of diverse needs, limited regulation, and constant change mean that chaos is perhaps more efficient than a rigid system. At least that's what I tell myself, when stuck in gridlock traffic because vehicles from all four directions decide to go at once--first the cars, then the rickshaws, then the bikes, and motorcycles, and finally the pedestrians who can squeeze through the narrow mazes available.
When a plane lands at the Dhaka airport, the passengers rush out, and only foreigners (and the occasional Non-Resident Bangladeshi who doesn't know better) pay attention to the signs explaining in which line you belong in immigration. Recently I've realized that the "VIP and crew" line is usually the shortest, so I opt for that one. Unless there's a shorter one, there is.
I used to wonder why people didn't just obey the signs. But now I wonder, why would they? It's kind of amazing, when you think about it, that signs are an effective form of control anywhere. That takes huge self-regulation! Think about it: people have to learn what the sign means, buy into the importance of obeying it (either for their own benefit or to avoid the consequences of not obeying it), and then voluntarily do so. When everyone does so, the system runs smoothly--this is why traffic lights and stop signs actually can control traffic in some parts of the world. They can't in others.
So who got the table?
The couple following the sign, in this case. Holey Bread is committed to providing diners with a peaceful ambiance, and having incoming customers wait at a respectful distance is part of that.
I'm betting that within a month they have a guy standing by the sign to enforce it. And if they don't, I won't be naive enough to wait there when a table opens up!
Update from our last visit: they've gotten a bigger sign. We got there early enough that we could get the table of our choice without waiting :)