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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Session Timeout
Fred Flintstone

Fred was pretty fed up with seeing the “Session Timeout” message appear on the screen after spending two hours assisting his friend Barney complete an online visa application to Fred’s home country. For most computer nerds, and Fred is probably one of them, “Session Timeout” means a significant period of time without keyboard activity, this to protect against third-party access when the user steps out for coffee. The dozen or so Session Timeouts that had already occurred were inexplicable since Fred and his cohort had been pretty busy at the keyboard. Fred was beginning to understand why the going price for services in bedrock to complete this new visa application is 11,000 rubles ($350).

And “Save,” which the online application invited them to do regularly, a fine suggestion, wasn’t working for them. This meant that, if, say, Barney did not remember the exact date, down to the day of the month, he attended college thirty years ago, there is no timeout to call mom – Do Not Pass Go, Go Directly to Session Timeout, Pay $350 to Visa Service Provider. Fred and Barney both have higher educations, and yet they still had barely completed half the application before the last Session Timeout. So much for the “75-minute time burden” stated on the online application.

Fred also hadn’t found a cheat-sheet on the embassy website, a sample of the questions that could be used to prepare for the online application beforehand. He finally found a sample on a Hungarian travel website, a fully completed app for one, now certainly well-known, Ramesh Gupta of Mumbai.

Fred was about to give up. Then he recalled that the intro to the visa application had declared it compatible with Internet Explorer 5.0 and Netscape 6.2, which together have an infinitesimal browser market share of less than one percent combined. Did this mean that 21st century web browsers such as Firefox and Safari or even Opera or Chrome wouldn’t work, which would mean that the system was practically inaccessible to a Mac user. Fred can hardly stand to look at a Windows machine, never mind touch one.

Fred’s readers may recall that he chronicled his Zhiguli experiences when he drove one for three years. The Zhiguli, like a Windows PC, is simple, parts are cheap, it’s easy to repair (which is very often necessary) and there are plenty of experienced mechanics around. Years ago Fred became a Mac-addict, and Bedrock residents are finally getting around to switching as well. They are also buying modern automobiles, like Fred’s Nissan, which starts every time, and has run with practically no maintenance for four years.

Barney found a PC with Internet Explorer, and sure enough, “Save” worked. After each section, Barney saved and moved on, but it still took another two hours to complete the visa application.

Fred sat through the last questions, those that have been added to trip up the bad guys; does the applicant run prostitutes, is a money launderer, participates in torture, political assassinations or genocide, or even defaulted on secondary school loans. Fred wonders why the application requires dates down to the day, such as when the applicant started college.

Fred is proud of his country, and marvels at its norm of efficiency. Life’s tasks, like a bank deposit or a laundry drop off, which take minutes back home, take hours in Bedrock, not even accounting for travel time. The new visa form surprised Fred.

Expats complain about visa problems when they come to Bedrock, but maybe this is because many don’t often need a visa to travel; the process is fairly efficient, and courtesy and common sense usually prevail. It takes about ten minutes to fill out a visa application at a consulate, and this can practically be done standing in line. It’s paper and pen. The spaces provided to list “Other Countries Visited” or “Dates of Previous Visits” are miniscule, but the consul officers are not too fussy about details, never mind precise dates. It reminds Fred of an old anecdote about Fred’s government having spent $10 million to develop a pen that could write in space; in Fred’s current country of residence a cheaper solution was found – a pencil.

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