The junior

(The term "junior" is used by graduates and undergraduates to refer to someone in a academic batch below/behind them.)

It was a bit of a rainy day. I had decided to turn on my Uber app as usually on days like this, the price of an Uber ride goes up. This is called surge pricing. Some customers have later asked me if Uber increases the prices during rainy times. But there is no such thing, it's a simple matter of demand and supply. Although there should be an algorithm that defines how far the rate per km goes up by, what happens on a rainy/busy day is that every one ends up getting taxis, creating a demand more than the usual.

I got my first hire soon after I turned on the app. The customer was on the other side of the road and unfortunately for me, this meant I had to drive about a kilometer further down to turn around. I tried calling the customer and he did answer my call. Fortunately given the circumstance and unfortunately for me, this meant that I had to go around and come back.

I picked up the passenger. We started chatting about the weather and inevitably about the traffic. Public transportation in SL was the next natural topic to step in to.
"Even this taxi thing, it doesn't really help. My car currently carries just two people. But takes so much of space."
"That's true. The monorail project might help a bit. There is a lot of traffic coming from Battaramulla, Malabe side to Colombo" my customer optimistically said.
"Yes the monorail project. Well, I don't know. There is no ending date set for it right?", I wasn't so optimistic about it at all.
"Well the piling is supposed to start on.." my customer all of a sudden started spelling out a stream of dates of the monorail project. As far as the general public knew, this was supposed to be a project that took around four years to get done and no one really knew any more information about it.
"Are you working on the monorail project sir?", I asked cautiously.
He smiled. "Yes I am an engineer in the project. We just started doing some assessments for piling."
"Ah ok", I smiled back.  
There was a few seconds of a silence before I asked my next question. "You've been working for a long time sir?"
"No no. I just finished my degree few months ago and started working here."
"Moratuwa?" I asked.
"Yes, yes. Moratuwa." - This was short form for University of Moratuwa. Among the students of state universities it was common to call the universities by the city they are based in or even in shorter forms.
"You did Civil I suppose sir?", I asked inadvertently.
"Yes, related to Civil", now it was my customer who was pausing. "You know someone from there?"
"Ah... erm... yes. I used to go there."
My customer seemed to be even more puzzled by the way I phrased it and the possible connotation it had.
"Are you from university of Moratuwa?" now he was being cautious.
"Yes sir", I replied smiling. "A long time ago."
"Oh my god!" he started laughing. "You are one of my seniors and you are calling me sir?" This was beyond belief for anyone in the local university culture.
I smiled back, "You are my customer now sir, that's ok".

After a few more questions and answers, we both managed to get back in to normal conversation. By that I mean a long chat about traffic flow computation, automated traffic control, final year projects of university students that don't go anywhere after that, sonar based soil analysis and eventually the monorail project.

After a long drive, I waved him off. This was going to be a trip both of us would remember.


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