Touted as another time-saving device and bastion of efficiency, the new E-Gate system for resident card holders is now out of its experimental phase and has been brought fully online for mainstream use at Muscat International Airport.
How to use it? Simple!
Insert your resident's card into the machine - just like the picture that is taped to it.
Walk through the glass barrier when it opens.
Stop in the middle and turn to your right to face the "interrogation" screen. It's quite friendly and it even has a picture of a hand, telling you which finger to put onto the sensor to be scanned.
Then, when the machine has decided that you are who your resident's card claims you to be, it opens the second set of glass doors and you are free to go, with a cheery "Thank you" from the machine.
However, just like the parking ticket dispensers with, oh my God, no buttons!....a certain requirement has been overlooked: an IQ above 100.
I recently came in off a flight and having landed, I got chatting with a guy from Europe who was visiting for a few days business in Muscat. We got on the business class bus and disembarked at the terminal, whereupon we saw the Mumbai flight had arrived and he groaned at the visa queue.
"We're in for a long wait!" he said.
With a smug smile on my face, I displayed my resident's card and said "Not me, buddy! I'm off to the E-Gate! Where I just swipe....and go! See ya!"
I arrived at the gate. About twenty people in front of me.
The following occurred for about eighteen of them:
Push card into machine, except put in it upside down, completely ignoring the photo-guide.
Watch in horror as the machine goes beep.
Push it in again. This time a bit harder because that always works, doesn't it?
Have a stunted conversation with the Immigration guy about the machine not working and then finally either through blind luck or someone else's charity, put card in the right way.
Walk through the glass doors, fuming, and then walk straight into the opposite glass barrier with enough force to actually lift the machine off the ground.
Take a half step back and try to push your way through again, ignoring the voice from the machine that is trying to get your attention.
Look in utter incomprehension at the Immigration guy again as he points, for the thousandth time that day to the fingerprint scanner.
Look at the screen.
Bend at the waist and squint at the information on it, again ignoring the aural instructions.
Fumble around in your bag for your glasses, then drop them, and bash your head on the side of the display panel as you retrieve them.
For at least ten seconds, so it really sinks in, stare at the picture of the thumb being shown on the screen and then place your index finger on the scanner, because on your planet, that is where your thumb is.
Ogle quizzically at the screen again as it beeps and tells you that you have made an error.
Ignore the picture of the thumb again and turn to the crowd with a spastic look on your face that says "I should not be allowed to travel anywhere without proper supervision."
Wait for someone with a vastly higher IQ than you, to step forward and, with a tone of voice normally used on high-risk inmates at an insane asylum, show you which digit to place on the scanner.
Only another nineteen folks to go - by which stage, my friend from the bus is already in his suite at the InterCon.
Time taken per person: about 2 minutes for most - apart from the "special" ones who try and smash their way through the barrier and then require knee physio.
OAMC and the rest of you........you need to sit down and actually think these things through!