Valuing a flexible week

For the last couple of weeks my wife has taken time off from work, and given that I’m freelancing, we as a couple now have a flexible week. Yesterday, we went shopping. We were at the Bangalore Central store in JP Nagar, and for the first time in a really long time, were able to shop without bumping into fellow-shoppers every other moment. My wife didn’t have to wait endless hours in the queue just to get into the trial rooms (yeah, this happens at large format apparel stores on weekends). We shopped at Food Bazaar sub-store, and could take our time in deciding what to buy, without sharing aisles with other shoppers. The checkout counter was empty, ABSOLUTELY EMPTY, and we had an extremely peaceful experience there. It was an awesome day of shopping.

There are certain things that are done so much easier on weekdays than on weekends. Shops are significantly less crowded. If you have to get work done in government offices, you are better off going there on a weekday than on Saturday (when there are more consumers, and the employees are pissed off at the end of a long week). You don’t need to book cinema tickets hours before. Restaurants aren’t crowded. If you go for a day trip, you can expect your destination to not be flooded with other tourists. Of course, there are activities which are so much easily done on weekends rather than on weekdays – this involves anything that involves driving across the city in “peak traffic” hours.

So it’s clear that the “flexible working week” that I have provides some intangible value. Of course, since my wife doesn’t have a flexible week, we as a couple don’t always get to enjoy my flexible week, but leave that aside for now. What I’m trying to understand is the extra value that I”m getting thanks to my having a flexible week, and if I can put a number on it.

One way I can think of valuing my flexible week is in terms of optionality. I’ve listed down some of the advantages of doing certain things on a weekday. Maybe I can quantify the value of each of them? Maybe the value of the time I save by not standing in a queue at a checkout counter? The economic value of buying more and better clothes because I can shop peacefully? The additional value I get by having the picnic spot to myself rather than sharing it with a hundred others. The option value of being able to walk into a movie hall and buy tickets a minute before the show. And so on. And all this multiplied, of course, by the probability of my wanting to do each of these activities. Sounds right?

Of course, I’m talking about a flexible week here, and not about a week where you have weekly holiday on a weekday, like my wife had earlier this year. Thanks to some power supply issues, the local electricity distribution company mandated different weekly holidays for heavy industries in different parts of the city, thanks to which my wife had her weekly off on Wednesdays. And they were among the two most disorienting months I’ve been through. We were unable to do all those things that we would have normally done on weekends (and which are more advantageous to be done on weekends). I couldn’t do a full day of work on Saturday to compensate for not working on Wednesday. And I would try to work on Wednesday but wouldn’t be able to because my wife had her weekly off that day. It was absolutely mindfucking.

So yeah, maybe the next time someone asks me how much I”m making as a freelancer, I must include the “value of a flexible week” in the number I tell them!

Going postal over verification

Sometime in the recent past, I had to go to the post office to claim some money (some deposit my late mother had made there). As in other government offices, they needed my “address proof and ID proof” before they gave me the money. While my driving license was enough proof of identity, they being the post office got their address proof in a unique manner. They asked me to write down my address in some form, and sent a letter to that address. All I had to do was to produce that letter the next time I went there and my address had been verified.

So here’s how I’d adapt this process relative to the UID Aadhaar card.

  • When you apply for Aadhaar, you apply simply with an ID proof. Address proof not required. You simply fill in an address in the required column.
  • The Aadhaar organization sends a letter to this address. You need to pick up this letter and go to the office again, and now your address is “verified”.
  • Now that your address is “verified”, your unique ID is now mapped to this address (note that this function need not have an inverse)
  • If you change residence, all you need to do is to go to the Aadhaar office and submit a new address. They send a letter to this new address which you pick up and take to them, and thus “verify” this address. Now your ID is mapped to this new address. Aadhaar can charge a fee for this “address change” service.
  • The next time you need to prove your address somewhere, you go to the Aadhaar office and ask for an “address proof certificate”, and it can be a simple automated process for them to produce a printout verifying the address you’ve registered with them.
Now, you need an address proof to apply for Aadhaar (if I understand it right), in order to prove that you exist. I understand that a lot of people, especially at the bottom of the social strata, don’t have a proof of address, and that is holding up the spread of the UID process. And I also realize that this address proof requirement is so that the same person cannot have more than one UID card. Isn’t there any other way to prevent duplicate issuance of the UID? What does the Income Tax department do in order to prevent multiple PAN accounts?
If this duplicate problem is fixed, then Aadhaar-as-address-proof will simplify several of the problems we currently have. All that needs to be done is to “go postal” for verification!