Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ten Men Workin'
Whenever I read a dire neo-con op-ed rant concerning the dangers of a More Powerful China (usually with an arrestingly original title such as "The Sleeping Dragon Awakes," "Tickling the Dragon's Tail," "Dragon Rising," or maybe "Nudging the Grumpy Drowsy Vampire Panda" - nah, I made that one up) I wonder if these pundits have actually seen how it really works here. Or doesn't work. Or sort of works. As in, I'm supposed to fret about a menacing world power that doesn't even have the infrastructure to deliver and install an air conditioner efficiently?
More than a month ago, C ordered an air conditioner that was:
1. On sale;
2. A bargain because the sale supposedly only lasted one day.
No 2 was revealed as a blatant lie when she returned a week later to complain in person that it hadn't been delivered and installed (multiple phone calls were to no avail) and found the same model still "on sale" and was told by another clerk that the sale was only for that day.
Complaints to clerks and managers resulted in not much at all because of what is commonly explained to me as the "saving face" factor. Loosely translated: no one wants to take responsibility in case they fail the mission and lose face. I know that Chinese are historically justified in their fear and suspicion of Japan (except when it comes to Japanese cell phones, cars, porn and cameras) but they might do well to take a cue and simply suck it up and learn to save face after losing it by publicly apologizing and then, in extreme circumstances, killing themselves.
Which is what I began fantasizing about after listening to her end of the umpteenth phone call followed by an explanation that we had to hang around the apartment all day on the remote chance that either the air conditioning service people or magic electrical appliance fairies would miraculously appear to make everything right.
It all came to a head on Sunday when she got a call at 9am from, not fairies, but a delivery guy who first said they wouldn't be there because it was raining and, after prolonged negotiations, caved but wanted to know what bus to take to get to the apartment.
"Ask your boss!" she told him. "I don't know. And I am not paid to know."
It's moments like that when I fall in love all over again.
"These guys are hauling an air conditioner and compressor on a bus to get here?" I asked. "Don't they have a delivery truck?"
"This is China. This is how China works," she replied.
"So if Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao decides to 'deliver' a ballistic missile to, say, Silcon Valley, or more likely Taiwan, they are going to use a bus or maybe a fishing boat?"
"Maybe a fishing boat," she said.
Four hours later, just as she was telling me I was a "naughty, naughty cowboy" and "too big" and tying me up with silk scarv...wait, that's a different blog, anyway I mean, as we were about to give up and leave for lunch the doorbell rang. It was the delivery men with about 112 cubic feet of cardboard, hoses and tool bags.
Chaos ensued as I, a man who counts changing a lightbulb or a roll of toilet paper as a major engineering feat especially when done by myself, retreated to the bedroom with a book. I can bear the sight of blood, but the sight of someone actually installing home appliances gives me the kind of heebie jeebies that only years on a shrink's couch might explain. Maybe it's the memories of my father wrestling with hammers and wrenches as if they were pit vipers, but it's something I can barely bring myself to witness.
Drills, hammmers, clatter of all kinds continued for hours. Occasionally I'd peek out to see C instructing masterfully.
Finally silence. She opened the bedroom door and asked if I had 10 yuan as she only had 100 and the guys had no change.
"What's it for? A tip or something?" (Astute China hands will quickly realize the ridiculousness of that guess, as tipping has yet to penetrate China.)
"No it was for more hose. They didn't bring enough. But it's a bargain. If we want a receipt it's 20."
I didn't even ask but silently handed her a soiled, tattered blue 10 yuan bill.
She smiled wryly as she took it and started to say something. I cut her off gently..
"I know. I know. 'This is China. This is how it works.'"
She laughed. "You are learning."
Almost like taken out of our deliver-the-new-washing-machine-as-planned-woes from the last 10 days. Strangely enough we don't live in China. Scary.

I look forward to more entries from/about the new, and now cooler, Justin.
did anyone check to make sure they didn't install it upside down? did they crack yer window drilling the hole to put the tubing through?

just some 'points to ponder.'
Great post. I hope that you guys weren't living AC-less up to this point b/c the weather has been killing me during my brief forays out of our apartment block and I am running the ac + dehumidifier round the clock at home.
We have AC in the bedroom and a study/second bedroom but yer right, it was hell in the living room (and kitchen) until we got this one installed.
I could stand about 10-minutes tops before dissolving into a one celled sweaty pulp mass and retreating into one of the other rooms.
Today's Shenzhen Daily reported in one of its news blurbs that an AC guy died after falling 18 stories while installing the AC machine. It said his rope broke, but I have see plenty of guys walking out on the ledges of the service shafts without any rope.
I didn't post this part, but I did watch the guy working on the ledge briefly. He had a rope and a kind of makeshift caribiner, so makeshift that I feared for his safety but decided since they'd made our lives so miserable I'd just hide out in the bedroom and listen for the scream and thud if he fell 20 floors.
well, the "china rising" thing has been promoted by US businesses as a que to bow down to china and make beijing happy so US businesses can increase their market access. Well, amcham sucks.

Anyway, Justin if you were in Denver you'd be baking under the heat lamp we've had for a week. 112 F on sunday. Thank goodness we have no humidity.
I always got a kick out of watching window cleaners rappel down the side of the Portman in Shanghai with only ropes around their waste.
what's the difference between a golfer and a skydiver?

with the golfer, you hear "whack! damn!"

with the skydiver, you hear "damn! whack!"
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