Monday, November 29, 2010

Someday My Head WILL Explode

I always try to be patient when locally hired staff that comes to our house to do repairs and maintenance. Often these guys have limited English skills or such heavy accents that I can't really understand them, but then they are hired to fix things not carry on a conversation with me. I have known FS personnel in the past that were rude, impatient, and even condescending then they wondered why they had such a hard time getting things fixed when things went wrong. DUH! I try hard not to be the ugly American when dealing with these guys, I really do.

Today I blew it. It is only the second time I have ever completely blown up at these guys and both times it was here in Malawi. The first was when they informed me they would not be fixing the shower until after we moved out. We had been in the house less than two weeks at that point. We will be here for three years. That story is part of a different blog post about housing, so suffice it to say I did not take that news well.

Back to today. One of the nicest features of the housing here in Malawi are the khondes. These are screened porches that function as a second living room. Since most of us don't have patio furniture as part of our HHE a wicker furniture set is part of the government issued furniture here. In theory this is nice. In practice a lot of the wicker furniture is falling apart. Ours looked like it had been chewed on by a dog at some point in the past. Every time I swept the khonde I ended up with a pile of little pieces of wicker as the furniture slowly fell apart. Today we got a brand new wicker set. YAY! So why did I end up losing my temper? Was there something wrong with the furniture? No it is fine. It looks a lot nicer than the old stuff and it doesn't appear to be shedding bits and pieces of itself every time I sit down. Instead it was a total head on collision with Malawi culture.

The furniture delivery was scheduled and I expected them to remove the old decrepit stuff, leave the new stuff, and be done with it. The man in charge of the delivery seemed a bit taken aback by this attitude. He proceeded to cram the new stuff in with the old so that the khonde is now so packed with furniture it's impossible to walk around. I was all "Wait aren't you going to remove the old furniture?" This is when things took a turn for the worse.

"Madame" He responded patiently, "When your husband gets home he can look at the furniture and decide if he likes it. Then he can call and tell us what to remove."

"No no no. I know what I want gone. This and this and this all needs to go." I pointed at the offending furniture hoping to get it out of the house before it finally decomposed into a pile of twigs.

"Madame" he repeated, "You should wait until your husband looks at the furniture. Yes I think that will be best. Good bye." Then he just left. While my head spun around like a scene from the Exorcist. I was left with a desperate need to break something and an almost instant stress headache from losing my temper.

I have calmed down a bit and although I am still pissed because the old furniture is sitting there next to the new furniture decomposing and David will have to call to tell them to come get the same stupid furniture I told them to remove earlier today. I can see how this will be funny...someday...after a significant amount of wine... in another country.


TulipGirl said...

"I can see how this will be funny...someday...after a significant amount of wine... in another country."

Oh, my. . . *LOL* That is really, really awful.

That is way worse than when we hired someone to install safety bars on our windows in Ukraine (15th story, small, climbing kids. . . you understand.) It was done while we were out of town, overseen by our helper.

We got back, and the bars were too far apart. Yes, the kids could STILL fit through the windows. Arrrrrgh! The thing is, the guy who installed them had kids. You would think he'd UNDERSTAND the safety concerns. But, nope.

Shannon said...

At least the only person in danger of dying here is the idiot who thinks I can't make a decision without my husband doing the thinking for me. Sheez.

15th floor??!? We were in temp housing in Jakarta on the 22nd floor without window bars. I nearly had a heart attack. Yikes! I do hope the bars were eventually fixed.

Connie said...

I know what you mean about trying to be nice... and in general, I also really do work hard to work well with the facilities folks. It matters! I had a similar issue to this with one tech. I was already in the mood to toss a repeat offender AC into the river, and this guy made me tempted to tie it to his leg before chucking it off a bridge. (I didn' was tempting, but I couldn't lift the unit by myself) All it took was one call to his supervisor. I politely explained to him how he needed to call my hubby's boss, I wasn't going to do it, and explain the need for a busy employee to take the day off and babysit facility workers because his tech wouldn't listen to me, the spouse already at the house who actually knew what was going on. I don't know what happened behind the scenes. Don't care. I never had that problem there again, and I went on to have a very fine working relationship with that facilities office.

Facilities here are very professional, but I've had to get used to having every single, separate movement specified in separate, specific work orders. Paperwork makes things happen.

ah well... sending you chocolate thoughts and virtual wine, and if that doesn't help, how about this.. after the workers have carried out the old furniture, hopefully soon, glance forlornly around the room, say "Oh, I don't see it" then sweetly ask the supervisor to please keep an eye out for your escaped pet baboon spider as they are unloading at the warehouse...

Z. Marie said...

OH MY GOSH! And good for you for not going completely berserk. I probably would have told the guy where to stick the furniture -- except that my husband currently is the GSO and (hopefully) would have told his people to listen to me.

Becky said...

I kinda like the spider idea. I may keep it in reserve for future posts.

LeesOnTheGo said...

Sometimes it pays to be nice. Sometimes it pays better to pound your fist, stamp your feet and yell really loud.

Does it rain much in Malawi this time of year? Because after the stomping of the foot didn't work out I'd be the girl lugging the furniture out into the driveway, letting it get rain soaked and weighted down by water, crawled all over on by pets & bug infested. Then when the nice men come back to collect the furniture the task would not be quite so easy had it been say the day you had *asked nicely* for it to be removed.

I'm with Connie...for the most part these gentlemen are hard working, professional & go above and beyond the call of duty. On the days they don't it sure requires a lot of graciousness on our parts doesn't it? Forget the lugging out of furniture into the rain. Bad advice. Smile instead. It will serve you well over the next 3 years to be nice to them.

Jen said...

Ugh, I can't believe that! Well, okay, I can, but still. I agree it's best to keep them on your good side, but it can be soo difficult at times when one has different cultural norms!

Anonymous said...

AUGH! Yes, that "helpless woman" attitude can be really hard to take. I remember how I felt when Donn had to write a letter to the Moroccan govt, taking me "in charge." Grrr. But on the flip side, you can use this as an excuse. Persistent saleman you can't get rid of? "Oh my husband told me not to buy anything today." Off they go. Merchant won't come down to the price you want? "I promised my husband I wouldn't pay more than x amount, so sorry; guess I have to go." Magically they are now the price you want. etc. etc. Make it work for you!

Just US said...

Maybe someday it will be funny or at least hopefully you will be able to shake your head about it! I love that we as wives don't have any say because we are not the employee! It drives me crazy here!

Jae said...

I suppose they are used to the "man" of the house making the BIG decisions? LOL! Yes, someday, after a good deal of vino, this will be funny. :)