Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Three Ins

Sometimes when you have been living in China for a while, you get the feeling that you live in a land that is truly an "Emerging Country".  There is a mind boggling amount of construction--buildings, highways, tunnels, subways, high speed trains, new schools, factories.  Infrastructure!  Our city has more orderly traffic and less litter.  There are clean restrooms!  Then something happens to jerk you back to the reality that all of these shiny new things are in the control of people who have missed the bus to Emerging Land.
Three days ago our water stopped running.  It happens.  Sometimes work needs to be done, and you can't fix pipes with the water running.  This was about 1 pm.  We have a little advantage in that we have two sources of water.  A separate supply goes to the kitchen, so we could fill a pot to flush the toilet, and had a place to wash.  It was working fine.
After a few hours, there was still no water.  After inquiries, I found that they were cleaning the holding tank, which is on the roof.  This happens periodically.  The process usually begins in the morning, and the water is back on by dinner time.  These guys started in the afternoon and the water was still not working the next morning.  After 24 hours, it was back on, but it was just dribbling, kind of like a very old man peeing.  It would eventually fill the toilet tank, but was kind of a sad thing to try to shower under.  The kitchen adjoins the bathroom, and I was getting ripe in the subtropical spring weather, so I did a bucket brigade bath using water from the kitchen sink.  At times like this, I'm grateful for my former hippie lifestyle, and frequent long camping wherein I often had to resort to bathing like this.
It is now three days later, and the water is still coming out slow, although the old man peeing is may only be in his mid 70's now.  The shower eventually gets the suds off with enough patience and you can actually wash your hands in the sink.  It has become obvious that someone hired fools to do the job, probably because they were cheap, a relative, or both.  They've botched it up, and moved on to their next bit of anarchy.  
Which brings me to an observation. Much of the help here suffers from what I call "The Three Ins of China":  Incapable.  Incompetent.  Indifferent.

  1. Incapable.  A lot of people here are incapable of doing the most rudimentary things.  If a fluorescent tube goes out, they call a handy man, because they have no idea how to fix something.  I blame the education system, in which young people spend their entire existence in class, doing homework or studying for tests. There is no effort to teach problem solving or how to do things. However, they are masters at test taking.
  2. Incompetent.  When I have had someone come to install or repair something, they often botch it up, and I end up finishing the job.  My favorite is the guy who needs to borrow your tools. The internet guys didn't have a ladder.  The guy installing the on demand gas water heater didn't have a screw driver.    I've seen guys stack dining room chairs in a kind of pyramid in order to reach high places.   I am not making this up.
  3. Indifferent.  They don't give a shit.  This applies to the people who paint.  There is lovely tile work in many places here ruined by paint dripped and spilled.  Masking tape and drop cloths are an alien concept.  The people with the spraying machines just start spraying a wall, covering the moss, mold and dirt with an uneven, gloppy coat that goes all over the place.  Sidewalks, trees, windows, vehicles all become targets.                          Indifference pervades all strata of Chinese society.  It also serves as a necessary survival tool to keep your head from exploding.  It's the attitude you need when Opera Man comes on the sound system twice a day, and when you live in an overcrowded society full of incompetent, indifferent idiots.

I'm not saying everyone is like this, but China has only very recently been liberated from a long, difficult time.  Most folks have just come from villages, which not only are quite backward, but have endured horrific suffering and a prolonged attack on human decency.  This country is emerging from its own Dark Ages.  I also haven't had a decent shower in three days, and it makes me a little unkind in my judgement.

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