Friday, July 6, 2007

Getting Priorities Straight

I finally got my electricity situation sorted.

But not without another big hassle.

Today my electricity meter was at less than 50 units. So I tried to reinsert my card into it again, but nothing happened.

I went back to the HR department to complain.

Soon afterwards, my landlord picked me up from the office and took me to the same bank I went to last week, China Construction Bank. And this time the teller at the window said my electricity card was empty and needed to add money on it.

So why did the teller last week tell me I couldn't add more money?

My landlord was subtly mocking me for misunderstanding how things are done here.

We then went back to my apartment because the meter on the water heater was just below the "1" mark and because the water heater periodically shuts off and I get cold water, I thought it was a sign to add more water.

But the engineer, or shall I say one of the property manging staff couldn't understand why I would need to add more water.

"When it gets to zero then you add more water," he said.

"I'm supposed to wait until I have no more water and then add it? Why can't I just add more now?" I asked.

He refused to help me. I demanded to know how long it would take for the meter to go to zero. Again no answer.

Then I complained that periodically when I take a shower the water turns cold because the water heater shuts off and the only way to get the water heated again is to get out of the shower all wet, run to the kitchen and hit the "reset" button.

Again he said just press the button again.

"So you expect me to get out of the shower, all wet and press the button?"

The landlord and the building manager just looked at me like this was the way they did it, so why can't I?

I can get a massage, a pedicure, buy just about whatever materialistic thing I want here, and yet it's such a challenge to get basic utilities -- water and electricity.

There's so much talk about China becoming the next superpower. It has the numbers to support that possibility, with the double-digit GDP growth, a frenzy over companies launching their IPOs, the military sending rockets into space.

And yet day-to-day living (for me anyway) is hardly customer-oriented in this "market economy".

But this is just how things are done here, and I'll just have to accept it. Even though it's the most backward thing I've encountered so far, more so than squat toilets.

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