Entry 36: Yes, I’m Still Here
To put it bluntly, being a pain in the ass will sometimes get you what you need. I’m not talking about picking fist fights, making prank telephone calls or jumping into the bushes after ringing someone’s doorbell. It means being diligent, persistent and unwavering when trying to put closure to items in your daily schedule, sometimes almost to the point of what some might consider rude. In my opinion, it isn’t being rude, it’s holding true to expectations, standards and the truth. Therein lay the problem. Being a North American, I was raised with certain expectations, standards and truths – all of which I’ve learned can be quite relative particularly when traveling in the third world. At first, I brought all of my standards with me like carry-on luggage wondering why others let things happen in such a sloppy and inefficient manner. I came to realize that adjustments must be made if one is to avoid a nervous breakdown. In some cultures, time is relative, the truth is mutable and public services are seasonal. I’ve found that many public and private service representatives, even in North America, would rather ignore you than perform their function as they should (that’s from a cynical optimist’s point of view). Particularly in the third world, I’ve learned that there are masses of people who are in a socioeconomic station that does not permit upward mobility. I suspect that they may ask themselves why they should try harder? Why expend the extra energy to help out me, a foreigner, someone they don’t even know? I can appreciate the Chinese concept of wu wei, or taking no purposeful action but, in some instances I’ve found that taking action, sometimes to the point of a restraining order (that’s a joke), is necessary. Adjustments are fine but do not allow someone to take advantage of your principles or good nature. No, I’m not going to be put on hold for thirty minutes or call back later. No, I don’t believe you when you tell me, for the third time, that it will be ready by Friday. No, that’s not a valid restriction for someone holding a paper airline ticket. Yes, I am going to continue to harass you until you tell me the truth, keep your word, do your job and provide me with the service that you should be providing. Assimilate, adjust, have patience. Don’t, however, let people take advantage of you especially when the clock is ticking. Just ask them to be lazy and forgetful after you leave.