Last week in a blog I was waxing elegant about my love of India, but in the interest of full disclosure, there is ANOTHER India, and that one threatens my sanity on the worst days, and on the best days conjures up a rueful shake of the head.
For example, I live in a brand new apartment, just completed. Electric plugs are of the most modern type. Trouble is, all of my appliances aren’t. The “new” plug-in types are fashioned with 3 holes, with the one above for the ground wire. Great idea, safe even, bravo India. Not quite…..When you have an appliance with only 2 prongs, I was given a demonstration on how to plug in your appliance. Simply get a pair of scissors, (yes, they are made of metal, a well-known conduit for electricity, so hold them carefully on the plastic part,) and stick them into the hole at a angle, and then with your free hand (what free hand?) push in the 2-pronged appliance. Oh, and turn off the power source, and hope like mad there isn’t any “extra” current going through the wires. Then there is the 220-plug for the microwave, which is nearly impossible to extricate from the outlet. Solution? Pull on the cord as hard as you can to loosen it. I doubt it will last the year, but it’s the only 220 plug in the house, and I have other needs, like a computer printer, to plug in from time to time.
In the kitchen there are cupboards with no bottoms, pans which were sold without handles, and a phone to the security guard/front entrance that doesn’t function, not even plugged in, no charade there. The workers didn’t install a trap in the sewer lines in the bathrooms, so at certain times of the day, sewer gases back up in the bathroom. Quite a sensory overload, believe me. The landlord suggested I keep the fan running, and when I looked at him, I could see he wasn’t kidding. That’s the attitude that got the sewer lines put in without traps in the first place. And there is other stuff, like why on Earth do they put their milk in small baggies which don’t stack or stand upright? How do people get their milk bag not to leak if they can’t drink it all? I’ve tried every clip I own, and when it’s more than half full, it leaks, even when I put it inside a glass or plastic container.
I could go on, but you get the picture. And there is also a questionable attitude of clerks in this OTHER India. For example, I went to pay my Internet service provider last week, and when I didn’t have the RIGHT number (they give you 2, one with 9 digits, and one with 10, and never really tell you which one you need, just to keep it interesting), the clerk flatly refused to look my account up on the computer by my name. And I was trying to pay them, mind you. She didn’t care, I asked her to step outside her procedures, and she was not interested in the least in accommodating me. Today when I went back, with BOTH of the numbers in tow, her internet went down while she was very slowly typing up the receipt. (The irony of the internet provider losing service was not lost on me, btw.) She promptly picked up the cash I had given her and gave it back to me, saying I should come back. Then I had to get a little “Hell to the No” with her and explain what she could do. At first she told me she didn’t have a receipt book she could use to write one by hand, and when I told her I wasn’t getting out of her line, which the people behind me kept trying to jump, btw, and was staying until I had paid the bill AND had a receipt, she said to wait 5 minutes (the holy 5 minutes in India that can be an hour, or maybe actually 5 minutes). I stood my ground, so she got up and went to the back room and reappeared some minutes later with a ledger and receipt book. Huh? Yeah, she had one all along, she just didn’t want her seat to get cold so she told a simple lie. Finally, I waited every night last week for the OTHER internet service provider (yes, I have to pay for 2 to be assured I have one working MOST of the time) to show up at 5:00 to take my money for the month’s bill. They told me every day they were coming, and yet they didn’t come. Finally I told them I was coming to them, but they didn’t want me to appear so at first they wouldn’t tell me their address. Finally I made it clear I wasn’t waiting for them to not appear another night, and they relented. Then when I got there they said they didn't accept credit cards, or that their machine wasn't working that day, I can't remember which lie they said. I had to scrape up the cash.
There are several examples of this kind of non-interest in obliging the customer that creeps into my daily life, but I just got a new permanent driver this week, and I told him when I left each place that HE would be the one paying my bills next month. He seemed happy to have something to do, and he seems resourceful enough to get the job done. I’m not strong enough to have those epic battles each month in order to pay my bills. I don’t get it; in America people WANT you to pay your bills, and actively encourage you to do so…. Oh well, not my problem anymore!