It has been brought to my attention that on this blog I often complain about Shanghai. What?! Me? Complain? Certainly that is not the case! There is nothing to complain about over here. The weather, for once, is reasonable. Sunny, even! Although I have been told the air quality is horrendous and we should not be outside breathing the toxic air. I ignore these warnings! I step outside and breathe with reckless abandon. The construction noise from across the street has started to sound as soothing as birdsong. Who can complain about the rhythmic hum of a jackhammer? I am surrounded by an army of helpful folks who have absolutely no understanding of what I want or why I am even talking to them in the first place, but I am not complaining!
The management office is currently staffed with many of these helpful people. They are very eager to answer the phone and then proceed to explain to me why something that should take five minutes is about to ruin my entire day. Take for example, my current light bulb situation. I have no problem changing light bulbs. This is something I do all the time. Never before have I paid someone to change light bulbs for me. But China is different, and after spending far too much time searching for the light bulbs I needed and then being unable to change them without electrocuting myself, I had the management office send someone over. I paid him 5rmb per bulb! After I supplied the bulbs, naturally. He was also kind enough to show me that in many cases the problem wasn’t my ineptitude, but our house’s faulty wiring. He repeatedly pulled singed wads of wires out of the ceiling to demonstrate just how “bad” certain parts of the house happened to be. He fixed these, and contorted himself and his ladder into various spaces until he had managed to replace seventeen bulbs. Seventeen! But the lights were working again so I am not complaining!
The bulbs in the living room require a special ladder. When they put the drapes up, they actually built scaffolding inside the house to reach the top of the windows. When the management office mentioned an extra charge for the “tall ladder” I was pretty sure that was what they were talking about. I am willing to pay a fee for this, of course. No complaining here! But I need to provide the light bulbs and I have no idea which ones to buy. They are up in the ceiling, you see, and they require a special ladder! Can anyone from the management office tell me which bulbs to buy? No. Can they sell the bulbs to me? No. After multiple phone calls they find a solution. What they can do is have the guy come, take down the bulb, hand it to me, and wait while I go and frantically try to find the bulb. At some mystery store, apparently, because nothing thus far in my hours of searching resembles these crazy bulbs I see in my living room ceiling. Then, when I return from my shopping excursion, he can climb the ladder again and put the new bulb in. Very simple.
Well, I hate to complain, but this is not so simple. This is ridiculous. This made me yell at a nice little Chinese woman who was baffled that I could not understand why no one had saved the packaging from these light bulbs. I cannot possibly be the first person ever to need these bulbs to be changed, can I? Every townhouse in the compound has these light bulbs! So now I am waiting. I have arranged for the special ladder to come today and will pay for one of the workmen to go and buy the light bulb for me. I will also pay the ladder fee and maybe overtime while we all wait for him to return with the coveted bulb. I will then wrestle him to the ground to ensure I have the packaging that might help me when another one of these bulbs decides to stop working. I can almost guarantee that another one will need replacing tomorrow. Not that I am complaining or anything.