I was hoping out last couple of weeks on campus would be smooth sailing. Today, while in Seoul sorting out some paperwork, I encountered a really nice guy–a cabbie who was in his seventies, who was a real character. He was a cabbie who seemed to also fancy himself a comedian, with photos of all kinds in his cab. Some he used to communicate, some for comedic effect. I swear, he put on glasses with a fake nose just to make me laugh. He wasn’t that funny but his effort and friendliness were endearing. His last words when I left the cab were, “Please, have happy memories,” and I couldn’t help but think that I ought to try.
After all, I’ve met some truly wonderful people in Korea and frustrations aside, my time here has been a big chunk of my life. I wanted to look back on Korea fondly. And I will , when it comes to the majority of my fellow SF geeks I met here, or the food in places like Jeolla and Jeju Island. Or this wacky cabbie I met in mid-February 2013.
But when I got home, it was to a building where the power was just being turned on, after six hours of being shut off unannounced. There was not running water or internet. When my wife called the facilities office a few minutes after the outage began, she was told official notice had been isssued, but when I talked to the housing office hours later, they claimed that even they hadn’t been notified by the maintenance crew.
Which is insane. I saw the generators outside the other day, though I wasn’t sure what they were for. The power outage, presented to us as an emergency, was clearly something people had known would come. They didn’t bother to set up the connection beforehand, though, and the fact that cutting the power supply would disrupt water and internet didn’t seem to dawn on anyone.
And, minutes ago, while I was talking to a dear old friend online, the power cut out again. I was able to call the people who could turn it back on, but only because I’d asked the maintenance office for an emergency number to get someone to do so. They didn’t bother to give us the number… I had to ask for it. Generators shut off, sometimes, but nobody thought that, you know, during a weekend with no support staff on campus, the power might need to be turned back on again.
Every time I try to overlook the negative, I am slapped in the face with it.
It’s particularly galling since this weekend, I was supposed to get some packing done, and photograph some of our furniture to post images online so maybe, just maybe, we could sell some of it. I was hoping to get my hard drives sorted out, prior to our move–sorting files and so on–and Mrs. Jiwaku’s been working on getting the audio just right in her film, since we’re paying to have it re-exported.
And the power has cut out three times today.
So far. (There’s still twenty-three minutes or so during which another cut could occur.)
I’m sorry, this is amateur bullshit. The interruption of service should have been clearly announced. We should have known about it. The generator should have been ready to go as soon as the power was cut. (Within an hour or so, at least.) Someone should have had the brains to realize that it would affect the water and internet.
It’s not that Korea’s a third world country. (South) Korea isn’t. It’s just that the people directly concerned could be bothered to do their jobs. And while this isn’t universal, it’s widespread. It’s something I’ve encountered here in so many situations that I no longer see it as unusual. If an asshead can slack off in such a way as to screw things up for as many people as possible, I fine, that asshead will slack off. With absolute impunity. Professors get fired for being a single publication short of their (ridiculously high) quotas, but admin staff who nap on the job or screw up basic tasks get to hang around forever.
I mean, when there’s a water leak in a building, and you fail to check for a broken pipe? You don’t know how to do your job.
But how come they don’t get fired? That’s the big question. Maybe there are laws to protect morons and idiots, or… maybe nobody cares. Given the excessiveness of the situation, I’m willing to believe the latter at this point.
So… silver lining? I won’t be looking back when I go. Not at all. I leave gladly, without doubts. It is time we moved on, because I’m pretty sure we can do better…