Monday, March 9, 2015

Not Again

What follows is a fragmented post, I wrote it on my phone in various locations and I simply don't have time to go over it, but also don't want to leave it for later when it will almost certainly not get published that way.  I hope it is coherent.

I have had so much going on, so many interesting things to write about, such as the big graffiti event I am helping organize, but I'm afraid this post is going to be something of a repeat. Once again, my car has been involved in an accident, but I think this will be the last time - I don't plan to repair it this time.

The only good thing about what happened, aside from the realization of my halfhearted desire to be rid of my car for good, is the fact that I was in no way at fault for what happened. I was sitting at a stop light and my car was hit from behind by another car. That was also hit from behind. By a truck. It's a good thing that other car was there, or I'm pretty sure there would have been a serious injury or possible fatality, there were two people in the back seat.

I'm writing this on my cell phone, because I'm waiting for a report to be written up about the accident. Presumably this is because it was a complicated accident, involving four cars and various injuries  (I got a split lip and a small bump on the head ) but the delay could also be because it is Sunday, or because I am in Bahia, or because of the insane byzantine bureaucracy that makes anything official absurdly difficult and time consuming. One thing is for sure, this

is the first of many long waits that I have to look forward to until this is resolved.

Between the writing of the beginning and the end of that sentence I moved to the second wait on the list. Now I'm halfway across the city, getting an incident report at the police station near where the accident occurred. In the meantime, I went back to the house and discovered that the documentation for my car was out of date. This will

Now it's the next day and I'm somewhere else entirely. Where was I?

doubtless cost me hundreds of reais, but what can I do?

It's been about 24 hours since the accident and I already miss my car. Public transportation here sucks shit.  Long waits and insane drivers - if you  ride the bus here hold on to something AT ALL TIMES or risk winding up on the floor. Taxis are another option, much more expensive and not necessarily any more pleasant. Yesterday I told a taxi driver to slow down twice, the second time adding that I'd already been in one accident that morning. Didn't make any difference, these guys aren't wired for defensive driving.

Maybe I will look into getting the car fixed. By the three strikes rule it should be out, and if I did get it fixed it would truly be Frankencar, but there's no way I can buy a new car at this point. That darn car has served me well, I've had it for ten years, longer than any other car I've owned. But despite the work I've put into it, it's been getting increasingly creaky and my wife practically refuses to ride in the thing, but then again she's been lobbying for a new car for eight years.

Okay, I'm back to the present.  I'm thinking it's extremely unlikely I will get my car fixed.  Now I'm off to take care of other things.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

But I Don't Want to Buy Toilet Paper

I just posted this on The Facebook, but I thought it was interesting enough to make an Instant Blog Post (TM):

I love having an e-book. Especially living in Brazil, where English language books are hard to find and expensive, it's really been great. I loved my first Kindle unconditionally, its only flaw was that it didn't have an internal light. When I turned it off, it showed portraits of different authors, including my hometown's own Emily Dickinson. My new Kindle has an internal light, which is awesome, but it also displays ads instead of authors when turned off. These used to be ads for books, which was sort of okay, but today I got an ad for f**ing toilet paper. Toilet paper, I might add, that I cannot even get here in Brazil. My ebook is still wonderful, but I can't honestly say I love it unconditionally like my old one.

And here was my immediately-after-posting follow-up:

Mark Pfohl This just in: as I registered the above comment, I decided to check to see if I can get rid of the ads, and this is what Amazon tells me:

This Kindle is currently subscribed to Special Offers and was purchased at a subsidized price ($20 discount). 

Amazon is able to offer the Kindle at a subsidized price by delivering Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers.

By unsubscribing you will be charged $20 (plus applicable tax).

Fuckers. But you know what? I'm probably going to pay the 20 bucks to get rid of the stupid ads.

I'm getting ready to click the button and pay the 20 bucks.  I really really really hate advertising.  Would you do the same thing?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Waiting... for What??

I may come across as a mellow, low-key kinda guy, but that's only if you don't know me very well.  Ask my wife, or any of my exes, or anyone in my family, and they will tell you that a nervous, uptight monster rages below the surface.

One of the things that I hate most in life, and that I have expended considerable effort to avoid as much as possible, is waiting.  Waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, waiting for people to show up - I hate it all.  With a passion.  That's part of why I live somewhere where I don't have to commute, why I've scheduled my bills to come due in the middle of the month (since you can't pay them by mail here in Brazil),  etcetera.

Most Brazilians, by necessity, have quite a different attitude to waiting.  Brazil is filled with lines, and they move slowly.  To make a purchase at a store you often have to wait three times: once to request, once to pay, and once to receive the item.  If I see fifteen people in line for an ATM I know I'll be waiting ten or fifteen minutes for my turn.  I can't imagine what it was like before the advent of the ATM.  I go nuts and often give up, preferring to come back later, but the majority seem to be much more content to wait quietly for their turn.  Well, maybe 'content' is not the right word, maybe I should say 'resigned.'

As a result, it has been my experience that people think little of asking you to wait for extended periods for whatever it is they have to offer you.  I have been offered a seat on numerous occasions when both I and the person offering know very well that I will be sitting there for an hour or two waiting for whatever it is that I want or need.  I almost invariably refuse.

But a lot of this is unavoidable - if there's thirty people in the bank waiting for a teller, then that's the reality of the thing and if you have to wait so be it.

What really burns me up is people who make you wait when it *is* avoidable - completely, utterly avoidable. If you ask me to wait for you, and you know that I am waiting for you, then get your fucking act together and come meet me so I don't have to waste my time waiting for you.  Or be prepared for Mr. Nice Guy Markuza to step out for a moment while his evil twin Raging Uptight Gringo makes an appearance and gives you a piece of his mind.

As you might have guessed, a specific incident sparked this particular rant, but only because it's been a repeating theme and I can't stand it anymore.  This is what happened yesterday as I was at the supermarket:

[Cell phone rings]

Markuza: Hello? (translated from the portuguese)

Client 1(a semi-regular customer, who shall remain anonymous): Kuza, I was just at your store, I need something urgently, can you open the store for me?

Markuza (annoyed because the store is open 60 hours a week): No, I'm not around and I won't be around this evening.

Client 1:  Can you open the store for me tomorrow morning?  It's really important, I have to do this painting tomorrow.

Markuza:  I can open the store but not early, Sunday is my only day off.  Let's say 10:00.

Client 1:  Okay, that's good - it has to be in the morning because I need to get this done but 10:00 shouldn't be too late.

Now I'm well aware that agreeing to open the store was a mistake.  I've been doing this for the last three years because I've needed the additional sales, but now the store is doing better and I don't really need to do it any longer.  Plus I've discovered that clients don't particularly care that they are putting me out, or that they are asking a favor when they want me to open the store on my day off.

Fast forward to this morning, 9 AM, I'm still in bed.  Asleep, in fact.

[Cell phone rings]

Markuza: Hello?  (translated from the portuguese)

Client 2 (who has never purchased anything at the store previously): Hello, Markuza?  Is the store open today?  [Client 3, a regular customer] asked me to get some paint and we took a bus all the way over here to do so.

Markuza:  The store is closed on Sunday.

Client 2:  Dude, is there any way you can help us out?  We took a bus all the way over here.

Markuza: (Annoyed, because it's his only day off)  Okay, I arranged to meet a client at the store at 10 so I can help you at the same time.

Client 2:  (having no problem waiting an hour) Oh, that's great, thanks a ton!  See you then.

Over the next hour I drag my sorry ass out of bed and drink a very large cup of coffee.  At 9:50 I call Client 1:

Client 1:  Hello?  (Translated from the portuguese)

Markuza:  Hey, are you still coming at 10?

Client 1:  Oh yeah, I think it's going to be more like 10:30...

Markuza:  No man, I'm opening the store for someone else at 10, Sunday is my only day off, so if you need something come now.

Client 1:  Okay, I'll be there at 10:10.

I open the store, Client 2 shows up and buys one can of paint.  It is probably difficult to you to understand how annoying this is for me, that someone would bug me on my day off for one can of paint.  Admittedly, I live only a five minute walk from the store, but what the hell?

Markuza:  Tell Client 3 that the store is not open on Sunday, and it's really annoying for me to open on Sunday for only one can of paint.

Client 1:  Oh okay, thanks a ton, sorry for the inconvenience.

Markuza (lying): No problem.

Markuza is now pissed off.  Markuza is now waiting for Client 1, who is late.  Markuza, as previously indicated, hates to wait.  He does not want to be at the store.  He wants to be home, in bed, recharging his batteries, because Markuza is one of those introspective types and 60 hours of customer service pretty much wipes him out.

At 10:40 there is a text message:

Client 1:  Sorry, I'm on my way.

Markuza: When are you getting here?  This is my only day off and I've been waiting 40 minutes.

Markuza:  At 11:00 I'm leaving

Client 1: I'll be there before then.

Client 1 rolls in at 5 of 11.  Markuza is pretty much enraged at this point, due to client 1 and the fact he's been waiting almost an hour.  The conversation that ensues is not pretty.  What follows are the salient bits:

Client 1: Sorry, sorry

Client 1:  What's the problem?

Client 1:  Don't involve me in your stress because it's not my problem.

Markuza: Tell me you're not here to buy just one can (of paint) because that's what the last guy did and I'm not happy about it.

Client 1:  I'm not going to buy two cans just because you're pressuring me to...

Client 1:  I had to take a shower and everything, that's why I'm late...

Client 1:  You're being so aggressive I'm about to change my mind...

Client 1:  Forget it.  I'm leaving.  I'm never coming back.

I never found out if he wanted just one can or not.  He walked out.  I know this guy, he will indeed never come back.  He's like me that way, I'd do the same thing.  His nickname translates roughly to 'Gets Annoyed' so I knew full well that if I got mad at him this was a likely outcome.  But Markuza also gets annoyed and he's tired of accommodating people who aren't as conscientious as he is when a favor is asked.

I know most of the dialogue above is Client 1's, I had a lot to say myself but it was essentially the same rant as already detailed in this post: only day off, etc.  I can be an asshole, I admit it, and this morning I definitely was.  I take customer service very seriously but I do have limits: "The customer is always right" is definitely not a mantra here in Brazil although I've tried to take it to heart as much as possible in my own business, mostly to separate myself from the competition.  But the client is not always right, sometimes the client is an asshole too.

I almost wrote a Facebook status to all the 'friends' of Mil Muros not to bother me on Sundays anymore, but I thought better of it and wrote this post instead.  I feel better now.  Thanks for reading.  I definitely have been working too much and hopefully after the holidays things will slow down a bit, I could use the break.  I may have lost a customer but I made a decision: the next time a customer asks me to open the store outside of normal business hours,