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,






Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do You Speaka My Language?

Yesterday in response to an encounter with a customer in the store I posted this on Facebook:
I have lived in Brazil for over a dozen years and I am fluent in Portuguese. You have to be, you cannot survive here on English alone. Yet I still encounter fucking morons who think I don't understand what they are saying and start making hand gestures and coming up with twisted words in English to "help" me. Fuck you. If you prefer we speak in English we can do that and then we'll see who's mastered their second language.
I received a number of likes and comments, some related stories, some nonsense... typical Facebook. And then someone I know from down here posted this:
Once after about the same amount of years in Brazil, a salesperson was amazed that I "ainda não fala normal."
Yeah, and there's that.  "Ainda não fala normal" means "You still don't speak right." This comment made me think about the flip side of my belligerent comment, something that most second-language-speakers can probably relate to:  I may be "fluent" but I was wrong to say I have "mastered" my second language.  I started learning Portuguese when I was 30 years old, and even with 15 years under my belt  I still don't "speak right".  And I won't even with another 15 years - I'll always have an accent, I'll always mix up genders for words,  I'll always (unless I become an avid reader of Portuguese literature, unfortunately not likely to happen) grope for words I don't know.  And certain people will always assume I am stupid as a result.

What makes this particularly annoying for me is that I consider myself to be pretty articulate in English, with a fairly decent vocabulary at my beck and call.  I doubt that most people would consider me to be so in my second language.  That's one of the big reasons I write this blog actually - it lets me break out of my dumb mode.

All that being said, it doesn't make it any less annoying when someone assumes I don't understand basic vocabulary and conversation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let the Punishment fit the Crime

A guy walks into a graffiti shop.  He's got a big old surgical type bandage in his armpit, and another one on his shoulder blade.

The owner of the shop says: "What happened to you??"

The guy says: "Dude, I got shot!"

The owner says: "So you're the guy."

This little vignette played out at my store yesterday, except for the last line.  I didn't say that out loud.  Plus all the dialogue was in Portuguese.

So what happened to the guy?  Well, he was all over the local news a couple days ago because he wrote on a wall at the university he attends, at about lunch time, and then a security officer shot him in the shoulder from behind.  Not even in the act - he was descending a staircase, calmly leaving the scene of "the crime."

I'm not making this up, and I think it bears repeating:  a college security officer (not a cop) shot a student in the back in the middle of the day for writing on a wall.

Did he ask permission to write on the wall?  No.  Was what he was doing illegal?  Probably.  What, you may ask, did he write?  He wrote: "Deus = Você + Universo," or "God = You + Universe"

Last question: did he deserve to get shot for that?

I don't need to answer that, do I?  That's what you call a rhetorical question, right?

I don't know where you fall in the gun ownership/control spectrum and we're talking Brazil, they don't have a second amendment here (pardon me, do you happen to have a well regulated militia?  whoops, wrong hemisphere) but I think anyone who is not a serious wing nut would agree that shooting a college student with a .38 is not the appropriate response to petty vandalism.

People with guns: please don't shoot people if they are not engaged in violent crime.  I know cops like to shoot people for running away, and maybe that's what happened here (but don't forget, dude wasn't a cop): apparently my client had his headphones in and wouldn't have heard they guy yelling "Stop or I'll shoot!!"

The security officer, for his part, claimed he fired in the air and then the gun "discharged" (hate it when that happens) as he was lowering it.  That's not what the victim said  - he said the first shot missed and struck the ground in front of him - it was the second bullet that hit him.  Anyways, the idiot with the gun turned in the weapon and promptly fled - maybe they should have shot him for leaving the scene of the crime as well.  Admittedly he was probably afraid he was going to be beaten to a pulp by an angry mob - that happens here sometimes as well.  Another interesting detail I learned from the victim: only five of these guys are authorized to carry guns on campus.  This would seem to imply some kind of a screening process, would it not?  Give the guns to the people who know how to handle them?

Dude did turn himself in to the federal police after a day or two.  Hope they throw the book at him.  The victim is planning to sue for attempted homicide.  Apparently there were all kinds of witnesses.

Wait a minute, you might be saying, you keep referring to the criminal as the victim.  The real victim is the wall that was violated by his vandalism, and all the passers-by who are violated by having to look at it.

I don't honestly think m/any of you are thinking that, but if you are...

Pixadores, or taggers, get beaten regularly by cops and security guards and killed, shot generally, from time to time here in Brazil.  But that usually happens at night, and they are usually trespassing, and they still don't deserve to be shot.  Another thing that surprised me: I think it's safe to say that young black men are more likely to be shot than young white men, but this guy- he was white.

Here's a link to one of the articles about the shooting, in case you can read Portuguese: