Wednesday, February 01, 2006

cultural difference: Part II

So it's not cultural difference. It's mere incompetence. Here's the reply I received yesterday from F*** (nice that her name has the same number of letters as another, very favored and often used, word in my vocabulary) at the PPA. Note that in the previous entry, Cultural Difference: Part I, I never used any title in any self-reference. And also note that the first reply that I received from F*** did not contain any salutation and that her tone was rather curt. But look at this new email. See how her tone has changed. Once she checked the facts in her files and found a) that she was wrong and b) those two pretty little letters that now introduce my name: the 'D' and the 'r', well, there's no way around it -- once F*** realized that, she changed. She grew... polite. How powerful is the team of the 'D' and the 'r'! Of what alchemy it is capable! It can change sour apples into apple pie!

But seriously, aren't I the same person who -- just last Friday -- didn't even deserve a salutation from her? There's a lesson here somewhere, but it's not about treating people with special letters like they're extra-special. It's about treating people, in general, with kindness. (It's a lesson I could stand to review every now again, myself. I know. You don't have to remind me.)

Here's F***'s email from yesterday (I will not comment on grammar, style, or punctuation. I will leave that to you):

Dear Dr DumbOkie
Further to your email sent at the end of last week, I have looked into your comments further and have discovered that there was a typo on the database and your flat is in fact 2/1, which links with Royal Mail.

We apologise for the confusion caused and we will be in contact with your utility suppliers to rectify the situation. If convenient we would like to ask you to come into our office to resign a corrected lease at any time. Our offices are open between 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Unfortunately as we do not have any connection with the flat next to yours we are unable to assist you in retrieving your mail.

Kind regards F***


This morning I visited F*** at her office and we signed a new lease together. She's promised to identify the appropriate government office and make enquiries about the names of the owners next door so that we can retrieve my mail. That's a sweet girl, that F***.

showering in the UK

Seems to me the biggest battle I've had in the UK is over the shower. No matter where I live or where I visit, I have shower drama.

Today the the electrician came to the flat to have a look and see what he could fix. He was so competent and friendly! i really like the Scots. I especially like the way the roll their 'R'. And it's becoming somewhat easier to understand them. Despite warnings to the contrary, I haven't met a dour Scot yet (Except for F***, but maybe she's just the exception that proves the rule). He gave me lots of information about my electricity and my shower. here's the good, the bad, and the ugly:

THE GOOD: The Professor and I aren't dead. When the shower quit the first time, The Professor and I stood in the hall and stared at the electricity box for about 10 minutes with our thumbs up our noses. Turns out, that was the best place for our thumbs. If one of us had opened that box and messed around, it's possible we would have gotten the shock of our lives. It's a good thing we acted like the ignorant academics with no common sense that we are. The electrician said under no conditions should i open that box -- even to replace a blown fuse -- because the box is dangerous inside. While up on a step stool or ladder, I might lose my balance and reach out to steady myself -- and instead of getting steadied, I might steady my heart forever. He didn't have to tell me twice. You and I both know exactly how graceful I am.

THE BAD: the circuit that flips is an ancient model from around the time of Robert the Bruce and the warehouse doesn't seem to have any replacements. The temporary solution would be to replace this switch, but he doesn't think he'll be able to obtain one. if he could find one, he says it would probably last up to, max, a year before it needed to be replaced again. So, a stop-gap measure is only a stop-gap if you've got a stop.

THE UGLY: the small box that contains the malfunctioning circuit is no longer allowable. it's connection to the larger box is not quite illegal, but under today's regulations they are not allowed to simply replace that box when it has a fault. Rather, my ancient bigger box (the dangerous live box that I'm forbidden to open on threat of death), which powers the smaller box that powers the shower, will have to be overhauled and that will take a couple hundred pounds worth of parts. so, this is a big expense for the owners of my flat, which they probably didn't anticipate when they added this property to their empire. (or at least hoped they'd be able to indefinitely delay.)

the electrician will file a hazard report with [putative property management agency], PPA will will alert the owners, and the owners will decide whether i deserve an investment of 200 pounds so that i (and The Professor, and the Parentel, when they visit) can have a comfortable shower.
So, we'll see. Technically, they don't have to replace it, I guess. Ethically, they should.

Monday, January 30, 2006

cultural difference: part I

Here is a recent exchange with my letting agent. Would anyone in the U.S. ever expect to have a "debatable" apartment number? Would it ever cross your mind that you needed to confirm the apartment number on your lease corresponds with the number that your postal carrier calls your apartment? Remember this exchange, dear friend, if you ever happen to find yourself living abroad. Like Gavin says, it's the little things that kill.

Dear _______,

I haven't been receiving my mail, so I put my name and flat number, 2/2, which is on my lease, on the door. The postal worker left a note saying that I'm actually 2/1. So, there are two things here: 1) I think important mail has been going in the mail slot next door, and 2) my lease is technically not valid. To me, this latter is rather trivial, but the former is quite important. There's been construction going on next door, so my hope is the same people who own my flat also own it, and, I hope, [your property management company] is managing it. We need to arrange entry into that flat so I can retrieve my mail. The less-urgent but nonetheless important issue is about the shower. The new shower was installed by the workers in a very efficient and professional manner. However, it became clear that the problem doesn't lie with the shower; it lies with the electrical circuit, which is not strong enough to operate the shower at a comfortable temperature. I therefore either take an uncomfortably cool shower or I take a warm shower punctuated by trips (two within 10 minutes) to the breaker box to hop upon a chair and re-set the broken circuit. I'm not an electrician, so I don't know what needs to be done, but I hope someone can come inspectthe wiring and see if it will be possible to improve the situation. In advance, thank you for your attention to these two matters--Kind regards, DumbOkie

The reply:

The official address for your flat is 2/2 although sometimes it can be debated if your flat is on the right when looking out from the flat to thefront or looking at it from the street. Putting your name on the door shouldsolve the mail problem. Unfortunately we do not have any details of the flat next door. I have contacted [putative electrician] to get in touch with you about your shower.
F--- Putative Property Management

My response:

Thank you for the quick reply and thank you for contacting someone about the shower. I do look forward to having that matter resolved.

Regarding the matter of the mail, I do wish for a more satisfactory solution and I hope you can help me generate one. Although I have noticed workers going in and out of there, I haven't observed any activity there for the last 10 days or so. It is therefore unclear when anyone will return and how I will obtain my mail.

It may be the case that the house numbers are ambiguous, but I'm sure you can see from a tenant's point of view that the matter is not trivial and such unresolved ambiguities can be the source of substantial problems, including financial ones, for example, if bills are misdelivered and cannot be retrieved. I would think it is a fundamental of property management that the number assigned to a property corresponds to the number recorded with the Royal Mail, don't you? One usually does not expect to have to obtain verification of her own flat number upon moving into a new property. Usually, one can take it at face value that the flat number documented in a legally binding lease is accurate.

Fortunately, today I am working from home and had the opportunity to talk with the postal carrier. Unfortunately, he told me that he has put a lot of my mail into the other slot. I'm sure you agree with me that this matter is of serious concern, since the flat next door is empty, as I mentioned earlier, and therefore, I can only speculate about when and how I am going to be able to retrieve my mail.
Kind regards,

So far, I've received no reply. And I don't expect to.