Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Your System Failure Doesn't Follow My Schedule

I went to the bank a few days ago to transfer money to America (an increasingly-sad experience). After a few minutes, a colleague entered. He was just buying actual dollars on site. We chatted in the waiting area (instead of standing in queue, you get take a number and sit in some bus-station-like seats, watching the board that reads which customer should go to which window). I got called up, then my colleague was called to the window next to mine.

My clerk took a few keystrokes, then said, "We cannot do this." That's quite ominous coming from a bank. Why, do I not have any money in my account? Has my account been seized by the Chinese version of the Federales? "Our system is broken," she said. Oh, okay. "Come back tomorrow or tomorrow tomorrow," she said.

Then, since she spoke English but her colleague next to her did not, she asked me to explain this all to my colleague next to me. I said, "He's not transferring money," I said. "He's just exchanging." It didn't matter, they still couldn't do it.

I told my colleague, and he proceeded to flip out. "I'm just buying dollars," he said patronizingly. I said, "She said they still can't do it." He sighed a mighty sigh and got out his cellphone (I think there's significance in the fact that it was an iPhone). "Show her this," he said, pulling up the Mandarin translation of the English saying that she had perfectly understood. The clerk started to explain again that the system was broken. My colleague placed the phone up against the glass (the bank clerks are in a separate room, like prisoners in movies--unless we're the ones like the prisoners!), somewhere between bumping and slamming it there. "I made an appointment!" he stated vehemently. I took my cue and vamoosed.

I told my wife the story when I got home. I said, "I could understand being frustrated by it if he needed the cash immediately because he was leaving, but he told me he wasn't going for another week. Plus, there are, like, a billion places to exchange between here and needing dollars. Maybe the rate won't be quite as good, but it's not worth freaking out. He seemed to believe that his scheduled appointment would somehow keep the computers from breaking."

My wife likes to play the contrarian as a cover for her bad-mouthing all slightly-attractive women we know in an attempt to nip in the bud any aspiring affairs. If she's going to tell me why my pretty female colleagues are terrible people, she has to tell me why my crazy-ass dude colleagues aren't insane as a way of disguising her tactics. So she said, "Maybe he's just had it up to here with China and this was the latest thing to go wrong."

She makes an interesting point. (Not that this dude isn't nuts; he's got a few other insanities.) When we first arrived, I overheard bits of muted conversations among my veteran colleagues. It seems there is some "leakage" among new hires; some folks just can't adjust or didn't realize how different it would be, and they quit and go home. The conversations were muted because they didn't want to give us new hires any ideas. But it's possible this particular colleague of mine is at his wit's end. That could explain his behavior, and that could also explain my wife's defense of him. (However, her having an affair with the dude could also explain her defense!)

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