Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How Things Work Around Here: Broken Bathroom Pipe Edition

Two Saturdays ago I woke up to find water all over my bathroom floor. In my groggy state I blamed it on the cat, but I don’t even think she an pee 10 L in one night. I looked up and saw that my ceiling was dripping water all over the place, meaning that a pipe in the apartment upstairs had burst. The upstairs neighbors weren’t at home, so there was nothing I could do.

I called our housing coordinator to see what could be done. It was a Saturday, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I did hope that at least someone could come to rig up a better water collection system or something like that. When I explained the situation to our guy, he said, “Oh I know what the problem is, Princess. You left a faucet on!” Um, no, that actually was not the problem. I was annoyed that he thought that it was just stupidity and forgetfulness on my part, but as the “princess” of the office (only female expat) I am used to these macho assumptions. He said he would stop by, but I knew he wouldn’t. In the meantime, I was emptying buckets of water every half hour or so. I called again Sunday to remind him it was an emergency, and he said he would stop by. I knew he wouldn’t. And he didn’t.

On Monday, I saw him and reminded him. “Oh yes, Princess! I forgot!” He and Jesús went over to check out the ceiling. When he got back he stopped by my office and said, “Oh Princess! It’s a very bad situation! You should have told me!” Huh!? ARGH! He assured me that it would be fixed by Friday.

My assumption was correct- a pipe for the apartment above me burst. Unfortunately, this meant that it was not a job we could do, but a job that the building owner was responsible for. Over a week later, nothing has been done. The leaking has subsided somewhat, but my bathroom is in an absolute state of disaster. It’s no use cleaning because it gets dirty as soon as I finish cleaning. Chunks of the ceiling are falling down- luckily there is a small roof over my shower because otherwise I would be showering in falling cement.

When I followed up with the housing coordinator on Friday, he was surprised to learn that nothing had been done. I gently reminded him that he had said he would speak with the building owner every day until it was fixed. Blank look… “Oh yes, Princess! He says it will be done.” Seeing that nothing had been done on his part, I resorted to what I hate to do- email with a CC to his supervisor and the big chefe. I’m still of the school of thought where you should assume that people will perform their jobs as required, in spite of being in Angola for a year now, where things (and people) don’t work this way. I’m a lowly manager, not a big chefe- I know the situation would not have lasted this long had it been one of the big bosses with this problem. The email with CCs got an immediate response as of Friday afternoon, but nothing has been done. I might have to get obnoxious in order to have it fixed.

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