“When are you coming around?” Something I am not saying to anyone I would like to actually come, but my (un)trusty repairmen of course.
“Do you know if your neighbors are home?” Surely one of the most logical responses to that question ever. Sidenote, no I do not know if they are home.
So after a few messages on WeChat, setting a date and then not coming, setting a new date and still not coming, setting a final date and somehow showing up it was fixed.
What was funny though, is that my contact person of the housing agency sent a picture of the fixed and newly connected pipe. with a heap of mud around it. “It is done!” The accompanied text said. I was a bit confused and certainly not happy why there should be a heap of mud around the pipe for my washing machine. If there would ever be a heap of mud somewhere in my house, I would certainly not want it to be next to my washing machine.
“That heap of mud needs to go.” I said curtly. “There is not enough room to cover it up, it will be fine.” That is the favorite answer of course besides, “Nothing to be done” (see the title of this series).
I was certainly not going to let all our efforts lead up to me having mud piled around in my house. In the end, I understood it was cement and I made them understand it should at least be flattened out. As a bonus, they did add a tile on top of it. It made me feel very happy to have this extra service, even though I had to ask for it at least 5 times.
2 weeks have passed now without any middle-aged unhappy men, young and useless repairmen or wringing housing agency employees knocking on my door or reaching out to me. I have been using my washing machine without any problems. Life is good again.
So being a good tenant, I took the advice of my housing agency and just started up my washing machine. Not even 30 minutes passed when I heard some familiar tapping on the door and saw the same face in a state that combined anger with frustration and a touch of sadness.
“You are using your washing machine!” It sounded as if I had started a war with my unknown neighbors below. I started explaining that I was just following advice I had gotten, but he started to mumble and walk around as if he could just take up my washing machine and move it around to solve the problem. In the end, he sort of told me that I was violating the rules and since there was no repairmen coming, he would get a guy of his own. He then stormed out of my house again.
So I reached out to my housing agency and asked them to have it repaired again. And the guy said, “Will try tomorrow.”
But the management was of course getting his own guy, so I again had visitors a few minutes later. I do not think I need to tell you what the management’s repairguy did. He walked to the washing machine, looked out of the window, took some pictures and told me I could not use my washing machine. Getting quite a bit frustrated myself I got both of them to hear the full message my housing agency sent me. Told them I am only a sheeple and following orders so if they tell me I could use the washing machine, I would.
It left an impression. Being direct still is a good way to get people to back off in China. But they would still be coming back again soon.
“Well,” I said to him “I am only renting this place so I will talk to the housing agency and let them get back to you.”
The guy stared at me blankly and replied gruffly: “Who are you renting this from?” I told him my agency’s name and he gave no sign of recognition at all. “Give me your landlord’s number, I will contact him directly.”
At this point I started to get a bit fed up with him. Mind you, it was not even 7.30 and I still had no leaking problem in my house. I think we went through multiple forms of the conversation above in the next 10 minutes, until I finally convinced him to leave his phone number so I could reach him.
I mentioned that things can move quick in China, and surely I had a repair guy ordered through the housing agency’s app by the next evening. However, when he came I of course had no problem at my side. After checking if the downstairs neighbors were at home, of course not, I called the management guy a few times. Finally he picked up and my repair guy talked to him in the same Shanghainese-tinted Mandarin about the matter.
“Your pipe from the washing machine is too small, it needs to be changed.” He asked if it would fit in my bathroom, which I assured him would be impossible unless I wanted not to take any showers or not go to the toilet anymore. He took a look at my kitchen to see if it would fit there and decided the plumbing was too weak and again there was not enough room. Finally, he looked outside my window in a pensive matter, took a couple of photos which he would send to the agency and left.
This situation as described in the above paragraph then happened at least 3 more times. I had multiple guys visiting me, not nearly as excited as it sounds of course, and all of them made pictures, told me the pipe needed to be changed, asked if it would fit in my bathroom or kitchen and then left without actually doing anything. I almost started to wish I would have become a repairwoman if I could do my work in this way.
And then the weekend came around. I needed to do my laundry.
I took a look at my phone. It was 6:50. Also, my alarm did not sound like a cannon. I tried to picture myself sleeping and dreaming that sound, but it was a little bit too real.
*BOOM BOOM BOOM*
“Hello anybwody hwome? Wopen de doowr!”
Note: this is not too make the person sound drunk, rather it was quite a heavy Shanghainese accent and I was not being very diligent in my listening.
Why was this person so confident that people are happy to open their doors at 6:50 for strangers? Now it happens to be that the walls in my building are very thin. Not that I actually know my neighbors (they were lighting up a fire in the hallway a few days ago. It did not make me want to befriend them more), but I was still a bit concerned that this might go on for too long to be comfortable.
So i put on some clothes, slowly got out of bed and opened the door. A 50/60-year old man, of about my height (1.60 cm) looked me suspiciously in the eyes. “Something is leaking.” he said bluntly. Or, to be fair he might have said a bit more, but that was lost on me. I looked back quite dumbfounded, as there was not anything leaking in my house for the past month.
He barged through the door, walked to the balcony where my washing machine was and looked out of the window. “Here” he said, “You need to move this washing machine.” Now I am quite a strong and healthy person, but I am not too confident in my washing machine-moving skills. Nor was I quite sure why this guy, who certainly did not look very professional, would be the right person to tell me so. “I am the management of this building, your washing machine is causing a leak further downstairs.”
The good thing about China is that times are very flexible. You can eat at any hour of the day, go to the bank in the weekend (or more like spend the weekend there) and arrange a housing tour on the same day. Truly, I think this was the first time I found that this timing was working against me.
So naturally I did something quite logical. Of course I should not have.