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Needless inefficiencies and a sense of powerlessness April 27, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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A week or two ago, my EZLink card (which is your ticket to public transportation in Singapore) stopped working, for no rhyme or reason.  Thankfully, I had another one that was given to me in my welcome package from the Work Holiday Programme pass I’m here on.  I’ve been using that ever since and a few days ago I decided it was time to take care of the malfunctioning one.  First I went to the service booth, telling the guy that my card wasn’t scanning.  He scanned it, looked at it curiously, scanned his own card, and handed it back to me telling me he couldn’t read it.  I should have known that this was going to set the tone for a frustrating experience.  Obviously he was not paying attention to me, far too used to working like a zombie, just topping cards up for people.

Well, now that I had finally caught his attention, he informed me that only the ticketing office took care of the cards themselves.  Ok, fine.  I headed over to that line and told the lady in the window the same thing.  Apparently this happens rather frequently, judging by the stack of cards they had accumulated already.  I was handed a form and told that I would have to wait three weeks to get a check in the mail.  Wait, what?!  I expected a quick and easy transfer to a new card (or the one that I am using now).  Why waste the time and effort of mailing a check to me?  I don’t even have a bank account to deposit it in!  When I complained of the inefficiencies of it, they just gave me a number to call.  Great.

Well, now I’m at this point where it’s not even worth the money to call them up to wait around to talk to someone who can’t even do anything.  This is my major problem with all organizations that have problems like this.  You can never reach someone who can actually do something about it!  I’ve tried this before and just got led on a wild goosechase of transfers that never actually brought me to anyone in charge enough to be able to set the gears in motion.  Meanwhile, I was difficult to these poor people who have to answer customer service calls, wasting my time and their time while probably putting them in a bad mood.  Part of my desire to be someone with power and influence is really just to be able to actually contact the right person in this scenario, because upsetting me would be very bad for business, so they’d take care of it.  I’d just like to be successful and respected enough to make a difference in these situations.

Apparently this new card (they’re switching systems or something) is too new and they don’t have a way to transfer the existing balance.  I find it irresponsible for them to change if they’re not ready to do such a basic service.  Either you do enough beta testing to be able to make transfers or ensure the cards won’t malfunction!  I did absolutely nothing to tamper with the card, yet I get punished with having to spend my time trying to get a new one (that they were going to make me pay for!) AND waiting for nearly a month before getting my money back.  If time is money, what kind of compensation am I getting for this inconvenience of waiting so long?  They should at least give me a new card with a fresh balance of say, $5 or something simple like that.  Now that would be great customer service.

Instead, I’m left here fuming at them, yet helpless to do anything.  I can’t exactly stop taking public transport around the city and I’m certainly not about to pay the higher fees for individual fares rather than use an EZLink card.  However, I’m not at all pleased with this level of service and I really wish I could call them up and actually have them listen to me.  But more than likely, I will just listen to elevator music for half an hour, get transferred around a few times, and then ultimately end up getting a voicemail from someone who won’t bother to reply.  A lot of our security in life is feeling like we have a certain level of control.  First over ourselves and our lives, but next over the things that happen to us.  In this case, there was absolutely nothing I could have done and nothing I can do to prevent this.  So why do I get the short end of the stick?

I’m sure that soon enough I’ll have forgotten all about this particular situation, but I will be left with a sense of a loss of power from large organizations.  I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I never dreamed of growing my business into a huge corporation.  Perhaps that is because I dislike what large conglomerates are like.  I promise myself I will never let something in my hands get to that point.  I’ll find a way to fix all the problems and make the small voices heard.

A future unknown April 23, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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Today, Panda and I discussed our future living situation and it’s a good thing that’s far down the road!  Though everything else we differ in opinion on can be compromised more readily (like the cat I really want I can "adopt" by going to a local shelter to volunteer with the cats there), where to live is something that is much harder to agree on.  Though I think I would like to end up living in LA, I also can’t imagine not finally getting around to living in a few of the places I’ve been thinking about: Houston, Denver, somewhere in England again…  I’ve never lived in any city for longer than 4 years and I can’t stand thinking about being caged up to one city for the rest of my life.  I move a lot, I experience a lot, and I change a lot.  Ironically though, even though I’m used to change, I don’t like the change of having no more change.  Change is what I’m used to and that is what I’m comfortable with.  Ilike a new kind of scenery, a purging of my life here and there, and plenty of chances to learn from a wide demographic!

On the other hand, Panda is born and bred Californian.  Not only has he never left the country, he’s hardly left the state.  He knows LA and he loves LA.  It’s hard for him to imagine living anywhere else, ever.  He grew up with the same people pretty much in the same school district his entire life.  He hasn’t moved since he was just an infant (other than going to college).  Even the college he chose is close to home and right in the middle of LA.  He’s comfortable in that city and doesn’t want to leave.  Though he’s willing to take trips to visit places around the world, he’s just not interested in settling down anywhere else, for any length of time.  His life has been stable, consistent, and reliable.  So why would he want to take a chance and change all that?  It’s far easier to keep on doing what he’s doing and get a job in the area, raise a family there, and grow old there.  Very predictable.

I have known this about him and it has worried me a bit as I imagined our future together.  It’s good that we still have time to change ourselves and perhaps change our minds, but what if we don’t?  How do you reconcile two opposite demands?  Just vacationing is not good enough for me.  I want to immerse myself in a new place, which can only be done with lots of time.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could spend a few months of each year in another city and switch the city every few years.  However, I don’t like being away from him and I certainly would not want to start a family like that.  Panda suggested that we can try to have two houses, one in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in whatever other city I’m interested in.  That’s a good idea in theory, but when would he have the time to join me there?  Being an engineer, I’m sure his work days will be long and hard and the vacation time will be minimal.

Then I was thinking, maybe the company he works for would have offices in the places I’m interested in, so he can request a transfer for a year or two.  After a few of those, we could end up in LA again and settle down then.  Of course, that is banking a lot on the possibility of an office where I want to go and available space.  The type of work I’m doing now seems to (and hopefully is) propelling me towards a life of entrepreneurism and various ventures, which would make my schedule more flexible.  So perhaps I could just wait until he finds a good position and then we relocate.  Granted, this is assuming he’d be willing to go through all that trouble for a couple of years.

As a kid, I got sent on a lot of camps and trips, from annual summer visits to China to swim camps and boot camps (no, I was not a bad child, it was for my JROTC unit and I elected to go).  I like being exposed to different things all the time.  From my upbringing, I tend to get bored of things easily, unless it is always making me see and do things in a different way.  I am afraid that that is going to happen with LA.  I just need some time away, to get out all the dreams I’ve had before I can feel good about settling down in one place.  Unfortunately, that "time away" can take anywhere from 5-15 years.  Who really knows how things will turn out?  I’m trying not to worry about it right now, since it’s still far away, as are deeper commitments with each other.  But, here I am, just about seven and a half weeks into my time in Singapore and I can’t stand a day without him.  And much as I appreciate my experience here, I dream of the day that I get to hold his hand again.  How could I ever leave him in LA again and again for years?

For me, when it gets to the point where I know a city inside and out, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It is no longer mysterious, no longer exciting, but suddenly a solved puzzle.  But for him, Los Angeles is his home.  Literally and figuratively.  He’s familiar with its areas, its weather, its people.  He knows just where to go to get the food he wants to eat or the things he needs to buy.  At the same time, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with so much to explore and see!  From the famous landmarks to visit to the beautiful places to see, it offers up a whole bunch of options.  I can totally see him staying there forever and never getting bored.  I admit, there is still plenty for me to go see and do, but I’ve hit up most of the important areas (multiple times) and I’m ready to try something new in a few years.  I still want to go back and establish something there first, but after that… who knows.

As for now, we’ll both just have to see if we can break out of the barriers we grew up learning and find some sort of a compromise down the road.