Thursday, December 20, 2007

Plumbing Problem

We've now been in the Windsor flat for three weeks, and have been without a working shower for the last six days. We noticed a few days before that the temperature of the water was temperamental, and then realised that the water coming from the head was getting colder because the hot water was leaking out of the cylinder fixed to the wall, and so not making it as far as the head at all. After that the leak got worse, to the point where water was gushing out of the cylinder even when the shower was turned off. We had no alternative but to shut the water off at the mains and call the managing agents.

They did send a plumber round within the hour, but he didn't have a replacement cylinder on him so he capped off the two now-bare pipes in the shower cubicle so that we could have the rest of the water on, and said he'd order a new cylinder. That was last Friday. It is now Thursday morning and we haven't seen him since. I did get a phone call yesterday from the managing agents to say the part was in and he was coming to install it, but that didn't happen.

So, we're having baths and I had to go to B&Q and spend £1.98 on a rubber shower head attachment for the bath taps so we can wash our hair. What I hate about situations like this is not that things sometimes take longer than originally promised, but that the person on whom you are relying to fix your problem just seems to disappear off the face of the earth, and you hear nothing unless you keep making phone calls to chase him up. Even when you do get hold of them they are unrepentant, always finding someone or something else to blame for their not having called you to explain what was going on.

In Riyadh this would not have happened. We would have put in a Works Request to the Embassy and the Technical Works Team would have sent somebody round same day. If they had needed to order a part we could always be sure that every effort would be taken to get in ordered and installed as quickly as possible, and we would have returned to normal shower operations within 24 hours typically. Now, I know things are different there, and not in a wholesome way: There is a clear class system with a distinct servant class, so the reason why the service is so good is that the workers know that they must do a good job in order to keep it. I am not comfortable with regarding others as servants or somehow inferior to me, and I believe in equality, but why is it that the price for this equality seems to be the will to provide good service? It's as if the plumber -- now my equal -- resents the dynamic between us: "I'm as good as him, so why should I rush around to make his life easier? He can wait for his shower to be fixed 'til I'm good and ready!" Of course he won't voice any of this, but will instead blame the parts department, the managing agents, or even the other plumber who installed the thing in the first place.

I'd like to find a way to inject tradesmen in the UK with the same service ethic I enjoyed in Riyadh, while maintaining social equality. This experience leaves me depressed at the prospect of dealing with the telephone/TV/electricity/gas companies when we move into the new flat.

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