Shit my boss says (2)

This here’s an older one but it perfectly encapsulates the frustration of working at a cram school in Taiwan. On applying for this job I was told that the school had wireless internet access and a computer available for teachers for work and limited private use. Fantastic, I wouldn’t accept a job with long hours if there wasn’t some connection to the outside world. In the 21st century that just doesn’t make sense, and the internet is a vital resource for teachers today. But…

The computer is located in the cramped TA’s area downstairs, with kids milling around all day and is also used by the Chinese school teachers who are constantly printing worksheet after worksheet. No problem, there was a weak but existent signal in our own office on the second floor, I could keep my Eee PC there to take advantage of it. Until one day when my little netbook refused to connect to the network, repeatedly asking me for a password.

“Eric, has the password for the wifi changed?”
“No, we haven’t done anything.”
“It’s still eric8?”
“Yes, yes, still eric8.”

No dice. After repeated attempts I gave up and tried to jump onto the communal laptop between the other teachers. A quick look at Facebook, a hurried scan for some suitable quick worksheets for the next class and then back upstairs to our isolated island of internet inactivity. This wore thin after a while so I tried again with my new laptop. Same problem. Hmm, I knew the Eee sometimes had network problems but this was a kickass new piece of kit. Maybe the signal had just somehow become blocked – after all it was weak to begin with. But then I brought in my new wifi-capable Kobo Touch and tried from the source downstairs. Nothing.

(Now, at this point I should remind you that lying is an inherent part of the culture here. People are obsessed with the concept of ‘face’ and the saving thereof and will spin lie after lie in order to maintain face in any exchange. This is very odd to me as lying is one of the most despicable forms of behaviour and one would therefore automatically lose face by lying. Ho-hum. Such is life in Taiwan, people will spout the most ridiculous barefaced lies to your face and smile while doing it, expecting you to say nothing.)

“Eric, are you sure the password hasn’t changed?”
“Erm, yes.”
“But I’ve tried on three different machines and it doesn’t work.”
“No, it’s still the same.”
“Well can we try just changing it to something else and see if that works? Just to be sure?”
(Eric takes out his hanky and starts mopping his brow, this being his hilarious ‘tell’. It’s an object of great amusement among us teachers and the reason I desperately want to pay a high stakes poker game with him.)
“No, we can’t do that.”
“Why not? It’s really easy, only takes a minute.”
“But you see the network was set up by my friend so I need him to come and make changes.”
“Well, anyone should be able to do it. But can you get him to come in?”
(Brow-mopping intensity increases.)
“No, he’s in China.”
“Uh-huh… And when is he coming back?”
“I, er, I don’t know, I can’t get in touch with him.”
“So if anything goes wrong with the network it’s broken forever?”
“Haha, erm… I… you can use the internet at home, right?”
“Yes but I need it for work. And because your contract says I’m only paid for the hours I teach then you can’t expect me to work at home.”
“Hahaha, but, you really should do it at home and then you don’t have to do it here.”
“Will you pay me if I log the hours at home?”
“Haha, no, because you only get paid for teaching hours.”
“So you can’t provide the facilities your job posting mentioned, you want me to work extra hours at home in my free time and you won’t pay me for it?”
(Hankie threatens to disintegrate from mopping speed. It’s now a blur.)
“Well, yes, because this is how we work in Taiwan.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise. Well I can’t do work I’m not getting paid for because I think that’s exploitation and encourages further bad behaviour from employers. So I’ll just stop using materials from the internet, which is a shame because the kids usually love it.”
“Or you could tell us the real password for the wifi.”
“But… but the password hasn’t changed. I didn’t change it.”
“Okay Eric. It just doesn’t work on my three devices or Teacher Eric’s phone. It’s fine with the computer we can’t use but nothing else. That’s the strangest problem I’ve ever heard. It defies all common sense and all my knowledge of networking and basic physics. But that’s okay. I won’t do work for free at home, okay?”
“Cool, glad that’s alright. Time for my next class, I have to get back upstairs.”

The upshot is that there’s still no wifi access for us teachers. The communal laptop is now moved upstairs out of our reach from 4pm onwards every day (we teach from 1-9pm) so students can do homework from their day school. Seriously. It’s blindingly obvious that he has changed the password and doesn’t want us to know the new one, maybe because he’s paranoid that we’ll waste our time chatting on Facebook rather than actually enhancing our lessons with the reams of material available. I have no problem with this. Not as long as you just be an adult about it, be honest and tell me to my face. Lying about it, especially with such a transparent and convoluted lie which insults my intelligence (and would insult the intelligence of a particularly inbred and malnourished earthworm) is just going to bring the rage, utterly diminish any respect I had for you and will absolutely ensure that you can never have any level of ‘face’ left in any transaction we have.

Still, at least the brow-mopping continues to raise a giggle 🙂

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