It’s 9.30 in the morning and I am waving my genitals at an office building in Beijing, and possibly leaving people with lifetime issues regarding fat naked Westerners to boot. Why? Because they lied again – on returning home to the hideous flat we still have no hot water or flushing loos (I have already taken my revenge for this and flooded the bathroom for a second time the day before).
I can’t stand going a day without washing, and two is too many to cope with. So I’ve taken my (as yet unused) towel, shampoo and shower gel to the office. Where thankfully somebody has already cleaned up yesterday’s tidal wave of waste. The good news is the shower works, the bad news is that one side is a bloody great window to the open world and there’s no frosting on the glass or curtain to cover it with.
This isn’t as distressing to me as it will prove to my chum 30 minutes later – I paid my way through university by getting my kit off for art classes. It was 20 pounds an hour tax free, and that beats working in McD’s hands down. So I have absolutely no shame about flaunting my gargantuan frame in front of tens of thousands of Beijingers if it means I can have clean hair again. And it does – though the water pressure leaves something to be desired, I have seen small children dribble more profusely than this shower does.
An hour later I am considerably cleaner and nicer smelling – it’s really only Westerners that consider deodorant an essential in China but I like it that way. It saves on having the armpit covers of your shirt collapsing in a yellow acidic gloop. It may also offer others scant consolation from my cigarette and coffee soaked breath.
We’re now discussing staffing plans and I’m trying to assert the importance of a financial controller before the GM hires another 150 useless plonkers. This is cutting reasonable sway with the 2 managers and the owner, but the GM isn’t happy at all. After all if we start hiring competent people he’s going to look even stupider than he does now. As I’ve already decided that this isn’t going to work out long-term I’m not quite as pushy as I would normally be, but I do enjoy baiting him so it goes on a little longer than he’d of liked.
My business partner and I are keen to at least get one day off this week and go exploring Beijing’s touristy stuff and this too is promised (and again not delivered – there’s a pattern here somewhere – it looks like China). So we drag our way through the day contributing reasonably well to all the discussions in hand and then it’s off out to eat.
Tonight we’ll be spared the whole group and it will be just our 2 colleagues from Shenzhen who will join us. They’re taking us for Beijing Duck (the one and only time I have seen this wonderful food in China – Shenzhen just doesn’t have it) and the food is awesome. I am even presented with a little card so I can log onto the Internet and watch my duck grow up and then get slaughtered, should I so desire to do so.
The other guys start the conversation; “The GM’s useless isn’t he?” This is a major deal – it’s not like the Chinese to come out with such blunt assessments. I agree and ask what possessed them to hire a guy whose achievements in life so far include running every business he’s ever been associated with into the ground. They tell me it’s because he cried at the interview. I tell them this is a rubbish reason to give him a job.
They tell me they want to fire him, I volunteer to do it – mainly because I’ve done it many times before (obviously not to this guy – or he would have left screaming the day I’d arrived) and because somebody has to do it. They tell me that it might not matter as the investor thinks they’re idiots too and is probably going to take his money out of the business anyway. In which case they’ll be moving back to Shenzhen.
I resist the urge to strangle them as obviously this seals the “we’re not staying here” part of our deal anyway…