I'm having a bad day.
It's ok. Bad days happen, I know. The problem for me is that sometimes I just don't know how to get out of my funk. So I'll write about it, and let's see what happens.
As you can imagine, when you move from one country to another, there are a few details involved. This morning, one of those details was to call the person from my rental agency (read: another business created solely for the purpose of taking advantage of others, see also Cartorios and Government Agencies in Brasil) in order to clarify some of the details of our contract. Specifically, I wanted to know whether or not I would be responsible to fix a small crack in the window that we did not make (most likely came from weather changes). The agency confirmed that, yes, I do need to fix the window, because according to the law and contracts and blah blah blah blah blah…
I suspected that would be the case, and I'm not really concerned with shelling out a few more reais at this point. It's the principle: I don't want to be held responsible for a window that I did not break. Of course, I tried to explain that to them, and here's how the conversation goes (this conversation happens over and over again here, so I know it well):
Me: I understand what the contract says, but the reason I'm asking about the window is because I didn't break the window.
Agency: Well, how did it happen then?
Me: You know how it works with glass right? Over time, glass can develop small cracks that, with the aid of changing weather conditions, can grow. This is one of those small cracks that grew.
Agency: Yes, but was the window like that when you moved in?
Me: No, the crack in the window appeared over time. It's not large now, and the window functions just the same with the crack as without.
Agency: Ok, but unfortunately, you have to replace the glass because according to the contract, you are responsible. Does that make sense?
Me: No, that doesn't make sense to me, because I didn't break the glass.
Agency: Who broke it?
Me: No one broke the glass… You know how it works with glass right? Over time….
And the conversation could continue in this way for eternity, I suppose. Ours did not, because I was consequently and repeatedly interrupted by lightening fast speaking…this did not go over well with me. I don't like being interrupted. I speak slower in Portuguese because it's not my native language, and because I need time to form my thoughts. That gives people an easy window to interrupt, especially on the telephone. But when I tried to explain my thoughts, they just kept talking over me. That made me angry. I don't like to get angry.
Finally, after I yelled a bit and they stopped talking, I explained how terribly rude it is to interrupt. Here's how that went (also a conversation I have had with MANY folks here):
Me: You do understand that its very disrespectful to talk when another person is talking?
Agency: But sir, you were yelling at me, and this is not acceptable.
Me: I only started yelling after you repeatedly interrupted me. You do know it's rude to interrupt?
Agency: But sir, it is my right to interrupt you. This is my job.
Me: I don't understand how it is your right to be disrespectful. Look I am a very educated person, and I have lived in many other places. I just want you to understand that interrupting people is very disrespectful.
Agency: You are so educated, and yet you would yell at me?
Me: I don't see how my yelling is any worse than your constant inability to wait for me to speak…
Agency: But again, it's my right to interrupt and speak when you are speaking. This is MY job.
Me: But wait a minute. Who is paying for this rental, me or you?
Agency: Sir, according to our contracts it's the renters who pay the owners and blah blah blah
Me: Yes, but you didn't answer my question. Who is paying? Me or you?
Agency: Well, you are, sir.
Me: Exactly. So then without me paying, you don't have a job. So I don't see how it is your right to disrespect me.
Agency: But going back to the original question, according to the contract, you are responsible for….
Taking responsibility is hard, I understand. Here's what I will take responsibility for: I did live in this apartment, I did sign a contract (however unjust and evil it was), and I am trying (to the best of my abilities) to uphold my part of the bargain. I will paint and try to make everything “bonitinho” before I leave, even if it is tantamount to robbery to hold me accountable for fixing things that were old and not well taken care of before I arrived (many things that, as far as I can tell, you possibly covered up so that I wouldn't notice until after I already moved in). And I did yell. I'm sorry for that. That happens sometimes, especially when I feel that others are not giving me the respect that I deserve. Respect that EVERYONE deserves.
And how about you? What will you take responsibility for? And herein lies the rub: almost everyone I meet here is NOT WILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING THAT GOES WRONG. This is a serious issue, a character flaw. And it has infected an entire city, and large portions of the country of Brasil (believe me, I have been more places in Brasil than most Brazilians). When a person (or a culture, I suppose) responds to criticism or problems with either blame or apathy, that person has what is called a “character disorder.” I know this affliction (heck, I slip back into this from time to time…it's very common in men), and I have to say, it's pretty serious. Too serious to tackle in the same blogpost, so let's leave it here for now. Dangling…
(from Shawshank Redemption: the first 30 seconds will suffice)
My day hasn't gotten any better yet. I think I need a beer.