Saturday, April 05, 2008

The arab façade

Let me just say that I'm very excited to be able to spell façade correctly.

Well I'm now here in this great ocean of contradictions called the Emirates. The new Hong Kong, the new Singapore, the new indian subcontinent, the new pan arab state, the new everything you want it to be, if you have the money.

and I've started my job, officially on my work visa I don't know what my job title is, and I couldn't say that I'm only and strictly a service center supervisor, that title is so limited while what I do is so varied.

Today though I'd just like to talk about my ever expanding experience as a supervisor. I was excited about this job because it meant I'd have a contribution (however minute it might be) in setting down a set of rules, a system, and following through with it, in an environment where there is little regard for the process, for the system, for the principle of following the system or applying the rules.

I may be a bit biased in this issue, because I despise this concept of the all great arab that is respected out of fear, where acting on anger is respected, where racism is normal and where the law of natural selection finds home. It's funny because it was the arabian prophet Mohammad (pbuh) who very clearly instructed people that this way of thinking and acting is wrong and that resepct for other people and more importantly for oneself is what we should be doing.

Moving on.

So far it's been two weeks. Some days I must admit I come home tired and feeling down because of the 500 or so people who I have to patiently convince of the importance of the system (patiently, I'm not very patient). Most other days alhumdulillah people actually see the light ! I get comments like "it's so much better now with the system in place" that make me so happy I celebrate by buying a Dr pepper.

So what is the system ? it's really quite simple; you come in, head for the front desk, wait your turn for less than a minute, speak to the front desk person to determine what you need, get a little piece of paper that tells you your number in the queue, and chill out to wait for your turn !

simple ? not for arabs ! (to be fair it's also confusing for indians, pakistanis, bangladeshis, iranians etc...)

There are three types of people in this case.

1- The local: The local knows no laws, he OWNS the country, and the people, and the institutions, and the air you breath ! he walks straight through and sits in front of the typist, throws his paperwork on her desk and from the cool stare of his $5000 sunglasses tells her "finish this up I'm busy".

Now imagine trying to convince this guy to take a ticket ! and (horror of horrors) wait with the indians ! ! ! WTF are you kidding me dog !

2- The arab (palestine, syria, iraq) : Also, some sort of genetic aversion to queues; he SEES the queue, and it's EMPTY, and yet he still walks around it to walk to the front desk. I ask them sometimes "you see the queue, why did you walk around it ? is it not clear that it's a queue ? do you need us to post an indian next to it to tell you that it's a queue ?"

This man is eternally angry at the world. He comes in expecting a fight, so he gets a ticket, and if his waiting time is 10 minutes or an hour, he will argue, and veins WILL pop on his bald head and threaten a melt down. Usually after that orgasm of rage they sit down and wait thier turn, so it's all good.

3- the indian subcontinental: I try to be fair with these people beacuse their being in the emirates means they're getting a shit deal. but it's hard to be fair when the guy lies in your face, and does everything in his (or her ! this is an equal opportunity blog) way to break the system. Sadly they were the ones who usually have to wait the most because as I mentioned before, they're bottom of the food chain. This is something I find hard to accept because in Australia I have alot of very good subcontinental friends. Here though it seems every one is comfortable with their stereotype.

ofcourse not ALL locals, arabs and subcontinentals are like this, there is a large number of people who respect the system, who wait without complaining, who understand reason when you present it to them. This is the usually the case though, out of 500 people, if I get ten who are trouble makers, the system suffers.

this center has been open for two years, so me coming in and changing the culture in a few weeks is quite an ambition task, but inshallah I'll be able to do it. and the management offers strong support so alhumdulillah I'm appreciative of that.

Everytime I come to work, I remember going to VicRoads in Australia, and I remember no matter how many people are waiting, there is such an air of control and civility, and I think to myself, why can't we achieve that here ? what do aussies have that arabs don't ?

I'll leave that for another blog entry.

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