Wednesday, April 02, 2008

AC Drama

How many Indian’s does it take to change a light bulb?

I have no idea, but I can say from recent and personal experience that it takes five to install an air-conditioner. I wish it were a joke. It all started about twenty-seven hours ago when I got a frantic call from Manuel about the state of the to-be-installed AC units. He said something about an Iraqi war zone and I started to make calls. One thing about India is that one is never really in control and can rarely, if ever, go directly to the source. I had to go to the admin guy at the office who then phones the installation guys at the house, who then phone their boss who instructs them to have the admin guy from my office phone him so they can discuss the situation. The admin guy from my office then phones me to relay a message I then pass on to Manuel who then attempts to instruct the installation guys who speak no English who then sit and wait while Manuel phones me back so I can contact the admin guy and ask him to phone the installation guys. The office admin guy then assures me everything is sorted while at the same time I get a call from Manuel describing a disaster. I have been in India long enough to know when to drop everything and run to the scene of a potential disaster. This was one of those times. I drove home to find two split AC units sitting in the driveway. They we covered in dust, smudges, full of chips and cracks and honest-to-God, held together in places by yellowing bits of what used to be transparent tape. As the Queen once supposedly said “We are not amused” – and we weren’t. I quickly dialed the admin guy from the office and was assured that new inside units were on their way. And new units they were, still wrapped in their cardboard and shrink-wrapped plastic… But four hours later. Yes, four hours that had been spent with us evicted from the living and bedrooms to the terrace. They hammered and chiseled fist sized holes through the 40 year old 6-inch solid brick walls to the outside. A cloud of dust filled the house and we watched it settle on everything as we waited for the inside units to arrive.

That was just the beginning of the fun. By nine in the evening, they had partially installed one of the units and had yet begin on the second. They asked the time and when I told them how late it was, they were packed up and out of here faster than you can say “Is it a little hot in here?” By packing up I mean they took all the tools and assorted air-conditioning bits and bobs and spread them around the terrace and piled them up in the corner of the living room. They then informed us the one in the bedroom was almost installed, but would be finished the next day.

That next day is today. I decided to work from home in the afternoon so I could also supervise the circus taking place. First, the electrician shows. He moved some wires around for us a few weeks ago and suddenly wants to move something else. He doesn’t speak English and we don’t speak Hindi. The downstairs landlady was not home so we had nobody to translate. He mumbled a few things about the AC and went out. No sooner was he out than the installation crew showed up. Yesterday there were three (two to do the work and one to sit and do nothing) and today only two showed up. An hour later two more showed. The maid had just finished scrubbing the floors and suddenly there were footprints everywhere. So here we are, twenty-seven hours later and the last unit is still in the process of being installed and Manuel and I are once again waiting it out on the terrace. The house is filled with dust and the wind outside had just picked up which means more dust. Add to that a very warm house and a four man installation crew with not a speck of deodorant between them. Manuel and I walked into the bedroom after they had finished and almost collapsed. As soon as they leave, whenever that may be, we will light up every available piece of incense in the house in an attempt to exorcise the smell. But something tells me we will be reminded of these guys for several days to come.


The AC units are installed and team has finally left the building, leaving a nice layer of dust all over everything. Manuel and I immediately set to cleaning and suddenly we heard the sound of rain. Inside the living room. Water was pouring out of the AC, down the curtains and creating a puddle on the floor. I phoned the office admin guy who then phoned the AC guy to sort it out. I was then phoned back and told that the AC could be fixed tomorrow.

So I guess the question now is: "How many Indians does it take to fix an air-conditioner?" I am hoping the answer is "just one", but something tells me he will have some company.

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