Monday

Complaints and the people who make them.

Alright alright already... the complaint post, in edited form - enjoy



It’s a funny place this,  although for long time readers this is a concept I bring up often. The latest thing to catch my eye won’t make me popular (as I mentioned in yesterday’s post) but given that I often go week to week speaking only to shop attendants, it’s safe to assume the fallout won’t affect my dance card too dramatically: so… on with the show.

This post is about personal interactions… and complaints… because it seems that even if some folk found themselves in the best place in the world, they still couldn't help but bitch.

Interestingly the people I hear complain the loudest all come from one nation, or maybe I am just lucky enough to see them at a bad time of their day - Consistently.

It’s not the complaining specifically that I find so interesting, (this blog is full of observations on life here that I find funny, quaint and COULD be construed as complaining). I guess it’s the manner in which the complaint is often made. Or if not complaining directly, there is often a meanness of superior position that is injected into the transaction, thereby creating a negative and impossible situation - if only for a moment.

For instance, 3 weeks ago we were at Abu Dhabi Airport, in the new terminal - conducting our usual, if somewhat odd ritual of purchasing Airport Burger King.

Order done, we stood aside so that the person behind us could get close to the register - thereby diminishing the need for the BK person to take the order over our shoulders.

“What would you like ma’am” said the BK champion.
“Oh we’d like a cheeseburger ”.

Unusual - as there was only the one person there - unless of course the ‘we’ included some odd conjoined sibling that was hidden beneath her cardigan. I then reappraised the situation to realise that she was speaking for herself, and her dining companion - who was no doubt sitting on at a Burger King table “tut tutting” at the state of things, in lieu of having someone to complain directly to as her friend was away purchasing lunch.

And probably taking too long.

“Yes maa’am, but would you like to have a drink”
“What do you have?”
“CokeSpriteFantaDiiiieeeet”
“Oh no she won’t like thaart”

Then there was silence - during which the customer stared directly at the BK attendant, implying that it was now the attendant's problem to resolve what the elusive “she” would like to drink, as her selection of drinks was obviously sub standard.

“Just the burger then maa’am?”
“Oh, I suppose I’ll have a coffee” she replied, in a huffy fashion.

She then turned to me and made a tutting noise, and a slight shake of the head as if to say that the person behind the jump was being obtuse, and had woken up this morning with no other purpose than to ruin someone’s day… a fantasy task that BK Burger Girl had apparently managed to accomplish - by midday no less.

What gives?

I am relatively sure that nowhere in the Burger King orientation manual is there a listing for:
Mind-reading - how to tell what the customer wants when there is no reply to the choices given.
1.1 Creating new menu items, and which level of hell to summon them from.

Again - if someone has a grievance, get it out - but surely there must be scope for self censoring. Knowing what is the problem of the company, VS what is the problem in the complainer’s life that all they have left is to throw rocks at some poor sap behind a fast food counter, who gets paid less per hour than the entire cost of the food-like stuff that was purchased in the transaction.

To continue on to exhibit b:
A month or so, we were fortunate enough to go to a shindig at the fabulous Village beer garden at the One to One hotel here in Abu Dhabi.

The event was marketed toward South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians. I believe that similar events overseas require passports to be presented at the door as proof of citizenship of one of these fine countries in order to get in.

Unfortunately this was not a rule adopted for this particular event. So while all 3 countries had a pretty good representation, there were those present from other countries who had a great time, and then later  - to my great embarrassment, complained about it.

I only mention embarassment as a lot of the complaining was being done by people I associate with, and obviously I am concerned about the whole ‘death by association’ thing.

In my hungover haze 2 days after the event ( it WAS a great party) I was , discussing with a friend the day, and the response absolutely floored me. Well, in truth, I was already on the floor - so please just treat that last little bit as the metaphor it is supposed to be.

X’s (for the purposes on anonymity) gripes included:

Not enough umbrellas.
An issue that was quickly resolved by the AusSouNZ folk, by getting off our clacks and going to look for more. The person in question spent most of the day under the shade of an umbrella - odd that X felt the need to champion the cause for all the other people there.

Food line was too long/poorly serviced.
While true, it wasn’t a cause of concern for X of the complaint as they sailed in the exit line, filled their  plate and was gone from the sun shade for no longer than 5 minutes.

I am surprised that there wasn’t a complaint made regarding there being too many South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders at the event…

While X  had some good points about how things could have been done better - and I am sure that the situations mentioned DID affect individuals, all but one of the listed  complaints DIDN’T concern X, or affect X’s day.  The last hazy memory I have was X, quite loaded, grinning like a fool and having a great time.

Ask any of the SANZA country attendees how the day went, and they’d probably say “Great except for the food line. Good job we found the extra seats and brollys out the back… where’s my beer?”

And that would be that.

Primarily because for 200dhs, we of the colonies don’t feel the need to be carried around in a sedan chair, waiting for the little people to ensure that we are the only ones in the room… at a BBQ..

I think the overall value of 200 dhs was well accounted for - I myself must have consumed 300dhs of primo international wines alone, so that means all the entertainment, and festive feel of the gathering was completely free of charge as far as I (and others I am sure) are concerned.

My point in all this is that some people just want to complain. For reasons that might extend from trying to get free stuff - thus recouping more bang for their buck, to trying to fill some perverse void in their lives that can only be accomplished by being Whingey McMiserable.

As an Australian, I had always thought that the propensity for folk from the particular country of complainers to whinge was probably only a way of making comparisons to their home country. With cries of “it’s not like we get back home” being the mainstay of, well ... everything that was wrong with finding themselves in the fine colony of Australia.

On a very recent trip to the ‘Land of the Complainer‘, I was astonished to find out that they not only complain at and about other people, but they actually turn the complaint gun upon each other.

Truly.

I was stunned.

There have been floods in the country in question, devastating floods that have washed away centuries old road bridges for miles (bridges that have been in dire need of repair by all reports - but that’s another issue). A fine man lost his life directing others to safety, and in one place the town was divided, as it straddled the now flooded fast rushing, death bringing, infrastructure stealing waters. It’s remaining link - a rail bridge - not suitable for cars, not safe enough to walk over.

In order for people of one side of the river to do business with the other side, without bridges, meant a commute along the river to the nearest crossable bridge.  This crossing isn’t just down the road, it’s miles away… MILES. One person I saw interviewed stated that in order to get her child to school and home was taking her a total of 3.5 hours a day. That’s a lot of time. Every day.

So what happened? Where’s the complaining so far?

 I’m getting to it.

With a grant and some willing and technically able hands, a temporary train station was built almost over night, that would allow a train to stop on the one side of the river, pick up passengers, then drop them off at the established train station on the other side of the river. Hourly.

How did people feel about a structure that was going to save them a considerable amount of time? About a structure that had cost a considerable amount of time, money and effort to put together?

A Broadcasting Commission morning show wanted to know as well, so they sent the obligatory roving reporter out to jam a microphone in peoples faces. The reporter’s persona was light and celebratory as she approached the first gentleman about to get on the waiting train.

“Are you happy with the new train service?” She asked cheerily - I expect because of the sheer enormity of what had been accomplished to offer such a thing in the first place.
“Don’t know… I haven’t tried it yet.” was the response as he frowned into the camera.

So she tried again with another passenger, the aforementioned parent-who-up-until-now-had-to-spend-3 ½ hours- a-day-taking-her-son-to-school person.

After establishing that a 3.5 hour daily commute is a hellish thing to have to endure, the interviewer reworded her question  (I suspect due to having been stung once already).

“What do you think of the new train service?” The microphoned and still cheery personality asked.
“I’d like it if the trains were more regular.” Ms McWinger answered, frowning into the camera.

It was the first train. There hadn’t been trains before that. She was saving a couple of hours a day by not having to drive out and back.

I sat in front of the TV, and uttered - “You are KIDDING me aren’t you?” Then tried to work out a way I could text the station and suggested that perhaps the people NOT happy with the train service should consider going back to the 3+ hour commute.

I guess the reporter was too polite to point out the short fallings of NOT having the emergency train service.

The list goes on… and on, but I’ll lumber you, dear reader with one more before I go....

We went out to an Indian restaurant near one of the major squares in the capital of Complaint-land, and were enjoying our meal immensely (and somewhat surprisingly as we had found the place by accident rather than design).

A couple arrived, clutching a discount coupon handed out by the guy in the turban out front, de-coated (it was cold outside, very warm inside) and sat down.

As the waiter approached, she started waving the discount card and demanding her free pappadams, and extraneous accoutrement promised on the voucher.

“Yes, yes ma’am“ said the waiter, as he handed menus to them “but please, and what would you like to drink…”

The other member of the new arrivals piped up immediately by saying, “Well we’ve already had wine” in a manner that suggested that that should be apparent, and the imposition of being asked such a thing by a waiter is completely without reason. Of course I wondered what would have happened if the waiter had suggested that he wouldn’t SERVE him wine because he looked like he didn’t want any more.

THEN the same ‘silence’ behaviour that our old Burger King friend from the airport exhibited.
What he was waiting for I am unsure, but the waiter suggested that he look at the drinks list… and would he like a beer…

I just don‘t get it - whatever problem that they faced in life outside of a small restaurant - surely the waiter ISN‘T the appropriate person responsible for overseeing the therapy that will resolve it.


When speaking to locals about weather, they seemed unhappy that we liked the cold and rain, but seemed genuinely pleased that we found the constant heat of the Middle Eastern summer, brutal and at times crushing.

Smilingly asked us if  “we’d have a home to go to now that Dubai has finally fallen”
Frowned when we said “Dubai hasn’t yet fallen, and we live in Abu Dhabi anyway so the fallout is likely to be less.”
Smiling as they commented - seeing me in my wet running gear - “It’s always raining - it’s awful”
Frowning when I replied that “… it was light and really cooling to run in”

Misery loves company it seems, and it’s a shame.

We loved England, and Wales - we loved it’s vibrancy, the politeness of the drivers and the hospitality of people. The countryside is breathtaking, the history astounding and the compact nature of the country means that everything is only a few hours away by car. If we could work out a way of living there we would.

I seriously can’t wait to get back there, for although it sounds like I am complaining, I’m not . While I’d rather people look up, rather than down all the time, I find the subtleties of their complaining, whining, not-going-to-let-you-get -one-over-me ways funny… REALLY funny. I will literally stop and listen to people talk to shopkeepers to see how many and varied their complaints can be in their 30 second face time with a captured audience.

It also means that when I look at an old chapel in the middle of a small English town, I can look at it with a warm suspicion that I am the only person appreciating it at that very moment, as while I am looking up, the locals are likely to be complaining that I am blocking the path… before scurrying back to their furnace temperature homes to read ‘hello’ for their daily dose of reality. A fine publication that allows people to actively complain about the life decisions of celebrities, while completely ignoring the fact that they will never meet them.

Is this my experience of ALL the English  people I have met? 

Absolutely not - I find English folk to be great fun to be around, - even the minority who complain (when they aren’t complaining). Warm, friendly, helpful, kind, funny…

I guess I’m just stunned that sometimes stereotypes can be so well portrayed.

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time for me change out of my  convict uniform, drink 30 beers and show up to Emirates Palace in thongs, cork hat and budgie smugglers with an Australian flag for a cape.  Preferably to start a fight or vomit in an inappropriate place. Or be culturally insensitive - particularly to women - if only to uphold what has been suggested to me (verbally) as my own country’s stereotype… wish I had married a chick called Sheila, need a woman to go get me beer and Winnie Blues, bloody oath I do.

Feel free to leave a comment… just try not to complain.

9 comments:

  1. Wow, and I thought it was going to be a different, say more North American country, that you were referring to.

    A long but involving read, and it's nice that you find amusement in it - it's gotta be that or furious anger, so go with seeing the humour.

    14/12/2009

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  2. Hah!

    Always like to keep people guessing...

    'tis a long one, I usually try to stay below 1200 words, also keep in mind this is the 3 pressing, think I've managed to prune 800 or so... LOL

    Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Fiona17:45

    The timing of this blog made me laugh. My Mother ( from the whinging capital) has just been diagnosed with cancer and is on a long list in Queensland where she now lives for surgery. She gives me the long spiel on how "wicked" the system is, how she is waiting for surgery even though she is an emmmmmmmmerrrrrrrgency case(note the drawn out emergency bit), how she hasn't been told by the surgeon what is happening etc etc (45 mins of whinging).

    I suggested maybe she take some action and demand some answers and things may happen. Ohhhh Nooooooo, couldn't possibly. Something might then happen and what would there be to continue whinging about???? I give up!! Thank god I'm a kiwi so only a whinger by association.

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  4. Hi Fiona...

    First, good luck to your mum. I guess the good news is that if were actually at the serious end of the scale she'd already have been admitted - emergencies don't go on waiting lists...

    BUT... as to the references to complaint - HA!

    Another fine example of first class whinging. Bravo.

    I bet she is also not interested in getting more information by way of demand, because...
    "Well.. it's not my place now is it... oh no, I'll just sit here and moan... don't mind me"

    Thanks for the comment (really though, all the best for your Mum)

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  5. Well due to my infrequent internet activity I haven't been able to read this until now, but I have to say I'm really glad you posted it :)As a self proclaimed Brit after 6 years of living there I've gotta say, You're not wrong :)

    Of course the great thing about the 'Complainers' is that they don't discriminate. They'll complain about the weather at home, they'll complain about the weather abroad, they'll even complain about weather they've only read about and never experienced, they'll complain about their convict cousins in Australia and the upstart, clueless colonial cousins in the US, and ofcourse all the continental European genepools they didn't have hand in :) You just gotta love how consistent they are.

    Of course now you have me worried if I complain just as much as the rest of them :(

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  6. HAH!

    I hear you about the whole weather thing - good lord - I know that the weather experience is humanity's common bond... but, really, how can nature win.

    I wonder if there is a perfect temperature, and how long such conditions are visited upon the miserable. I suspect it's about 4 minutes long and will only happen when Sir and Lady Whinalot take a magazine to the "smallest room".

    HAH

    (thanks for your comment - never heard you complain yet....)

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  7. I wasn't sure to begin with whether you meant THE whinging country or the one on the other side of the Atlantic who seem to complain that nothing is as big as they have at home.

    But as an ex-pat myself, I think you have it spot on. They may only be the 10% that everyone knows is to blame; but they sure give us all a bad name.

    I love your blog, glad you put the link on FB, have joined the FB fan club too. :oD

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  8. Thanks for your comment (and the praise)

    AND for joining the FaceBook club - we've had a few defections (think they were hummer drivers) recently so glad we're keeping the numbers above 100!

    Regarding the 10% who give the rest a reputation... I'm grateful for them, you just can't make that kind of comedy up!

    :-)

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  9. Nelly17:51

    Hi there!

    Only just read your blog about a specific nation's complaining and it made me laugh.

    It also makes me think that you have obviously never met a lot of Germans! They are much "better" at complaining than anyone else I know ... the glass is always half empty which I sometimes find a bit tiring.

    But maybe I am too German myself to see the funny side in it like you do? ;-)

    Keep up your sense of humour and have a nice day.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.