…Otherwise known as ‘routine’, in the ‘Pines!
Let me tell you, fellow Fail-O-Philes, in this my inaugural post, about the routine errand that became a nightmare, in a way that could only happen here in the Failippines.
My Pinay girlfriend and I were at a ‘Gaisano’ mall today… Actually, let me back up and first tell you about the adventure we had in getting to said mall, with some tangential digressions of sociological commentary along the way.
We went with a neighbor, the wife of a fellow expat and good friend. We use public transportation because I do not own a car or even a motorbike, because I will never drive here in the Failippines.
This is for two reasons. First, I would not be able to contain my road-rage and would leave a trail of mangled corpses and twisted metal from our home to our destination.
Secondly, being a Kano, if I were merely to make accidental, gentle contact with someone’s vehicle in traffic–a likely occurrence given the drivers here–I’d be royally screwed; held hostage for enormous ‘medical bills’ and ‘property damage’. Additionally, if they did the same to me–perhaps on purpose, once they saw it was a ‘rich foreigner’ at the wheel or handlebars–I’d still be automatically ‘at fault’ for hitting them, liable for the expected extort… erhm, I mean financial penalty.
Those of us expats who’ve been here long enough–and it doesn’t take all that long to come to the realization–know that the policy in the Failippines is “Fuck the Foreigner”, in any and every way possible. I, for one, work very hard to avoid giving them any opportunity or excuse to apply this policy at my expense… though as you will see, in this environment steeped in stupidity, sometimes my ‘maldito’ (bad attitude) tendencies nevertheless get the better of me.
Of this, my gf says, “You’re too advanced in your thinking”, meaning, I actually think more than thirty seconds into the future, plan and prepare, apply a healthy dose of logic, reason, realism and wisdom gained from experience–both personal and anecdotal–and can foresee the consequences of actions. What a concept! I told her “Yeah, and you Filipinos should try it sometime- a hell of a lot of your problems could be eliminated if you did!”
Of course, I am far from perfect–admittedly I have a low bullshit-tolerance threshold (some might call it ‘anger management issues’; though I must emphasize, never directed at my gf), which seems to be breached on almost a daily basis here, and has long had me wondering if I really made the right choice in coming to this country; seeing as my personality and this society–if it could be called that–are not the best fit.
As my gf says, I need to calm down and “go with the flow”, and I do make a concerted effort to follow her advice. Kinda like my mother always told me, “Don’t sweat the things you can’t control”. Even so, this country has a way of breaking down even the most determined resolve to tolerance (excepting Filipinos, who seem to have an unlimited endurance for aggravation), as if conspiring in some sort of cruel, collective joke to make the Kano blow his stack no matter how hard he tries to ‘grin and bear it’.
Hence my reason for coming to this blog, which I’ve found even as a mere lurker, to be most therapeutic!
So anyway, back on topic. We shoehorned into trisikads (pedicabs), obviously built for midgets, to ride to a street corner where motor tricycles gather to pick up passengers going to this mall and other area destinations.
Here, our friend was asked by the drunk ‘barker’ (the guys who fetch trikes and jeepneys, or tell passengers which ones are heading where) where we wanted to go. He fetched a tricycle, but when our friend offered 60 pesos, the driver sped off, and the barker started spewing some inchoherent babble at her, the gist of which I gathered was we were being kuripot (stingy). She said to him, “Fuck off, you drunken idiot!” (I know enough Bisaya to understand hubog…kayat…etc.) She said she always gets the ride for 60. I told her it was likely my presence, as a Kano, that screwed everything up.
I could write volumes about the sheer, unfathomable idiocy of Filipinos who would rather lose out on a transaction altogether, and make ZERO, than to ‘insult’ their ‘pride’ by accepting anything less than asking price (which automatically increases when a ‘rich foreigner’ is involved). Filipino business ‘acumen’ at its finest!
By the way, regarding the barkers, these guys are all members of gangs and very protective of their respective ‘territories’. We’ve witnessed would-be rivals being killed (well the aftermath, anyway) in our own neighborhood. They demand payments from all the trikes and jeepneys who stop at their ‘posts’ and will cause untold trouble for said drivers if refused.
This is a nation of parasites- people leech off each other at all echelons of society from the grassroots to the very top like bloodsucking ticks, and this is but one example of the myriad ways in which they do.
But again, I digress. We finally found a tricycle willing to take us for the princely sum of 80 pesos. It was either that or wait for an eternity on a street corner so chokingly dusty, I would soon have been able to shit enough clay to make a complete porcelain dinner set from it, a street teeming with the dregs of Filipino society (is that redundant?), next to one of the innumerable carenderias (eateries) spewing gouts of acrid smoke that could double as tear-gas, while being eyed by every mange-ridden azkal (mongrel) in the neighborhood. Yes, I mean the dogs, too.
The fucking genius trike driver decides that due to heavy traffic on the main road, he’s going to take the alternate route (“shortcut, lang”).
This route is the one less-traveled for a reason. It’s about twice the total distance of the former. So much for ‘shortcut’! Hey it’s your gas, dumbass, and you aren’t getting one extra peso from me!
Another reason for the sparse traffic on this route is the fact that a goodly part of it is under a state of permanent reconstruction, because doubtless there was a recent election of some sort; now that whatever fuckwit used the project to his advantage during his campaign has been elected, it has been abandoned in a state of partial (dis)repair, per usual. [Update]: This article was written January 21, 2014. I just had opportunity to travel this route last week (late May). There has been not one iota of progress, since. Absolutely nothing. Guess the Brgy. Idiot, who ran out of ‘budget’ due to using it to remodel his home, is saving the remainder for his next campaign: “Folks, if you re-elect me, I will see to it that this road-work is finished!” I suppose that’s one way to guarantee a successful election outcome: annoy and inconvenience the people into voting for you!
One side of the road is in a condition of complete ruin; mudpuddles big enough to stock with tilapia, potholes the size of some small open-pit mines, and large, jagged blocks and chunks of broken-up tarmac strewn everywhere like ice floes off Antarctica. The other side is partially re-paved. Guess which side we had to drive on.
So after an agonizingly-slow, painfully-bumpy ride, my legs slathered in mud (being the gentleman, I let the ladies sit in the tricycle’s cab while I sat side-saddle on the back of the driver’s seat), my ass in desperate need of some Preparation H and my left knee feeling like it had dislocated due to the pendulum effect of it swinging freely over every bump, lump and hole in the sorry excuse for a road (of course there was only one foot-peg, and it was occupied by my other foot), we finally… mercifully!… arrived at the mall.
It had been nearly one hour for a ride, that had it been on the main thorofare, usually takes 15 minutes… even in traffic, not more than 25-30 at worst. Hobbled (now I know why passenger motorbikes are called ‘habal-habal’!), I dismounted the trike–but not before some Filidiot on another passing trike sideswiped us, clipping my dangling foot. Sonofabitch!
Now in the grocery, the misery of getting there fading in anticipation of accomplishing our mission, we found that most of the items we came to buy were,
wait for it…
wait for it…
Out of stock!
Now these are not gourmet rarities, specialty items- but pretty basic stuff that is more-or-less standard in a grocery store- nowhere to be found. It’s not as if I was setting the bar higher than ‘mediocre’, but even at this level, the Failippines comes up woefully short.
We’re talking about items like pure coffee (the most popular fucking brand, no less!), not that 3-in-1 garbage with artificial sweeteners in it. Decent sausages- which in the past they’ve had- nary a one, but as always, a bountiful supply of those garishly bright-red hotdogs made from what in a civilized nation would be regarded as unfit for human consumption.
And snack food (love tortilla chips and salsa)–plenty of salsa, but only one bag of chips, that looked as if it had been run-over by a jeepney, as could be felt through the limp, mangled bag, the contents pulverized to the consistency of talcum powder; and whole wheat bread. The good, Phils-made brand (they can do a few–precious few–things right), that every store carries.
No ginger. In fucking Asia!! No canned tuna in water (not the flavored ones drowning in fucking 10W-40 or with half the Periodic Table in their ingredient list), nor ‘Ganador’ rice, my fave and widely regarded the best, or UHT whole milk- not that insipid chalk-water known as ‘skim’ (‘scum’ would be more appropriate) nor that canned, viscous mixture of sugar, oil and water, with other ingredients I can’t fucking pronounce, that Pinoys consider as ‘milk’. (They distinguish between the former and the real deal by referring to the latter as ‘fresh milk’. Often spoken of with an undertone of hushed reverence, as if to suggest that it is some rare, ‘mahal’ commodity, outside the scope of their everyday experience).
And no fucking butter!! You know, the honest-to-gosh made from actual milkfat stuff, as opposed to that vile pseudo-‘butter’ rubbish that tastes like (and is probably made from) industrial waste, from Magnolia, et al.
Of-fucking-course! We had been to this mall two weeks prior and those same items were sold out then. Long, stark rows of half-empty shelves… it’s as if… as if, THEY NEVER BOTHERED TO FUCKING RESTOCK after the holidays!! HOW long has it been now? (I’ll tell you- it’s January 21).
Indeed, having lived here for over two years, I should not be in the least surprised by this. But in my apparently still-remanent naiveté I thought by now, surely, even here in the armpit of S.E. Asia, the stock of these items would have been replenished. They are, after all, mostly ‘bread-and-butter’ (no pun) staples and the most popular brands thereof. But no.
Sadly, it appears once again that I have sorely underestimated the level of incompetence of the mind-bogglingly dysfunctional management of Failippines companies. I must always remember: set the bar not even at mediocre, but rock-bottom, to (mostly) avoid disappointment!
How the fuck does one run a business like this? I actually think I have a handle on the so-called ‘logic’ at work here, and it’s sad that my mind is capable of stooping to this level. Maybe I’ve been here too long and the stupid has rubbed-off on me?
Anyway, I think it goes something like this: Wait until the store is half-empty before reordering. Because we don’t want to have a steady supply of stock coming in. It’s SO much easier if we only have to do this once every month or two. Because otherwise, it means we have to do… work!
Likewise, too much effort keeping records of what sells-out quickly and what doesn’t move, so that we could order more of the movers and less, or none, of the ‘dogs’. (That’s how they do it in Smartypants Countries like Australia and America. But we do things our way here! Besides we’d need to hire someone who can read and write. That costs money! College grads won’t work for peanuts. Oh wait, they will- this is the Philippines. Well anyway we save by hiring someone even less-demanding.) So, this way we’ll also save some more pesos by not risking ‘over-ordering’ anything!
When we do reorder, we’ll buy the same amount of everything without any regard whatsoever whether they are fast-turnover items, or crap that nobody buys, and sits on the shelf collecting dust. Because to do otherwise, requires… Thought! Hai, nako… so kapoy!
Whew. I’m truly exhausted as well, from trying to contort my brain around Filogic.
Godforsaken brain-dead vegetables are running this fuckfest! My blood already at a simmer, I wanted SO badly to find the manager and tell him what I thought of his (nonexistent) intellect and business sense to his face! Seriously, did Gaisano Corporate hire the first dirty illiterate vagabond they found pissing on the wall of the building to be Store Manager? “Sir, shake that dick and zip up, ‘cuz today is your lucky day! We find that you’re eminently qualified to manage this establishment, and you’re hired!”
But as they say on TV infomercials… but wait, there’s more!
My gf spotted a loaf of Farmer’s Bread, which I’ve had before and actually like a little better than the usual brand of whole wheat- it’s a tasty, dense, whole-grain and wholesome loaf. It’s not often in stock, however. (The latter can be forgiven, since it is somewhat of a specialty). Woohoo! At least there’s this… I was feeling a little better now, having scored a great substitute for one of the more-important items on our list that we couldn’t find.
Little did I know that minor triumph was to be short-lived…
Once we got to the checkout with the paltry number of items on our list that we could actually find, and a few marginally-passable substitutes therefor, we saw that the lines of waiting customers were so long they were reaching back to the ends of the aisles, completely blocking traffic. That is, on the registers that were actually open! Fully one-third of them were not- graced with a sign reading, “Sorry, Register Closed”.
Many of those on the lines, obese wizened warthogs, had two or even three large shopping carts filled to the brim with miscellaneous packets of worthless, carbohydrate-and-chemical laden junk, in bulk quantities. Yes, it’s the ‘sorry-sorry’ store owners, stocking-up!
The cashiers, in typical Failipino fashion, were moving soooooo fuuuuucking slooooowly, as if in their own bubble universes where time moves at a rate different to that of the outside world (naturally, that would be Filipino Time). Well, at least it proves Relativity correct…
Attempting to navigate this insanity, I pushed aside a cart that seemed abandoned; there was only one item in it and nobody standing nearby. A fat, homely woman who had been browsing several yards away (thoughtlessly leaving her cart blocking traffic) ran over and quickly grabbed it, shouting, “MINE!” What the fuck? What did you think, I was maneuvering to steal your precious cart with one item in it, you rude imbecile?
We picked a line about 7 people deep- the shortest we could find, and without any sari-sari customers on it- and I waited for about 20 minutes, keeping my thumb warm in my rectum, until my gf- who had been scouting for a shorter one- beckoned me to a line miraculously much shorter than the rest. There was only one customer on it! So I gave up my spot, with by this time five customers still ahead of me, to go to this line, where we would be next! Awesome… see ya, suckas!
Just when the cashier finished with the customer ahead of us (which, despite him not having many items, took her about 10 minutes), she… pulled out that… sign… That fucking SIGN!! “Sorry, Register Closed”. In disbelief, I thought, surely that means, after us, right? WRONG! So we relinquished a spot on another line, after what seemed an interminable wait, and stood on this one making a total of 30 minutes of wasted time, my lower back and feet aching excruciatingly, for naught?? The fucking vacuous dullard couldn’t have warned my gf that she was going to close, BEFORE I gave up my previous spot–slow as fucking molasses in January in Siberia though it was, it was making some semblance of progress–and BEFORE letting us wait on hers??
My blood boiled over… I just simply lost it! Exploding in rage, I screamed at the cashier who cowered like a helpless child as I let loose all of my pent-up frustrations with her stupidity, and that of the management, and of the whole country! I grabbed the sign and threw it halfway across the store, shouting “HERE’S WHAT I THINK OF YOUR FUCKING SIGN YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT!!” The entire store had fallen silent. You could hear a pin drop, and all eyes were on me. My gf was mortified and slunk away outside the store. I was shaking with rage, muttering epithets comparing Filipinos to the acts of fornication; defecation; and the less intellectually-endowed members of the animal kingdom.
I PRAYED someone would call security, just so I’d have an excuse to turn into a real-life version of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character in a tornadic show of swirling violence never before witnessed by humanity (or Pinoys)! I’d grab his gun and shove it up his ass–sideways–before pulling the trigger! I’d… I’d fucking go Medieval on his ass! But alas, no one did…
Shortly, my gf meekly reappeared to try to calm me down. Seeing her ‘handle’ me (bless her for being the calming influence she is!) thus I suppose showing that I was no longer a potential ‘threat’, most of the madding crowd in the store went back about their business. Aside from a few glares from some of the fat old babae (I’ve always wondered if that word shares its origin with ‘baboy’; pig), and a knowing look from a foreigner who quickly hustled out the door–apparently afraid he might by proxy be, as a fellow Kano, somehow entangled in whatever consequences might accrue from this spectacle–it was as if nothing had happened.
The catharsis my outburst provided calmed me down enough to make another attempt to brave a checkout line. Of course, by this time I had no choice but to wait on one about 8 or 9 deep; the best that could be found. After about 40 minutes of waiting–my body in agony and blood pressure so high that had a mosquito bitten me it would have rapidly expanded to golf-ball size before exploding–watching the cashier move in slow-motion as if a hapless creature trapped in a tar pit, our turn finally came. No dreaded sign this time. The girl had witnessed my prior outburst and quietly scanned our items, avoiding eye contact.
Then she came to the Farmer’s Bread. It had no price or sku sticker on it. FUCK. So the bag-boy dutifully ran back to find another loaf with a tag. He soon came back, with a sort of “oh, no” look on his face… and said to the cashier that there were only two other loaves, and no stickers on either of them. The girl said, “Sorry siiiir, we can’t sell you this bread, it has no price.” FUCK!!!
Only In The Failippines!