Friday, 24 July 2015

Is it Me, Or is it Them?

This afternoon I met a Hong Kong-born, US-trained architect. We were talking about architects in the city, and it dismayed her how they don't have the guts to tell the client that their ideas won't work, or to push their design to influence their clients.

"They just listen to their clients who have no idea what design is, and instead give the clients what they want. That's disappointing," she said.

She recalled being appointed to the committee to oversee the redevelopment of her alma mater and seeing an obvious design flaw in the plans. There were two columns, one that came down to the ground, the other column was cut off right at the middle and there were steps there.

"I said, 'Why doesn't this column come down so that it can be symmetrical?' They said, 'It's because of these steps.' I drew the steps showing they can go around the column. Don't cut off the column like a broken leg. These things they don't see. How can you not see? It's so obvious."

She sums it up to the general mentality of Hong Kong these days. "People don't have the shame to do bad things. If it's so obvious, why would you make such a mistake? It shows you're not thinking. Why would you give people the opportunity to tell you it's not good? But a lot of people don't mind," she continues.

"A lot of young people are like that. The worst thing is that they don't realize that they are not up to par. They think, 'I did it, what's wrong?' And if you tell them what's wrong, they will even feel offended and think you are picky."

Another example she cites was when she was young, competing in the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival meant practicing the passage to the point where the pronunciation of the words was perfect and memorized.

But a few years ago when she took her child to take part in the competition, the architect was shocked to find the young contestants didn't even remember the words to the passage, let along have good pronunciation.

"It's the parents -- they just want the certificate to say their child was in the festival. That's another issue. But if you sign up for the festival, you have to make sure
the kid performs at a certain level. In the end the kid is mediocre -- even in a festival. They think that's OK."

To hear her say this is not surprising, but it is further evidence of a sad state of affairs.

After our conversation I had my own boondoggle incident to deal with.

I recently joined a new gym and wrangled a free fitness assessment that was valid within my first month.

Time flew by and now it's almost the end of the month and so I came to the gym at dinnertime, hoping to just arrange a time with a personal trainer to check my fitness ability and learn a few workout tips.

Was I too naive to think it was too difficult to arrange with the receptionist? He explained I had to contact the sales person with whom I had signed the contract with to arrange a time, but then it turned out he was on holiday.

Then I asked the receptionist to please help me arrange it, and gave him two possible dates and times to work with.

Following my workout about an hour later, I returned to the receptionist only to find he had done nothing about it, that I had to go one floor down (where I was earlier) to talk to the personal trainer desk myself.

When I got there and explained what I was requesting, a young woman and man said they would call me several hours later to arrange it -- by whatsapp.

"Can we not arrange it now? Is it so difficult?" I asked, now getting really irritated. How hard can it be to find one personal trainer available at two different dates and times?

She promised half an hour later she would get back to me.

So I showered, got dressed, and went back downstairs.

The woman was not there, but the man was, immediately jumped up from his seat and said he would do my fitness assessment tomorrow.

Could he not have offered right away half an hour ago? I cannot understand how things work in this gym, but already I am not impressed. It has a flashy appearance, with beautiful people in its advertisements, but in reality fulfilling simple requests to make its members happy seems to be the most difficult task.

Are they not bright, or am I asking for too much?

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