Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How Guanxi Killed My Carpet Grass

(Cue film noir theme music.)

This is a story of unfulfilled promises, dashed expectations, sheer incompetence, and guanxi (the relationship-based way of doing business in Asia).

The characters: an out-of-town landlord, a dastardly landscaper, his bumbling gardening henchmen, and one naïve renter whose contract provides for a certain amount of lawn maintenance.

As our story opens, the renter is watering dutifully, even going so far as to invest in technology to ensure even coverage. The landlord has signed a contract with the landscaper, naturally a friend of a friend. The contract calls for maintenance of the newly installed carpet grass, which apparently requires fertilizing and cutting to just the right length, at just the right time every month, in order to survive at all. The renter has no obligations regarding this contract, except to water dutifully. The landlord heads out of town, confident in guanxi to guarantee all will be well.

Unfortunately, rather like cell phone reception, guanxi tends to break down over long distances. With the landlord out of town, the landscaper has as much affection for this carpet grass as one might have for wilted lettuce - which the grass begins to resemble. Out of desperation, the renter attempts to establish some local guanxi himself. Weeks of sweet-talking the receptionist (Catherine) finally garner the renter first-name recognition status. On one occasion, the landscaper himself even shows up for a consultation. The bumbling henchmen finally do it right. The carpet grass begins to thrive.


Then inexplicably, everything falls into disarray. The landscaper is mysteriously “out of the country.” Catherine is nowhere to be found. The henchmen reschedule a maintenance session for three weeks later, then miss one entirely. And when they do show up, they’ve returned to their previous bumbling ways. Here’s what’s left of the carpet grass.

4 comments:

Mom said...

Why not just look at the grass turning brown as your fall/winter season? ; )

Candi said...

Sorry to hear about the brown grass. We have plenty of it here, too--worst drought in history, combined with an August that shattered the record high by four degrees. Today (Oct. 8), we're still setting record highs, and we've still got no rain. Figures this would happen the first summer we ever have a yard!

Still wanting to hear about Jenn's adventures during your last travels. . .

Candi said...

Oh, never mind about the still waiting commenting. Somehow, the last two times I've checked in, my browser only loaded the fruit of the month, skipping over the culture shock entry.

Andrew said...

affection for wilted lettuce....what a great image.