Sunday, February 15, 2009


I sometimes feel as if I'm building my resume just by living in China.  I learn wonderful interpersonal skills by building quick friendships;  I learn good budgeting skills by maintaining a household in multiple currencies; and I learn good management skills by managing a full-time staff of two.

Wendy has worked for us since mid-September, and we love her.  She comes to our home around 7:30 every morning and stays until 2:00 in the afternoon.  Essentially, she works while L-- is at school, so that I can take L-- to school and back each day with the option of leaving S-- at home.  She spends her mornings playing with S--, but also cleaning and cooking.  And her cooking beats any Chines restaurant I've eaten at, hands down.  Because those hours bring her to 32.5 hours a week, we also have room for a date every week.  Most Saturday evenings, Dave and I leave the girls with Wendy and spend some grown-up time on the town.  Her total lack of drama, her wonderful grasp of the English language, her willingness to listen and also to find work that needs to be done, and of course her cooking make her a valuable part of our household.

Jordan worked for us since March 1st last year.  He owns the van that we rode in, and he provided us with a driver.  Essentially, Jordan acted as a middle-man.  Longtime readers may remember that we fired the driver he initially provided.  Michael was a very nice man, always sweet to the girls and always attentive when I became upset.  But Michael was not a very good driver, too passive in an uber-aggressive driving culture and with no knowledge of the streets of Shanghai.  After trying him for 1 month, we had Jordan over for the evening and told him in no uncertain terms that Michael was unacceptable.  Jordan listened well, empathized with everything we said, and then told us that Michael is his friend and that Michael would continue to drive for us.

After driving for us for nearly a year, we had trained Michael fairly well.  His sweet disposition carried him well, so that he allowed me to direct him through the streets of town, he accepted constructive criticism quickly, and I enjoyed his company.  But Michael quit 2 weeks ago to return to his hometown and run a mahjong parlor.

Within 3 short days, Jordan had replaced Michael with Henry.  Henry knew his streets fairly well, although not as well as Dave or I.  Henry knew how to drive a utility vehicle with no rearview mirror, but had clearly never driven a passenger vehicle.  Henry never looked behind him when he changed lanes, leading to more honking than I have ever heard in Shanghai.  Henry listened to his music while we were in the car - loudly.  Henry fell asleep while waiting for us - so hard asleep that he would miss our phone calls for up to 15 minutes.  Henry was not a nice man, and Henry was not a nice driver.  So, much like a year ago, we called Jordan and explained in no uncertain terms that Henry was no good.  I told him that the man was not safe, and that the man did not treat me with respect.  Jordan disagreed, and told me to keep trying.  Every day since, I texted Jordan with Henry's every mistake.  After 2 days of this, Jordan let me know that he would find someone else.  I don't think he spent any energy looking, and unfortunately for Jordan, I did.

Mr. Zhang owns his own Hyundai van, comfortable and in good condition - and with a CD player rather than a tape player!  Mr. Zhang understands English, and has driven for expatriate families for 4 years, and this after having driven a taxi in Shanghai for 7 years.  Mr. Zhang and his family live in Shanghai and he seems to be a very nice man.  The girls both took to him immediately, and I have full faith in his driving.  Overall, I am quite confident that Mr. Zhang is a better driver for us than Jordan.

This meant that I had to fire Jordan on Friday.  On the first conversation, he seemed saddened and surprised but otherwise dignified and even understanding.  Apparently, over about 30 minutes that understanding changed to righteous indignation and he called back quite angry.  He tried to convince me that I had done a bad thing, and I stood my ground that I had kept him quite informed of how upset I was for the entire 2 weeks.  At the end of the conversation, his grasp of the English language not strong enough to find a proper insult, he said quietly 

You are a very bad person.

Lynne:  Did you just call me a bad person?

Jordan:  Oh, you are not a bad person at all.  I just think... I just think you are unkind.  No, you are not unkind.  I just think that what you did was unkind.

A sign of how sweet a man Jordan is - this is the nastiest he ever got.  Jordan is a nice man, and it makes both Dave and I very sad that we could not continue to do business with him.

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