When my mother visited China several years ago she said she thought that she could live here, except for the pollution. I know that Shanghai is better than Beijing, but there are still days here where if I really thought about it, I wouldn’t go outside. I also have developed an obsession with blue sky days over the last five years as you’ve probably noticed from the photos that I post.
That said inside the house or office there are still things to be scared of.
Over a year ago I wrote that the office building where I work was under construction. It is still under construction and is an absolute mess. The elevators are periodically closed, one of the temporary entrances is the freight entrance where they store garbage and no matter where you are in the building the smell in the office is terrible.
Sometimes there is a smell of paint or paint thinner, sometimes it smells like something is on fire, sometimes smells from people smoking in the stairwell. The smells change by day – some days are ok, others really disgusting.
It has gotten so bad that we have given the team the option to work from home – assuming they don’t have meetings. However, this time of year (our busy season) there are meetings just about every day so it is not really a realistic option. I really respect my coworkers and their coping mechanism has been to buy face masks and wear them in the office. Last week I finally bought one as well.
I’ve worn it several times, though can’t do conference calls with it as it muffles my voice and doing meetings where half the folks are wearing a mask is still weird. The hour or so in the morning when I’m alone though – the mask is there and I believe it makes a difference! I’m not sure if it is the placebo effect or not, but at this point I really don’t care.
As I’ve dealt with this issue over the last few months it has made me angry and it also makes me sad. Anger that a building management company could be so incompetent and careless about the people inside the building and sad that my coworkers and I really don’t have much other choice. It is a microcosm of the larger issues in China about quality and construction and whether people are most important or the bottom line.
Our office is looking for another building, but the way contracts go, that will likely be another year. For the time being – I’m wearing my mask and trying to breathe easy.
What do you think?