Sunday, December 09, 2007

Justifiable paranoia?

Here's a little story to amuse you on your Monday morning:

About one month ago we did some shifting of equipment among the ADRA offices in Vietnam, including sending a motorbike from our Cao Bang projects down to Hanoi so that when I am in Hanoi there is another motorbike available for me to use. I have been mainly using that motorbike when needing to get around town. It hasn't been the happiest thing since it arrived, but particularly on this extended trip when I've put nearly 200 km on it just from running back and forth around the city I have started having noticeable problems with it. Mainly, it would cut out completely at random times, most dangerously right as I'm trying to make a left turn in the middle of a busy intersection. I know, I know I should've had it looked at just as soon as I noticed the problems, but between the general business of my time here and the lack of language skills to be able to fully explain the problem, I put it off.

Today, however, we started our strategic planning meetings, which meant that all of the ADRA staff were gathered in one place. As I was pulling out of the lot tonight after the end of the day's meeting, my motorbike started it's old tricks. So I flagged down the one Vietnamese male member of our staff and complained to him about the problems. He took me across the street to one of those ubiquitous random repair shops and told the guys about my problem. They took it out for a test spin, then rolled it back in, propped it up and started tearing it apart.

So, sure enough, it had a problem - but I already knew that. What I didn't know (but had kinda guessed) was just how many problems it had. So to add to the most obvious problem: a completely clogged fuel injection system, this is what else was wrong with the bike:

- completely worn brakes, front and back (I had suspected that also)
- worn tires
- low tire pressure
- low battery acid (did you know that a bike either has a "wet" battery or "dry" battery, and if you have a wet battery you have to have the acid levels checked every time you wash the bike? Assuming you ever actually wash the bike.)
- oil that hadn't been changed in a coon's age

And that's what they found in just the quick check - basically, it hasn't been serviced in the recognizable past.

Now granted, I shouldn't have been so stupid as to keep driving around on a bike with obvious problems, but this is what gets me - before that bike was sent down to Hanoi, I gave my staff EXTREMELY CLEAR AND REPEATED INSTRUCTIONS to have the bike COMPLETELY SERVICED and to have any necessary repairs done BEFORE it left Cao Bang. Specifically I asked for attention to be given to the oil change and to making sure the brakes were good. I asked repeatedly for this to be done, and before the bike was sent I confirmed several times that it HAD been completed. I even signed the receipt, which I believe accounted for an oil change. There were no other problems reported (okay, granted, I also didn't take it for a test drive before it was sent, but I totally didn't have time).

So, do my staff have it in for me? They knew I'd probably be driving this bike in Hanoi (though I suppose they could just have it in for the other Hanoi staff). The fuel injection system and low tire pressure I could let by if it had only really started acting up after arriving in Hanoi, but the fact that we apparently already paid for the oil change, but the oil hadn't actually been changed before it was sent and that the brakes were bad and the worn tires and low battery acid - those are all things that should've been taken care of and would've been obvious if it had been done just a few weeks ago. Yet none of them were taken care of, even after I VERY SPECIFICALLY asked if it had. And what's up with paying for an oil change that never happened?

Well, one thing's for sure - we're going to be keeping closer tabs on actual motorbike maintenance from now on (yay, one more non-public health related item to add to my list), and I'm going to be taking a much more proactive role in caring for the motorbikes in Hanoi (the Hanoi staff are even less crazy about actually caring for the bikes than the Cao Bang staff). And I'm going to have a very serious talking-to with my Cao Bang staff about how it isn't nice to set up your boss to get killed in a road accident.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Methinks it's time for you to take up maintenance of that thing yourself. I don't even trust repair guys around these parts with my bike. :D