I was at the condo estate management office the other day renewing my car park fees for the next few months. They haven’t gotten round to solving the issue of the car park quota which would allow me to park in the safety and convenience of the basement car park, as the decision lies in the hands of the estate council members made up of residents, who really have no incentive to do anybody any favours. I too cannot be arsed to do anything much about it, other than to send an irate email once every while when I can’t find a car lot nearer to my house because those are occupied by bloody guests who come to my condo and play badminton or stupid contractors who haven’t removed their lorries by 8pm. Yesterday in an attempt to park nearer to my house, I had to parallel park in the next available lot, and you all know I’m allergic to parallel parking. I decided to take my mom’s advice to “practice parallel parking at home when there aren’t many cars around”, rather than park at the next lot of reverse parking lots which was at the opposite end of the estate. There was a lot of parallel inching going on.
Anyway I was waiting patiently while the administrator was slowly filling in the required form, decal and receipt for me when someone barged into the office and slapped an envelope on the table. The man was what I would term a “Lao Beng”, fierce-looking Chinese man with small eyes, a bad dye job (orange) and tight curls on his head. His thin shirt was tucked into his high waist pants and he glowed with self-importance. He demanded to know what the envelope was for.
The other person in the office was the office manager. She attended to him and calmly explained the existence of the letter within. Apparently he had wanted to book the multi-purpose room but it had been booked by someone else so his form had been returned to him. He demanded to know who how and why, to which the office manager ignored his gruff manner and politely answered him. He then pointed an accusing finger at her and said these people who book the rooms sometimes do so for their friends and not for their own use. He harangued at her that it was her duty to catch these people and if she didn’t stop these people from misusing condo facilities, she wasn’t doing her job.
She didn’t say anything as she nodded at him. I caught her eye as I looked between them and I swore if she could have rolled her eyes at me, she would have. But she kept her calm demeanour and didn’t say anything else as the crazy lao beng went on and on about what her duties were. Not getting any response out of her, he stopped abruptly, as if realizing he had an audience (me). The Terminator wagged a finger at her and said, “I’ll be back!” and stomped out of the office.
I waited till the door closed before I turned back to the manager to ask who that was. She hesitated before responding, “ex-council chairman”. She didn’t offer any opinion but the administrator, still intent on the form, muttered, “these people don’t treat us like human beings.”
At that, I felt really sorry for them. While most of us whined about going to to work, none of us go through what these estate administrators do, or anyone in the service line for that matter. Even then, most service staff doesn’t come across a nasty customer that often, but these estate administrators have to service residents on a daily basis with their myriad of complaints. The complaints range from the justifiable (the water pipe in the basement is leaking, there is a pot hole in the road) to the ridiculous (I can’t book the multi-purpose hall therefore you are not doing your job in ensuring real residents get to enjoy the facilities). Some residents can be quite reasonable (the couple ahead of me in the office were smiling and chatting with the office staff) while others can be quite nasty.
And it is this sort of bad behaviour which breeds more bad behaviour. We used to have an estate manager who would stalked you to make sure you were a resident, or berate you with 101 questions to make sure you’re a resident else she’d drag you out of the pool. Once she practically jumped on my brother’s girlfriend who was walking to our lift lobby, to make sure she was a resident. My brother, who was walking a few steps behind, told the crazy woman off for treating his fiancé like a criminal. The same crazy estate manager was also berated by a resident coz she took pictures of his son (5 years old) who was sitting in the gym while he exercised because according to her, the son was “sitting in the gym” and not using the gym facilities as it should be, thereby breaking “condo facilities rules”. She wanted to use the pictures as proof. In the end, she was made to apologise to the resident. But I can’t help but think who else but the council members or the residents themselves who bred such behaviour in the managers? Accusing them of being tardy in their work if they didn’t act like Azkaban wardens.
This isn’t just restricted to private estates, I’m pretty sure the HDB town councils get their fair share of crazies. One could say, these people didn’t have to choose this line of work, but frankly if everyone were to quit their jobs, no one’s going to make sure that your estates are clean, your pipes are fixed and your garbage cleared.
I can just imagine the job ad one would have to take to hire an estate administrator:
RESIDENT ESTATE OFFICER
- To monitor the performance and inspection of contractors for various estate maintenance services and ensure all activity is done silently and invisibly, without leaving any trace of their existence. Like fairies and elves.
- To monitor the area of unauthorized use of various facilities (car park, multi-purpose room, gym, courts) and to police with an unholy fervor befitting an estate officer. Officers will be equipped with Camera of Proof and Baton of Authority.
- To keep a ready supply of all material for immediate replacement of spoilt goods, including but not limited to light bulbs, pipes, tiles, etc. Replacement to be done at all hours of the day, even after duty hours.
- To act as a liaison between residents and council members on all matters, be it small or large, important or not. Even if either party contradicts each other.
- Willingness to act as a punching bag is an advantage. With no additional renumeration.
- Basic knowledge in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook) required.