My cousin's sister called me early last Saturday morning in a very distressed state of mind. It seems that she had just received yet another wedding invitation in the post. Now far be it from my sister to begrudge a friend or a relative or a business colleague every happiness on this most important day of a girl's life, but it seems she had 19 others to attend on the same weekend.
Typically, if pressed for time, or inundated with family commitments, she and her husband share the responsibility of attending important social events and sometimes go separately.
However, the weekend in question was going to be more problematic. In the end, they resolved to post envelopes of money to those couples tying the knot whose wedding they couldn't attend. But their problems didn't end there. They worked out that 20 wedding envelopes (even if you attend a wedding, you are still meant to pop an envelop of cash in the little red box) would cost them at least VND4 million ($192) – VND200,000 (US$10) is typically the minimum amount given to the happy couple on the big day.
It should be pointed out that my sister's cousin and her husband are civil servants, each earning about VND5 million ($240) or so a month.
And the wedding season, which started last September, has several more months to go!
Shooting yourself in the foot
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are often used by employers to monitor the activities of their employees, particularly if the nature of the work is sensitive, or cash-handling is involved, or if the staff are suspected of idling.
Nguyen Van Dung works for a commercial production company where CCTV cameras were recently installed to ensure employees were pulling their weight.
Shortly after installing the cameras, senior management became aware that their confidential business strategy decisions were being leaked to rival companies.
Furthermore, female members of staff were incensed that the majority of the cameras seemed to be pointing at their chairs, a situation that was later resolved when they were realigned.
As for the mole in the company, security staff eventually discovered that they had not changed the default password setting on the computerised CCTV system, as instructed. As a result, curious rivals had been able to monitor the company's activities by breaking into the computer network using the default password.
It seems the company's drive to root out sloth had inadvertently given their rivals a competitive edge – and the opportunity to monitor the movements of their female members of staff!
The waiting game
It is common practice nowadays for companies to offer helpline services night or day seven days a week. Perhaps that is the case abroad, but in Viet Nam, where employees typically take afternoon naps, or the equivalent at night, it seems there is no such thing as being permanently on call.
Sure enough, when my fixed telephone line suddenly disconnected, I dutifully called the "24/7" service centre on my mobile as instructed by my telecoms operator... and lo and behold, no one picked up. I persisted, in the mistaken belief that the help centre had been inundated with callers, only for my persistence to be eventually rewarded with a curt, "What's the matter with you! Don't you know it's break time. We are all taking a nap!" And the line went dead.
It was 1.30pm!
This experience reminded me of the time I took my grandmother to hospital for a checkup. We had been patiently (I suppose that's why we're called patients) waiting for our turn to see a doctor when, after an interminable amount of time, a nurse came into the waiting room to announce that we'd all have to wait at least another hour because the doctors were attending a funeral – hardly the kind of news you want to hear in a hospital. This, despite the fact that we were in the accident and emergency "24/7" ward. I wouldn't for a minute accuse the medical staff of taking an impromptu siesta, but is it too much to ask that if a company or an institution or an organisation offers a 24/7 service it is just that? Would it not be possible to operate some kind of shift system so that there is always a staff member on duty? In the meantime it seems, time and tide and telephone operators wait for no man. — VNS