Your bladder is full and you’re desperate to empty it. So you walk in long strides to the nearest comfort room. Upon reaching it, a closed door meets you with a sign: “Out of Service.” It’s happened to me many times.
“Out of service” means not working, not functioning, broken; currently unavailable.
Nothing can be more frustrating than to see an “Under Maintenance” sign at the elevator or a stalled escalator on your way to a higher floor. My wife and I frequent a mall where 1 of 2 elevators is often out. Not just for a day but for multiple days and even weeks. So there’s a long queue of people in front of the one working elevator and we have no choice but to line up and take our turn, arthritic knees and all. When I asked the elevator girl why the other elevator is not working, she said “the parts have not yet arrived.”
I’m sure you had similar vexing encounters. An ATM that doesn’t work when you’re in a hurry to get cash. A paper copier that’s out of service when you urgently need it. A flush or faucet in a public toilet that doesn’t work. A vending machine that suddenly conks out after you’ve inserted the required money.
Before cellphones made payphones obsolete, you would be lucky to see one that was working and not “out of service.” Now with cellphones, out of service has been replaced by out of reach.
I am reminded of our old car. When I would bring it to the mechanic to be fixed, it would work for a while. Then something would go wrong again and I had to take it back to the shop. The mechanic was never able to fix it right the first time. Then when I’ve had enough, I brought the car to another shop. From the new mechanic, I found out that some of the parts used by the former mechanic were either improvised or came from “cannibalized” cars. This is the Pinoy attitude of “gawan ng paraan” or “abilidad” at its worst.
My negative experiences have built in me a cynical perception of Filipino maintenance mechanics and repair technicians. When a commuter train station in our area was newly inaugurated, I made a bet with a friend as to which of those brand new elevators or escalators would conk out first before a year has elapsed. True enough, in just a few short months, one elevator for senior citizens and PWD already had an “under maintenance” sign. Then one or two of the new escalators have been out of service a few times. In fairness, they get fixed after just a day or two. I assume the spare parts and the technicians must be readily on hand.
But to be fair, users of these machines are also to be blamed. For instance, they throw away litter that can jam escalators. They press on the elevator button repeatedly as if it would make it open by doing that. Many use the toilet facilities so uncaringly and thoughtlessly as if they owned them. I can’t remember the countless times I’ve seen chewing gum, cigarette butts and toilet paper on urinals. I’ve also witnessed impatient individuals who beat up and kick on helpless vendo machines that were slow to process their orders. Let’s be honest, many people don’t have “urbanidad” and are abusive and careless in their use of common facilities and bring their “balahura”(nasty) habits to public spaces.
What’s the price we pay as a result of machines or systems that are out of service? If one can make a calculation on how much is lost when people are delayed, inconvenienced or unable to accomplish things, I’m sure the cost would be huge. To be sure, productivity dips down, whether as an individual or as an organization.
In my case alone, having the car fixed during workdays made it difficult for me to go to work or to a meeting. I was forced to use up all my allowable number of “leaves.”
This frustrating and exasperating syndrome in our society is not confined to machines. It is also prevalent among people.
Many employees, for example, are physically at the workplace but they are never there. Occupying space but not really present because their minds are not working, are “out of service.” They’re either not committed to, engaged in or focused on their tasks. You’ve heard of non-working holidays. Some people are in non-working holiday mood on most workdays. In and out of service.
The reason is distraction, which is everywhere. But the biggest distractor based on a survey conducted by CareerBuilder is the cellphone. Other reasons for being distracted and unfocused are personal stress, fatigue, poor health or dissatisfaction.
But many people with talent and skills are “out of service” not because they don’t want to work but because of lack of opportunities as well as built-in social bias. For instance, in the subdivision where I live, young idle teens, boys and girls, from informal settler families along a nearby creek casually gather in one spot daily just frittering their time away. Being together most of the time with nothing to do, the girls soon become pregnant and the boys turn to petty thievery and so the poverty cycle turns.
Occasionally we call on one or two of them to do simple tasks like cleaning our yard or trimming the plants in our front garden. Why not harness the skills of these indigent teens, train them properly and put them into productive service? Sayang! What a waste.
What about retired, old folks who are being “put out to pasture,” a term that was coined to describe tired old horses who were retired from their work and put out to the pasture to graze and wait quietly to die. To force someone to leave a job or not employ him because of old age is a repugnant mindset that we need to delete from our society.
Such prejudice is reflected in monikers like “tanders” or “gurang” said out of earshot. In a creative group where I was a former consultant, my youthful colleagues did not bring me to client meetings because they were worried my white hair (“pardon your age is showing”) would turn off the brand managers who were more comfortable dealing with trendy agencies staffed by youngsters of the same age who think and speak like them. Well…it’s their loss.
The h–l with ageism! I will never be ready to be put out to pasture and so are other so-called “jurassic” kindred spirits, like Ridley Scott, Miyazaki and Clint Eastwood. So much talent, knowledge and know-how are squandered, unused, and discarded when society automatically herds gramps and golden agers away under “out of service” status.
What I am more worried about are old geezers who put themselves “out of service” by choice. Shunned by younger executives, feeling unwanted, or worse, unserviceable and unfit for use, they wallow in self-pity, misery or idleness, making no effort to change their feelings or situation.
Boredom is dangerous, pervasive and can have dire consequences, especially among seniors. It often goes hand in hand with feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness. It can strip away at a person’s overall health, purpose and self-worth. One of our former colleagues passed away last year while in such sorry state, much to our regret.
This is why there’s an urgent need to provide opportunities for retirees and pensioners to be of service again where they can use their minds, interact with others and be productive. I’m glad there is now a columnist-opinion maker advocating a shift in how we look at senior citizens as not just recipients of benefits but a driving force in education, community development and corporate social responsibility. It is said, nowadays, a 60-year-old still has 20 bonus years of active life. Giving them productive roles will not just make them feel good; it may actually save them from premature demise.
The thing is, so much in Filipino society is “out of service” or broken down, or needs repairs. This is because we have not been maintaining our democratic way of life properly. Our moral compass seems out of order. We have allowed our institutions to be eroded by corruption, kleptocracy and kakistocracy. Our electoral, legislative, justice, healthcare, social welfare and educational systems are either jammed or in various states of disrepair. The perennial refrain is: sorry for the inconvenience, waiting for new parts to arrive.
This is why I find it laughable that some of us are even contemplating putting up a nuclear energy generator in our country where “pwede na” is the prevailing mindset. When we can’t even rightly maintain the condition of our escalators, elevators, public toilets, Internet connections, how can we be sure a Chernobyl or a 3-mile Long scale disaster won’t happen in our earthquake, typhoon prone land? If this nuclear energy generator pushes through, it won’t be long before we would see an “Out of Service” sign at the door of the nuclear facility.
So much needs to be fixed first before we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin with ourselves. Knowing that so much around us is “out of service” today, can each of us strive to be the new parts that our society’s “elevators” need to finally lift all of us to higher level?