Friday, November 13, 2009

Hair today, Dunkin' Donuts tomorrow

One of the best things about Korea, and one of the worst things about Canada, is the speed of construction. There's an escalator at King station in Toronto that has been out of service since May and, when I last saw the sign in October, was expected to be in service by November. That means it takes, for whatever reason, six months to repair an escalator. That's a bad sign if we're going to build 120 km of track by 2020, considering that it takes a decade just to produce a measly extension of a subway line.

The most amazing example of Korean construction was the Dunkin' Donuts by my old school. It took, by my estimate, no more than two weeks for a functioning pharmacy to become a functioning Dunkin' Donuts. When I saw the sign that said Dunkin' Donuts over the closed pharmacy, I thought that I would probably be able to go there in three months. Construction was quick, but I didn't think much of it, living in Canada had taught me some cruel lessons about what to expect.

Now, there's a Korean church by my house that, for a decade, was nothing but a sign that said "future site of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church". Aside from the curious choice in name, which makes it sound like either fat Koreans will not be allowed or that the Presbyterianism is lightweight, I can only assume that they lacked the money for a long time to build the church. Once they started building it, I thought the process went by pretty fast.

Then again, having worked at a Korean company, I'm glad to be a lazy foreigner. The school's owner was there from about 8 am to 8 am Monday to Friday, and was often there on Saturdays as well. The Korean staff worked 8-6 Monday to Friday for less pay than us, and didn't have the option of refusing extra work because, unlike foreigners, they don't really exist as individuals. The same drive that gets Dunkin' Donuts built in ten days gets you a week of vacation at many companies, which you often can't use at once. I'd rather live in a country where the minimum wage is more than $4 an hour, where you don't have to ask your boss permission to go home, and where more than 40% of people are happy with their lives.

Now, that graph measures subjective well-being, which news articles turned into articles about the "world's happiest countries". This would be a good time to break out your Aristotle and see why this is a bad idea.

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