Last Friday I came home for lunch in a good mood. I had taken a week off from work. I had my daughter’s birthday to look forward to. And to wrap it up, I had booked a weekend stay at a hotel at the end of my vacation. Hellooo long hot baths, it’d been too long.
I turned on my computer to see if anything had happened on Skype while I was at work, when I noticed the wi-fi refused to connect. Didn’t we just go through this 2 months ago? With a sigh I called the number for technical support. I got a whole lot of nothing. Not even their dreaded hold music.
That’s when I had the bright idea to check the newspaper. It was the picture that caught my eye first. And It really told me enough.
Signs removed, windows covered in tarp, and a “D” car (D for Dienst — the license-plate indicator of all government departments) in front. It looked like a picture of a whole lot of nothing. But I knew that place. That was where the office of my Internet Service Provider was. Used to be. With a sinking feeling I started reading the accompanying article.
Nope, they didn’t move. Nor did anyone go postal on them. Unfortunately.
They simply “forgot” to pay any taxes for about a decade. Ten years, not one cent went to the government. And so, after they raked up a debt of about 15 million florins (Bit under 8.6 million US$), the Department of Telecommunications decided to revoke their permit to run a mobile data and phone network. Took the whole thing off the air that morning.
I quickly checked the time. Just past noon. If I hurried, I might still be able to replace my wi-fi box before my vacation started. I called my boss to say I was going to start my time off half a day early.
One of the offices of my phone company was not even ten minutes away from my house. I hurried over as fast as I could. But it seemed I was late to react. When I walked in, the place was busy as hell. The fancy machine that spits out numbers, had ran out of paper and was only giving error messages. One elderly gentleman kindly informed me the person in front of me was a teenager waiting with his mother. Busy as it was, I found a place to sit.
Settled, I looked around. Of course they only had one station open, regardless of how busy it was. This was going to take a while. But, I had my days off ahead of me, I had a seat which was really much more comfortable than a waiting room chair has any right to be, I was sitting in a nicely air conditioned room — never underestimate the value of A/C in the tropics — and I had my note book with me. Even if it would take a while, I was prepared to wait.
Not everyone was. About half the time the doors opened, the person would take one look inside and promptly turn around again. I couldn’t really blame them. Service seemed to be agonizingly slow. I was too far away from the counter to hear what was going on, but each person seemed to take a minimum of fifteen minutes.
I had been staring at an empty page of my notebook for almost an hour when a woman next to me got into a animated discussion with another person waiting in line.
“No, I’m telling you, I was here this morning already. They can’t connect that phone. I had to go buy a new one.”
“But, when I got it they specifically said…”
“I know. They said that to me as well. They lied. The phone is locked.”
“But…but…they can’t unlock it here?”
“No. MIO has to unlock the phone.”
I remembered the picture in the paper. MIO wasn’t going to unlock anything. Or return deposits, for that matter. They simply disappeared. I felt sorry for the lady. At the same time I was happy I only rented a Wi-Fi box. That would be easily replaced. Even if it did mean paying deposit again.
After some more back and forth, the woman next to me stood up and left. Just as quickly the seat was filled again. “Did she go home?” the new person asked.
“Yeah, I explained they wouldn’t be able to connect that phone from MIO…”
And the discussion started again. It would repeat itself twice more before it was finally my turn. I walked up to the counter, somehow still in my good mood. “I need one of those wi-fi boxes”
My good mood disappeared instantly when I saw the salesman pain expression. “Sorry, those are out of stock.”
“But…when are you getting new ones?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
From experience I knew that meant they were not getting any for at least six months, maybe even longer. “How about other locations, could you check for me?” The man reached for the phone, but I could see from his body language it was only a token action. I understood why it had taken everyone so long to be helped today. He had probably called to check for each person. “Out of stock” was the theme of the day. It was only now that it registered with me that the man with the phone mentioned having to buy a new one in a different store. Usually you can get a phone with a new account. So why would he go to a store to buy a phone without company discount, had they not been out of stock. Everything was out of stock.
“Never mind,” I said defeated. No need to hold up the line longer than necessary. I took my purse and walked outside. My mood was on the edge of turning sour. I looked around. I could have gone home, but I was perhaps three hundred meters away from my favorite boutique. And I had some money I wouldn’t be spending on a deposit. And I really needed to salvage the beginning of my vacation. Screw it, I’m going shopping.