Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Back Online

Ever since leaving Dubai, I have been at the mercy of internet cafes for keeping in touch with the world. I have not enjoyed the experience: I like more space around me; I like keyboards that work and whose keys have identifying letters printed on them; I like not having to listen to people making phone calls to Argentina; and I like the option of being able to use browsers that are not made by Micro$oft.

The main Spanish phone company, Telefonica is, like most phone companies everywhere, not well liked by most of its customers. I had an extremely hard time even becoming a customer, and it's all my fault of course, because my Spanish is no good.

I had thought it would be a simple matter to just go to their head office, pick up a form, and complete it at my leisure. But no, that's way too simple. The armed guard at the door told me I had to phone this number - he wrote it down for me. So I phoned the number and could make no sense whatsoever of the flurry of machine Spanish that greeted me, so I gave up. Dejected.

A few days later I decided to try again. I marched straight past the numerous security guards at Telefonica HQ and made a bee-line for one of the friendly-looking young ladies at the reception
'Hablar inglés, senorita?'
'Of course!'
Whoopee! I told her what I wanted, and she directed me to another reception desk, staffed by four more armed guards and an x-ray machine. I'm probably exaggerating when I describe them as 'armed', but they do carry a baton and handcuffs, which seems a bit over-the-top to me. One of them wants my passport and after a lot of messing about on a computer issues me with a security badge. Then I have to wait 20 minutes until another guard arrives to escort me upstairs. This is turning out to be the most bizarre experience - all I want is a bloody telephone and broadband!

I'm shown into the office of a lady who speaks no English, but she phones someone who does speak English, and I speak to her. She wants my NIE number, or a passport number, and she wants bank account details. Now I wasn't expecting any of this - I was still working on the assumption that I would get an application form to take away and fill in at home - so I can't give her the info she needs. It's a pointless exercise. I manage to end the call, and then the lady in the office phones somebody else. This one has better English, but it's still futile because I have not brought the required info. In the end I'm pleading to be let out. I just want to go somewhere and drink beer.

I was reading George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' at the time. During the Spanish Civil War, Orwell was involved in a kind of seige of the Telephone Exchange in Barcelona. It was only when I read an appendix at the back of the book in which the Telephone Exchange was referred to as The Telefonica Building that the reason for the strict security became apparent - they thought I was some kind of armed insurgent bent on bringing down the Republic by trying to do subversive things on the Internet.

Ah, the Internet! So I went to an Internet Caff and visited Telefonica's website. I managed to get as far as the first page of the registration process, submitted the form, and was told that there was already a phone installed at my address. Bloody hell.

In desperation, I asked the property agent who'd found us our flat if he could help. No problemmo, gimme the details and it'll be installed in 2-3 weeks. Well, 2-3 weeks didn't impress
me, but I had no choice but to wait. Two weeks later I got an emailed order confirmation from my pal: the order had just been placed that day. I decided that I would go and kill him the next day, but was forestalled by a phone call from a Telefonica engineer asking when I would like him to come. Jokingly, I said 'manana', and was pleasantly surprised when he said 'ok, what time?'

So, if your Spanish is up to it, and you live two blocks away from Telefonica world HQ, you can actually get a phone and internet installed in one or two days.


Harsha said...

Hey hey! good to see you back

When I read the tittle 'Probably Madrid', I assumed you're hoping its probably Madrid you'd find a belonging and home...but your previous post say a diff story ;o)

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

That's just too painful. How much are you wishing for Dubai's internet even with all its restrictions on many what would be deemed as normal sites?

Seabee said...

Good to have you back in the blogosphere.

nzm said...

cool that you're back - we've missed you!

Jin said...

Nice to have you up & running keefie & I look forward to reading heaps of stuff about Spain. (I still envy you!)

p.s. Did you find a publisher yet?

John said...

Hi, good to see you back online.

John aka Dhabi Dabbler

dubaibilly said...

Ah, come back Etisalat all is forgiven! Keep posting buddy, you've had a break and now it is time to start wearing the fingers down to the bone again. Cheers, Dubaibilly