May 28, 2007

Call 1515 for a Miracle!

My landline was broken. For those unfamiliar with the terminology ‘landline’; a landline is your home connection, versus your mobile phone which is obviously not connected to your house, but to your phone. Am I still clear?

Anyway, the landline had not been functioning for quite some time. It didn’t bother me, nor hubbie, since we never use the landline. But it is our housekeeper’s lifeline with the outside world; the ‘nanny network’. She was not one bit pleased with this development, and so I went to the phone company.

You wonder why I didn’t just call? Well, I don’t have a phonebook either. I remember that the phone company did hand out one some years ago, when they sort of reorganized their affairs after the civil war, but it’s been lost forever. Besides, most names in the French phone book (there is one in Arabic of course as well) have been phonetically translated from Arabic, and the translations vary. In my family there are four people with a landline, and they are under four different last names, which are all spelled similar, but slightly different. So in order to find someone in the phone book, you’d need to go over a number of spelling possibilities. Besides, everybody in Beirut has a mobile.
There are Yellow Pages too, but the one I have is in Arabic. And so I did not have the number of the phone company. Anyway, to the phone company I went.

You have to call 1515,” the man behind the little window said.
I tried 1515, right in front of him, on my mobile phone.
No, no,” he said impatiently, “not with that phone. With a landline!”
But my landline is not working.
This instilled little confidence; to have to report a broken landline connection through a landline connection only.

This meant I’d have to use a public phone, but then you’d need a phone card, and I had no intention of buying a 5,000 pound phone card for a 500 pound telephone conversation that – I was sure – was not going to amount to anything anyway.
Luckily there are plenty of grocery stores and mini-markets where the owner will let you call for just a 500 pound fee.

And so to the grocery store I went, and dialed 1515.
I got a machine on the line. Since I missed the first message ('Press one if you want to listen to this message in English’), I had to listen to all other 8 menu choices, before I got back to 1.
I pressed 1.
Then there were another 9 choices, from account information to ADSL subscription (yes, we do have it now!). I pressed 1 again, for reporting an ‘irregularity’ (if I understood the machine quite right. I wasn’t sure).
I had to punch in my home number.
I did.
Then the machine asked me for a number where they could reach me in case they’d need to.
I did that as well.
This was followed by a ticket number which I had to write down for reference in case the problem was not taken care of. By the time I found a pen, the machine was done reciting.
Finally the machine said something like “Thank you for calling xxxxx, your problem will be resolved in (inserted voice) 0 days.”
I assumed that my trip to the both the phone company and the neighborhood mini-market had been fruitless. This is nothing new. Now I would have to get hold of a ‘fixer’, who’d come and fix the problem.

When I got home however, the housekeeper said triumphantly; “Madam, the phone is working again!”

This must be the second miracle, after the Immaculate Conception some 2,000 years ago, in the Middle East.
This place is definitely going somewhere!


Michael van Eekeren said...

A typical Sietske-story: amidst all the trouble and worries around her there is always some sunshine in the daily life of Sietske, even if it is a trifle cynical.

Sietske said...

Ja, dat cynische hoor ik wel vaker. Ik vind het wel meevallen, maar ik lig nu al 5 jaar in de clinch, eerst met mijn vorige, en de afgelopen 3 jaar met mijn huidige baas, dat ik te cynisch zou zijn. 'sarcastic' noemen zei het. Ik heb tegen ze (Noord-Amerikanen) gezegd dat dit het Noord-Europese gevoel voor humor is, en dat zij, als zjinde Amerikanen, unberhaupt geen gevoel voor humor hebben, laat staan dat ze het sarcastische gevoel ervoor. Maar ik wordt verdomme wel elk jaar weer op dat matje geroepen.

Michael van Eekeren said...

Wie zijn 'ze'? Van de school waar je les geeft naast je oorlogscorrespondentenwerk? Is ook een moeilijke combinatie natuurlijk.
Maar je bent zoals je bent (dat een beetje tegengehouden worden door het establishment hoort juist bij cynici, zeker zij die al een tijdje in Beiroet wonen) en volgens mij kunnen Amerikanen best wel sarcastisch zijn, maar misschien niet de expats dit toch altijd een beetje onwerkelijk zijn.