Friday, July 21, 2006

The Phone Cut

The phone had been out for a few days, but the internet was working. It may not last, but that’s actually an ideal state to be in. The children can’t whack up the phone bill, you can still receive calls and you can surf on the web – or indeed write rude and regular things about the carpetbaggers on your very own website.
It can’t last though. Sooner or later the electric company, Sevillana, is going to have one of its click-clack power shorts which is apparently caused by birds taking off from the line from Vera and has nothing to do with the poor maintenance on the equipment or the splendid cars operated by the share-holders.
So, it happened. The brief thunk of the power stopped the internet connection, and I was once again obliged to deal with Telefonica. That, or to ceremoniously disembowel myself on the kitchen floor, which is generally considered less painful.
I started yesterday, in the office, by ringing Telefonica on 1004. I then tapped in my phone number. I then listened to music. I then met Alfredo, who rather thought it was a technical problem and not a mere overdue bill. After trying to sell me a special summer telephone deal, he passed me to a colleague who was of the sound opinion that there was nothing wrong with the line and that, indeed, coughing up something in the billing department would do the trick and, oh, by the way, could I press a button to tell the company if I had been treated politely. A number one, if I would be so kind.
The new billing lady, after making sure that I knew my telephone number and wasn’t in fact carrying a false residence card number – which I was as a matter of fact, as the phone is in somebody else’s name – finally gave me a price.
You can only pay your old phone bills at the Banesto bank. There’s one in the village.
I drove up the hill, past all the parked tourist cars, and then down the other side for some distance. It’s hot and dusty and a pull to totter up to the top again, just to pay the 100 euros and eight cents that the Telefonica company wanted.
The Banesto bank in the pueblo is a small room with two tables, one computer, a few concerned looking ashtrays, and a sign saying that you can only pay Telefonica bills on Tuesdays and Thursdays and before 10.30am. And an air-conditioner. It’s Thursday midday and I’ve spent enough time on this. But, on the bright side, I'm cool.
The bank flunky tries to send the wretched company a transfer anyway. But the computer won’t accept it. ‘Come back on Tuesday morning, early’ suggests the fellow. Or, perhaps he said ‘wear something light and get the morning off from your work. Another five days without phone or internet will put you in a splendid mood. Your walk up the hill, past all the accordion players and elderly beggars will place you in a happy frame of mind and when I finally take your money you will be pleased to consider that, in a mere 48 hours after the transfer, your phoning and surfing rights will be fully returned to you’.
I went into the bar next door. Carmen is nice. She set me up a beer as I rang 1004 on my mobile phone. Typed in my number. Listened to music, diddle di diddle di dee… Our operators are busy, please call back another time…
So I was talking to Carmen while holding the phone to my ear after another attempt, when a voice suddenly came on in… English!
‘Yess, how can ay help you?’ ‘Lissen, girlie, I wanna pay my phone bill and the stupid bank says that the figure is wrong and I’ve spent the whole morning farting about and I…’
‘Yes sir. The computers are down here. Call again later’.
So I will.

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