I have something to get off my chest. This is before I even start to talk about all the wonderful things we’ve been doing - etc etc. It is not for nothing that psychologists rate moving house as among the most stressful of life events, pipped I think only by death of a spouse, child or other cataclysm. I know I am not the only human being to have experienced the joys of communicating with Australia’s major telecommunications provider, but if my story makes anyone else feel that they are not completely alone then I will have achieved two good things.
It starts with needing to get the telephone connected. The house hasn’t ever had one so we start from scratch. No problems, I get in nice and early, as soon as we anticipate a moving date. Gives them at least two weeks to get the process rolling along. After about ten days, well, I think, perhaps there has been a small hitch, since I haven’t heard from the pre-wiring technician, the one we need to start it all rolling. Okay, no drama, I call to enquire as to when it is likely that we will hear from a contractor regarding the pre-wiring, which we have already ordered but seems to have got lost in the system. Oh, I’m sorry there seems to have been a miscommunication, and I will send that request straight away, I do apologise, we’ll get that happening straight away. I’m cool, I’m polite, these things can happen (but we’ve just lost ten days in the rolling out process….) No worries. This time the contractor is prompt – someone has obviously put the wind up him about the delay in contacting him – as if it’s his fault! But he is also very busy and can’t come for ten days. Okay, no worries. I can wait. We’ve been waiting two months already without effective communications, what’s another (two times) ten days? Actually the contractor is very efficient – he turns up four days early to dig the trench – fantastic! Perhaps he detected the rising note of (polite) impatience in my voice…whatever, he turns up cheerfully on the Monday and gets all the pre-wiring done. Fantastic. Because of this I think, perhaps I’ll risk a call to see if I can get an earlier connection of the phone – after all, it’s been two months (and two times ten days). Of course it costs a fortune to call the “they will remain nameless telco” on a mobile so I brave the wet stormy weather and call from a phone box in the main street – I have to wait about 50 minutes but yes! I have my early connection arranged for the Friday instead of the Monday, again fantastic as I have to start work that week and I need to change over the registration for the car and be home anyway for the glass splashback installer guy that day etc etc….anyway, the day arrives. The connection guy calls (on the mobile) in the morning to ask whether we have a connection. Excuse me? Aren’t you the one doing the connection? The pre-wiring has to be done first so that you can do the next thing, yes? My cro-magnon intelligence about telecommunications only allows me minimal understanding of things to this point, only what they tell you when you call up to ask about the roll out of the process. No, no connection yet, sorry you might have to physically turn up on the premises (as pre-ordered, but never mind, small detail). So the guy arrives. First he asks what the pre-wiring chap has done. Excuse me? I don’t know, hasn’t he told you? I just want the phone connected, please. Ah, but that’s not my job, says the guy. Sorry, what is your job? I thought it was to do the connection. But I can’t step over the threshold of the house or I have to charge you $60 per quarter of an hour. Well, how, may I ask, do you sort out the connection if you are not allowed to step over the threshold of the house? I’m polite. I’m patient. What’s another few days (I suppose I can work around the fact that I can’t be home next week...) Take a deep breath. Stay polite. In the mean time the guy is pulling apart the boxes and searching for wires under the house and scratching his head and it doesn’t look too promising. It must be the pre-wiring guy’s fault, the connection guy claims. Or the electrician. He must have done some faulty wiring. Now hang on. Whose fault is it? Can’t you come inside and check the telephone connection, like inside the house? Oh no, you have to understand it from my point of view, it’s not my responsibility - what to connect the phone? Sorry, I have missed something fundamental here. It’s not your responsibility to connect the phone? Can I ask whose responsibility it is? I turn on my heel (yes, perhaps I am a little less than polite at this point) to call the electrician (I’ve already spoken to the pre-wiring guy who assures me he has done his bit.) The guy who is installing the glass in the kitchen calls out (I thought he was a wordless wonder but it turns out he can grunt) that the connection guy is waiting at the threshold of the house and, though he really shouldn’t, he is willing to cross it to check the connection in the house. I try and smile. Unfortunately he has to come in to my messy bedroom, and move my dressing table where I was sorting out all those stupid stockings I don’t know why I brought with me. This is a little embarrassing. Anyway, he dismantles the plug at the point and checks the connections. Amazing, he has to join a little red wire and a little black wire and hey presto, we have a connection. That, apparently wasn’t his responsibility. But putting all that aside, eureka, we have a phone connection and I can now give him his box of matches so he can have a fag and disappear from my life forever. But it is not over yet. There is more.
The internet modem package, ordered at the same time as the phone still hasn’t arrived. I get Andrew to call, since he ordered it – the account is under his name. After forty-five minutes he establishes that no, unfortunately something has gone astray in the communications and the package hasn’t been dispatched. So, no worries, we re-order (politely). What’s the worry? We’ve only been waiting a few weeks, a few months, what’s a few more days? Of course then it’s Easter and we’re away but finally we get the package on our return. Great – I have Seb to set it all up and visitors who know a thing or two. But no connection. Sigh, I have to call the helpline. I prepare myself, make sure I have a free afternoon (whoever has that, but, at least a good hour). After forty five minutes with the fellow from Mumbai, terribly polite, I am told he cannot continue with the call as I am not the authorized account holder, Andrew Goldsmith, is. What! I say? But you’ve been trying to help me for 45 minutes! How can you say I’m not the account holder? I’m sorry but there is an authorization failure he reports. But I share the same bed with Andrew Goldsmith! Are you going to tell me you can’t continue with the telephone support? Unfortunately I accidentally cut him off as I am trying to configure the line splitter while talking completely ineffectually with him. I am not too concerned as I think he had run out of options to help me and actually didn’t know how to wriggle out of the conversation. I take in a deep breath. I still have twenty minutes before I have to be somewhere else. I’ll try again. Oh, says the helpful woman from Malaysia, as she puts me through to code activation woman (in Australia, amazingly) (she had to call Andrew Goldsmith to verify that we do sleep in the same bed) - you just have to have the ADSL codes activated on the exchange. We can get that done for you on Thursday (it is Monday now). What’s the worry? Another four days won’t matter will it? Of course, it’s too logical for that to be ordered with the internet package, isn’t it? That might be asking a bit much. I’m told that they ‘stuff it up’ if they order the codes at the same time as the home package. No worries, I’m polite, it will all happen in good time. They have to actually physically go up to the exchange and put them on. But they will be activated by Thursday (she gives me the number to call in case, which makes me suspicious). So Thursday evening comes and I try again to connect. No dice. Who else can ring instead of me? I have plugged and unplugged and stuck their stupid help-me CD in the computer at least four times (“Take the CD_ROM out of this self-install kit and pop it into your computer. It’s that simple”) and I am the only one who knows what I have done in the sequence and what will not be done again (no matter how many times they tell me to unplug the cords and restart my computer). It has to be me, so I phone again. This time I get a not so nice chap from Mumbai and he is not at all patient and I am trying to be very patient with him but he is really testing it (to be fair, perhaps I am starting to test him). After he tells me that it is obviously a problem with my computer and I should just restart it, he hangs up on me. He seriously hangs up on me. He puts me on hold but he never comes back. In the mean time I have restarted my computer and the internet still doesn’t work. Now it is after hours but I am determined to get this happening, so I call and this time I get a robot. The robot tells me to check this and that and to ping and to restart and all sorts of clever things for a robot, he/it even goes ‘hmm, let’s try something else’ when it doesn’t work for the ninth time, but we can’t get a connection. By this stage I have lost it completely and go to bed. At least the robot was polite.
The next morning I figure I’ll try the laptop and see if the chap from Mumbai is right, that it is the fault of my computer and therefore my fault really for a being a stupid human being. The laptop does work, hurray! So I know it is just a matter of getting the settings right. I call back (amazingly the robot puts me straight though to a technician after asking me if I have already called about this problem and I speak to a lovely Malaysian woman and I am very polite and the story has a happy ending.
We have communication.