Yesterday: I walk into the 大哥大 store and tell them that I can’t make phone calls, send text messages, or use 3G internet. They say something in Chinese and I’m like yah yah, what 300塊? Alright here you go, 300塊, just make it work.
Today: 10:30 am I walk into the 大哥大 store and talk to the same lady, and say that I paid 300 bones yesterday and I could send a text message, but my 3G still isn’t working. She says oh yah, 300塊 was for phone and messaging service; 3G internet is the other 180塊. I’m like, yah, ok, let’s make it happen buh-bam, 180塊 hook me up. That’s USD about six bucks and a quarter; let’s make it happen.
We sit there for about a minute and the 3G internet isn’t kicking in. Does it take a while, I ask the lady, or is it right away? Right away, she said. Ok, well, I gotta go to class; if it still doesn’t work after class I’ll come back, ok? Sure, she says! Thank you for coming in! Thank you for helping me! Everybody is friends.
Today: 4pm. After a pizza, an iced tea, and a “lazy tiramisù” I walk back to the 大哥大 office. My 3G internet starts working on the walk there, but my text messages fail to send. I walk into the office.
They absolutely don’t care that the right-away 3G update took 5 hours to happen, what do you expect? I told them, though, that I still couldn’t send a text message. They look up my account and said, yes, you’ve spent it all. I said, SINCE YESTERDAY? And they were like yes; your account has a very limited number of minutes, and if you make international calls it gets used up very fast.
I look around me to see if I have gone back in time to an era where anyone on earth still made international phone calls. Look around, look around… nope; it’s still 2014. I haven’t made any phone calls, I said. I received a phone call, I offer, and they jumped on the computer.
Oh! they say, FROM WHAT TIME TO WHAT TIME! Aha! They caught me.
From 15:28 until 15:30. It was a two minute phone call, from a Tainan phone number.
Do you want to talk to someone in English, they ask me? Sure, I say.
So they dial up the English service, and the lady supposedly speaks English , but it’s all takka-takka-takka-takka-takka. English words, but I have no idea what the hell she could possibly be talking about.
I can’t hear you, I say. It was true, I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Also, she’s speaking some kind of horrible corporate bullshit English that doesn’t make any damn sense. All I really understand is “Do you bring your passport.” Do I bring my passport? See, I would prefer it if when you spoke English to me, that you say something that might make sense…
Anyway, the plan is to go to the next 大哥大 store three blocks away, and bring my passport, which is the magic key to unlocking their company’s pendejadas. I hand the phone back to the lady that’s been helping me, and she writes some info down for me on a slip of paper, so that I can make it to the next store. I ask her, “is it worth it? If I go there with my passport, will they fix it? Because I’m only here 10 more days, and I have plans tonight; my friends are waiting for me. Will they fix it or is it just kiss my 300塊 goodbye?”
“Kiss my 300塊 goodbye” made her feel bad, which was my intent. She said I should go, they would print out my usage history, and figure out what the deal was; it should be fast.”
I go to meet my friends. Have a lovely dinner. Forget to take a picture. Walk my friends back to the metro station, and then go find the next 大哥大 office.
By the way, “大哥大” is just a way of saying “cellphone” but it’s also the brand name of the company. Literally translated, “大哥大” can mean “Big Brother is Great.”
Big Brother is Great.
I walk into the next 大哥大 store, thinking this was a service center or headquarters or some kind of passport-receiving agency which will explain to me how I have, indeed, burned through 480塊’s worth of phone and internet credit, which were supposed to be separate anyway… in the span of 24 hours.
I walk in and it looks like just another branch. No extra authority; no manager, no special nothing; just more 大哥大 kids in their gross polo shirts.
In my opinion, polo shirts are gross. Sorry, Latino friends.
So they hear my story and refer me to someone else, and accuse me of making international calls and data-rich text messages and burning through my money like the FAT DECADENT WESTERNER I am. They bring out a big printout of all of my usage, and I ask, can you show me where I made a phone call yesterday? Can you show me where I sent a text message yesterday?
They offer to have me talk to an English speaking agent on the phone, and I was like… yah, fine.
This time it was a man, whose English was easier to understand, but he was still speaking the confusing corporate double speak. I honestly honestly honestly did not know where he was going with it until he said “… so I will return your 380 NTDollars to your account and will make sure it Never. Happens. Again.”
I have no idea what happened. I asked him, and he explained again, and I still didn’t get it, but I was happy that I was getting my credits back. I asked him to explain it to the lady in front of me in Chinese so that she would know my situation, so as soon as I handed her the phone SHE HUNG IT UP.
She looked at me like, “so, how’d it go?” And I said, “I wanted you to talk to him so he could explain it to you.”
Oh, sorry, she said. I smiled as my heart filled with a vague hatred, which I asked Jesus to take from me.
Just now I dialed 867 to check my account balance: three hundred one point one NTDollars, is what it said. Phone calls work, text messages work, 3G internet works. What was the problem? Don’t ask me, I have no idea.
Comprehension questions. What did you understand? Answer in complete sentences in English or in Spanish.
1. Did I do something wrong?
2. Why did they need my passport?
3. What did the man on the phone see differently, that the woman on the phone and three people at the counter failed to see?
4. I have this desire in my heart to go back and make five people feel like total dumb-ass piles of shit for wasting two hours of my life due to their incompetence. That’s unreasonable, and totally wrong of me to want, right? I don’t have to do that. Do I? Of course not. Right?