As a child, I hated going to the dentist. I couldn’t stand the way this kind, well-meaning man would tell my mother that the p-a-i-n wouldn’t be too bad but that the d-r-i-l-l might be s-c-a-r-y. I was 10 years old for God’s sake. Surely he knew I could s-p-e-l-l? As a teenager, I dreaded going to the hairdresser. My colourist once got into an argument on the phone with her boyfriend and forgot about my peroxide. This happened the same day my passport expired. I had to live with that photo for ten years. As an adult, living in Budapest, I now break out in a cold sweat at the thoughts of going anywhere near a phone company. To date, by my reckoning, my attempts to get wireless Internet in my flat have cost me 21 hours, a complete set of fingernails, and my dignity.
For the purpose of this account, let’s not go with the usual Company A, Company B, or Company C. Let’s instead do something completely radical and call them, say, Company T, Company U, and Company V.
T is for thrasonical
My electrician assured me that my flat was wired for a phone and therefore I should get wireless Internet. Nincs probléma, he said. I cajoled a Hungarian friend of mine into coming with me when I paid the first of three office visits to Company T. I had every form of ID imaginable, including my birth certificate and vaccination records. Best be prepared. We explained that I wanted wireless Internet in my flat and that my KFT was registered at one address but that the Internet was to be installed at another. We filled in the forms, handed over the various proofs of identity and were assured that a technician would call out, to the right address, the following whenever. Nincs probléma.
And call he did, on schedule, but to the wrong address. I called my friend. She called Company T. They said they’d have to reschedule. Nincs probléma. Then they sent me a letter confirming that I had cancelled my contract; shame we couldn’t do business, etc. What? I went back to Company T with yet another Hungarian-speaking friend and went through the whole scenario again: explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures. Almost two hours into the process, just as I’d signed my name for the umpteenth time, I was told: sorry, whoops, Company T didn’t service my building after all. mmmm…
U is for unthirlable
So I tried Company U. I decided to phone. The woman I spoke to was a breath of fresh air. Of course they could supply me with Internet. Nincs probléma. What package did I want? I was on a high. I couldn’t believe it. The technician would be out in a couple of days. He came. He saw. He told me the wires wouldn’t reach from the second floor to the fourth floor. Terribly sorry and all that…but they couldn’t help me after all. Anyway, he said, almost as an afterthought, I should be dealing with Company T as they provide Internet to most of this building. I checked with two of my neighbours and yes, one used Company T, and the other used Company U. mmmm…
So back I went to Company T. I knew the drill: explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures. Just let me check one thing, the girl said, again nearly two hours into the process. Yes…. it appears that your building is oversubscribed. Sorry! Oversubscribed? I blew a gasket.
V is for verisimilitude
Next stop on the Internet tour was Company V. Same drill: explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures Nincs probléma. But, wait! They could only give me mobile Internet. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was desperate. It worked fine for three days. All was well with the world. Life was good. Then, for no obvious reason, it stopped. I went to their office with my laptop and the offending stick. It works fine, the chap said, having checked it on his machine. He was busily texting his mate and not even looking at me! In a voice that would freeze the blood in Berlusconi’s veins, I reminded him that I was the customer; that I should be his priority; that he should cease texting and look at me; that I was paying for a service I wasn’t getting; and that my Internet DID NOT WORK. And then I broke down. Dignity? What dignity? I flung myself across his desk and bawled. I couldn’t take any more of this. People got hooked up with Internet every day. Why not me? He checked my laptop. He checked the stick. He did what he had to do. And he fixed it. Nincs probléma.
First published in the Budapest Times 12 April 2010