Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fury, success, redemption

Ah, dear readers, it has been an interesting day. Many things have to be accomplished before I hop on a government-owned airliner and begin my 23-hour sojourn back to a magical Place Where Water Falls From the Sky.

Among them was getting Internet set up in my apartment. And not even set up--just switched from my roommate's name to mine. On Sunday, we went down to the Etisalat office, filled out some paperwork, waited in a bunch of different lines... an then learned that there was a problem with the system and the switch couldn't be made right then. Instead, they would call me when the paperwork went through, I would go back down there and we would sort it all out over coffee.

"After tomorrow." Sounds familiar, right?

Yesterday I called and was told that the paperwork we had filed didn't exist. Awesome. Today I went down to the office and spoke with the clerk who helped us the most the first time around. He told me the request couldn't be processed because of "big problems" in the system. But seeing the fury (or hopelessness?) in my eyes, he kicked me upstairs to someone else. I handed him the paper work--which, it turns out, did exist--and after reading it, he said, and I quote: "What did that guy tell you?"

Not promising. But after getting bounced to a different counter, I finally got an answer that made sense. There was a fee to pay to transfer the account. No one had collected this fee. Therefore, the service couldn't be transferred. Dirhams paid, I walked out of the building an official Etisalat customer.

Next came the post office. I don't have a great track record there. Sure, there aren't many data points, but the last time I tried to pick up a package, it did not go smoothly.

This time, though, all kinds of good things happened. First of all, my UAE driver's license worked perfectly as ID. Which is great, because it means my passport can stay in a happy, safe place. Second, they found the package fast and brought it to me. Third, they didn't try to charge me anything to take it away. And fourth, the customs guy doing the customary "is someone trying to mail you porn?" search was in good spirits.

(pulls a pack of playing cards with cocktail recipes out of the box) Cards. For magic tricks?

Ha. Uh, yes. Magic tricks.

And then comes the best part. Waiting in the 115-degree sun for a taxi was brutal. All of them had passengers or only wanted to take me to Musaffah, which, unfortunately for both of us, wasn't where I wanted to go. Just as I'm considering getting on the next bus I see, giant package and all, a taxi with a passenger pulls up and honks at me.

It's Kamal. He's the cab driver I have on my cell phone--a number stolen shamelessly from my Scottish friends--to call when I need an arranged ride. But the last time I called him, he just didn't show up. I thought that was it. And yet here he is, rolling up just when I needed him.

The end result? A free ride home--he refused my money--and arrangements to take me to the airport on Friday morning.

Sometimes things work out despite all the sweat, bureaucracy and giant blocks of text on a blog.

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