On the Beach

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Not South African yet

The other day I had a problem. My internet access was non-existent and then intermittent. Had I never heard of the internet before, this would have been NOTHING to me. Seeing as I am an internet junkie, it was a real problem for me.

To the surprise of many South Africans, this was the first time the internet had gone down in my house since we moved here almost 2 years ago. On this basis (and a couple of calls to them) my opinion of Telkom was pretty good. Not amazing as they're pricey but OK. I have since discovered that they are a source of some hatred among South Africans.

As an aside, I think I have decided it takes a while to really hate something like a service provider. I mean really hate. You can dislike them for a one-off here and there, but it takes a decade or more of feeling let down and ripped off to get that hatred that sits in your belly and makes it hard to breathe. I'm sure some people that have lived in the UK for maybe one or 2 years think that BT are fine. After 22 years of a "relationship" with BT,  I left UK shores bitter and twisted having spent my last 2 weeks dealing with BT. These dealings culminated in a richly worded and detailed  letter (6 pages) telling them the best thing about emigrating was that I would no longer have anything to do with them. I may have overreacted.

Similarly, I had an exchange with friends who went to the UK and said how wonderful the London public transport system is. I disagreed. A lot.. But that is what 22 years on riding those trains and tubes (11 as a commuter, for my sins) did to me. I cannot be objective about it. Years of being late, being ripped off and left standing because of leaves on the line make their mark.  I'm sure most people who are in the UK short to medium term think its fabulous. I thought the NY subway was a fabulous ride! Now sure many New Yorkers would agree but I had fun. Loved going over the bridges!

Anyway, so I logged the fault complaint and the next day, completely unannounced, the engineer dude came over. Unannounced, of course, because tradesmen here assume that you're either in or your domestic is (that's a whole other topic!).

He showed me the problem. Now, this is something I would not have experienced in the UK. There is a wire that runs along my roof, off the edge and into the trees. If my kids were a bit taller they'd love to use that wire as a tight-rope or something else I wouldn't let them use it for. Apparently, this wire- just hanging there, through the wind, rain, scorching heat- is my link to the outside world. I was amazed that I had had any internet or phone at all. It seemed more likely that I would have used tin cans with string in between to communicate. The specific problem was that this wire which I had always nonchalantly assumed just went into a tree (never wondered why- why?)actually went into a post which had become overgrown in such a way that I thought it was a tree. So this lovely gentleman went around the neighbours to access the post ("Full of bugs!" he said) and plugged me into something else. By the way, this is IT on a level my brain understands: physical plugging in. So there we were, my very un-First World internet connection was back. Phew.

After this, this super engineer stayed for an hour sorting out all the not-physically-plugged in IT stuff that I wasn't coping with and set up all manner of passwords and accesses that went straight over my head. He was so helpful and so nice that when he left, I felt a warm glow for Telkom and its employees.

A friend who has been having internet issues was not so full of love.It seems my engineer had arrived at work first that day and taken all the helpfulness with him, leaving almost none for the other employees. When I told her- delighted- that I had it all fixed, she asked whether I had his number. No, why would I, I can just call Telkom....

Yes, I could call them. And not get the same telecommunications superguy. I've missed a trick. The South African way is to nab a good tradesman where you can. Get your expert in your phone book because you never know who the monopolistic monolith will send to you. Proof, if any were needed, that a green ID book does not a South African make.

For the record, it never occurred to me to get a BT guy's number in the UK. Because I actually cannot remember anyone ever turning up at the allotted time. Or otherwise. The hate hasn't died down, time hasn't been a healer.

Now I know where my internet fix comes from, I shall watch it like a hawk. Treat it with respect. And take a much harder line with those pesky birds casually perching on it.


  1. What you did miss was that the guy spent an hour loading spyware onto your computer and now has all your passwords and banking access. I am sure that is why he was smiling so much. We certainly didn't get the same guy because ours just told us that we logged the fault on the wrong number and left (and in case you're wondering - we didn't log it on the wrong number)!!

    1. You can assume therefore if there are no further blogposts from me that either a) I have finally shut up; or b) that the smiling Telkom guy stole all my money and I cannot afford to pay my Telkom bill. I'll be begging at the lights on Alphen Rd. I'll have a pithy sign.