6 telephone poles, 6 months and definitely not 6 expletives

In my last post (an absolute eon ago, for reasons that will become clear quickly), I referred to our pending move into a building site and mentioned that we had to wait for a telephone pole to be put in before our communications situation could be restored.  At the time, I expected that dear pole to be the least of our problems, but yet again life in Portugal has driven home the point that you’ve never quite reached the point where you can, in definitive terms, refer to “the slowest”, “the longest wait” or “the most ridiculous”.  Sometimes it feels like the national aspiration is to avoid setting a precedent of quality or speed, because then all customers would start expecting “higher” standards. But maybe I’m just being a grump.

Telephone poleThree weeks after our move – and in case you’re wondering, this was way more of a building site than I could have ever imagined (and no, I’m not ready to talk about it yet…) – we were forced to resort to a pretty limited mobile modem, because, despite the fact that all our neighbours have telephone poles, we were told that we required more infrastructure: 6 telephone poles.  The time required to develop this highly sophisticated infrastructure: 6 months.

All right, I know there are thousands of stories like ours and I won’t tell you the details about the inaccurate information, the incorrect, faulty mobile internet modem that came with the wrong package, the inability to spell a name when that name is in front of you on a paper, the rather obvious lies, the evident aversion to clear answers and especially not the speed with which something or someone else is blamed: “It’s a factory fault”, “It was Alexandre”, “It certainly wasn’t me”.  We’ve started calling it the “não foi eu”-syndrome.  (não foi eu = it wasn’t me).  However, in addition to it being pretty uncool to whinge about perceived flaws in the country you’ve chosen as your new home, it would also be unconstructive to simply complain, so here are my top tips and observations – in case you ever consider placing yourself at the mercy of a service provider in an economically-strained European country.

-You’re trying to manage the details of your life in a new country.  I get it.  But take a moment to accept how phenomenally absurd your sense of responsibility is given where you find yourself.

-Suppress your sense of achievement and self-congratulation once you think you’ve arranged something well.  You’re cooked, baby.  Your name isn’t even in the system and I’m willing to bet on it.

-Your definitions of “tomorrow” and “Monday” seem strangely useless all of a sudden.

-The words “we’re analysing the situation” should not make you think that those who uttered them possess any analytical powers.

-It’s never too soon to ask about the existing infrastructure and what would need to be done for you to have uninterrupted service.  And advisable not to trust the first answer.

-Plan what you have to say, especially if a foreign language is involved.  Make sure you have a few Pictionary tricks or miming gestures ready.  Progress in having your situation resolved far outweighs temporary embarrassment.

-Take notes.  Especially dates, names and process numbers.

-Don’t assume that the person who’s helping you knows anything about telecommunications or equipment and hardware for internet (or whichever field your own challenge is in).  9 times out of 10 their expertise lies only in the general field of “how to deal with (irate) customers” and even in that field they’re not especially skilled.

-Similarly, don’t assume they have a significant attention span or an eye for detail.  If you received equipment, check that you received what was agreed upon. That includes model and serial numbers.

After reading all that, I realise you may not be so keen to move to Portugal anymore.  I assure you, however, that this wonderful place has a lot to offer, including an exhilarating range of entertainment to look forward to this summer.  Below I’m sharing a few posters from our area.

I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the singers or the religious festivals…

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But this one’s my favourite.  In case you doubted this country, here’s proof that ehm…“orchestras” do exist here.

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Okay, seriously, today I am a grump.  But tonight, when I’m enjoying a glass of great Portuguese wine and I watch yet another beautiful sunset, I will for a moment forget about what doesn’t work and be grateful that 6 months and 6 telephone poles did become 3 months and 3 poles.  See?  Progress.