April 20th, 2011
Location: Wagas Jing’An
Time: 1:38 p.m.
My life in China is one of trial and error. The trials are usually a result of my own errors. The attempts at ciphering Chinese usually turn out to be fatal blunders. Trying to take shortcuts or unknown bus routes don’t tend to my favor either. And trying to work out problems by surmounting the Great Wall of the Chinese language all by my lonesome often leaves me in a Humpty Dumpty predicament. But I was raised on the stuff of The Little Engine That Could and so I haven’t given up on this country yet. I can’t say if it can say the same for me.
I’ll give you an example. I shall call it The Great Internet Debacle of 2011.
It all started with a conversation with my roommate about the state of our internet’s speed. It sucked. We didn’t think it had always been this slow, so we came to the conclusion that someone was probably hopping on board and riding our broadband wave. We were protected but with a password that I know at least 2 other people have as their password, it’s entirely possible someone had cracked that impenetrable code. So, I decided to try and change it – on the website that is devoted to Chinese characters. With a little help from Google translator I managed to change a password. Was it the password to connect to the internet? That would be a big negatory. Seeing it as an exercise in futility I moved onto other activities and soon tucked myself in. Come morning I opened my netbook to check my email and discovered an obnoxious yellow exclamation mark beside my internet icon. That evening it was still there. And the next day. And the next.
3 weeks it went on like this: me not finding the time to contact my internet provider and my roommate seemingly oblivious.
Finally, I made it home during my 4.5 “lunch” break and headed on over to the office of the Great Wall Broadband service with my phone clutched in my hand in case I needed language back-up. Situated in the midst of my apartment complex, it’s a wonder I hadn’t made my way over there sooner. Little did I know I would soon be able to travel the path to this office with my eyes closed.
I stepped through the doors and asked whether anyone spoke English and a young girl with a low pony tail nodded and held her hand out to receive the pink slip I held. I explained to her that my internet connection had been down for at least 3 weeks now. She asked when would be a good time to send someone over, and after checking with my roommate we settled on a time and I gave the kind lady Rob’s mobile number.
I trotted off, thinking how easy that had been – too easy, in fact. I wouldn’t be available in the evening but Rob was waiting in the apartment for the internet man. 6 o’clock came and went. 7 flew past. Then it was 8 and Rob was off to Ultimate. No internet for us.
The next day I once again walked into the office. This time the English speaking girl was heading out as I was walking in. The two other people behind the desk studiously ignored me for a solid 5 minutes until I rapped on the desk. Then I pulled out my phone and called Rosa for some translation. She explained to them that no one had shown up, and then translated their reply that they would definitely send someone over that evening. About this time English lady showed up and I explained to her that if for whatever reason he couldn’t make it that evening I would be available the following day from 1 to 3 in the afternoon and could they please call if nobody was going to appear. No problem was the reply.
You can probably guess where this is going. Not a knock or a doorbell ring all night. The next afternoon found me waiting around for not a soul.
Thursday afternoon I huffed and stomped myself into the internet office. The English-speaking girl was again sitting behind the desk and she gave me a blank look – pretending in vain she didn’t recognize me. – because blondes walk into that office every day, I’m sure. She probably knew what was coming and she was right in trying to extricate herself from the onslaught of my rage. I told them nobody had shown up again, that this was the worst service I had ever experienced and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Then I folded my arms across my chest and asked what she was going to do about it.
She sent someone over within 15 minutes.
I think I can. I think I can. I think China has no idea what it’s up against. I think I’ll forward it a copy of The Little Engine That Could.