Anyone who has traveled to a different place loves to share good stories of bureaucratic nonsense. Horror stories of the post office or dealing with the immigration process are always a popular topics for commiseration laughter amongst those in the know. Hungarian friends of mine told me about when they lived in California for a year. They knew that they had to leave California and go back home after an experience with an insurance company. Their car windscreen had cracked, and they needed a new one. The insurance company arranged for the problem to be taken care of, and in less than a week, the they had a new windscreen in their car. It was mind boggling. They knew they had to get out of there, or else they’d never be able to get used to things in Hungary again.
Over the past few months, I’ve found another area of nightmarish nonsense. Processes and rules that don’t make sense, trying to fill in forms, sign contracts, and deal with employees who don’t speak any English, while I’ve got extremely limited Turkish. I’ve been dealing with a joint phone/internet company – Turk Telekom and TTNET. My hatred for other things in the world has fallen to the wayside; I’m sure there are some things I hate more in the world, but can’t recall them at the moment as my hatred for TTNET has blinded me of everything else.
I decided to move into a flat where I’d have to take care of paying my own utilities. I figured this was one step in the direction of growing up – I should be able to figure out how to pay my own bills. I’d also have to set up my own internet connection. How hard could it be, I naively thought to myself. I went to the TTNET office with my landlord, who said he’d help me out. As we waited in line I looked through my internet options and thought of everything I could do soon: playing chess, talking on skype, sending emails, or reading online newspapers all from the convenience of my own little flat. It was my turn. Passport and residency permit please. Well, I don’t have a residency permit, it takes a while to get that and I just got here! Well, you can’t set up a connection without a residency permit. Blast!
So I waited. I tried to go to a different TTNET office and set up the connection, because one of my bosses told me that I shouldn’t need my residency permit if I go to the head office. I went on a wild goose chase for the office. Two consecutive Saturdays hunting around looking for the damned place, but I couldn’t find it. I found a smaller TTNET place instead, where nobody spoke English, but I knew no Turkish at the time. I gesticulated wildly and showed them a few papers from the last tenant’s connection, and they grumbled back at me and gesticulated back to me that I should leave the building.
So I waited for my residency permit. In the meantime, I could steal some internet from the bars below my flat. It wasn’t a strong signal, but if I was patient I could load my email and stay in contact with people, keep playing my online chess games and a few other things. I was found out, however, and I no longer have access to Redbull Free Wings unsecured internet connection, as of about a month and a half ago.
I have internet access in the teacher’s room at the school, but the computer at my desk is unfortunately the only one in the room that doesn’t work. The other teachers let me use their computers when they aren’t on them, but browsing time is limited.
I finally got my residency permit, and was thus able to go to the TTNET main office and set up an internet connection. I headed there one Friday afternoon when I got out of class at noon, and sat in the main office to wait. It being around noon, however, there weren’t many people working. Only about two tables had representatives talking to customers. Time passed rather slowly. An hour later, more staff members showed up and the numbers started going along quicker. After about an hour and a half, my number was finally called. Hooray! But my TTNET representative spoke no English. So I waited again, for another 15 minutes, so the resident English speaker on staff could finish what he was doing and help me. I had reason to hope, though, and within twenty minutes I had signed about a dozen papers and walked off towards the metro with my contract of what was to be my internet connection.
They had to come to my flat to set it up, though, so thankfully Graham was around for this, as I am at work from about 7am until around 6 or 7pm. Monday morning, the TTNET technician banged on the door, messed around with some cables, and scampered off down the stairs again. I got a text message the next day saying that my internet connection was now active. Wonderful, I thought to myself. I haven’t spoken on skype to anyone from home since I first arrived, basically – my stolen signal hadn’t been strong enough for it. But it now looked like Graham and I might be able to skype home on Thanksgiving. That would be nice.
I went home and was disappointed to realize that my connection was not active. Dammit, I thought, I wish I were better with computers and could figure this out. I did what I could. I made sure my modem was turned on, that I had typed in all of the correct usernames and passwords and numbers and codes wherever necessary. Still nothing. Smoke billowing out of my ears, I called TTNET and they said they would have an English speaking technician call me in the next few days to explain to me what the problem was. Sure enough, a few days later I got a call from a TTNET technician. She asked me if I spoke Turkish, I said no, she said she didn’t speak English, and promptly hung up on me.
I tried a few things again over the next few days, but still could not get anything going. I resorted to looking for outside help. I had a colleague and her boyfriend, a finely mustachioed Turk who knows all about computer things, over to my place after work the following Wednesday (about 10 days after my internet became “active”) and he set about fiddling with various numbers, codes, passwords and all other sorts of things while I made sure we all had enough tea and coffee to last us through the miserable process. We made sure that my modem was properly installed and that my computer was successfully connected to the modem. Still no internet. So he called TTNET and spoke with them in Turkish. They told him that they’d write down my problem, have their technicians investigate the problem, and an English speaking technician would call me the next day. I told him about all of my various telephone conversations with those fine lads at the TTNET office, and this is what they always say, but they never call me back, and if they do, they don’t speak English and hang up on me. So we called them back to tell them that if the problem was not resolved in the next few days, I’d be bringing my business to another company. (I don’t have any other good options though. Sadly, TTNET is the best.) He started yelling at them over the phone, and told them about my prior conversations. All the conversations at TTNET are recorded to monitor “customer service.” I sat back, pleased that finally something was being done. During a lull in the conversation, he grinned and said to us I’m fucking them! He said that they were investigating my previous conversation and would take the necessary disciplinary procedures, and that my complaints had been registered and they would investigate, as they certainly didn’t want to lose a loyal customer.
We were all disappointed that their visit didn’t result in my internet working. We had all so hoped that it was just a matter of my incompetence with computers that was the problem. The night wasn’t so bad, though, as TTNET was forgotten and we discussed Turkish literature instead. Having recently finished Tanpinar’s A Mind At Peace or Huzur, I’m eager to discuss it with anyone who knows about it. Its language is so obscure that many Turks don’t even approach it.
I had hope for the next week. Soon I would have internet at home. I got a message later in the week saying that the problem was with the phone line and electricity system in the building. So I called my landlord, and he woke me up by popping in on Saturday morning with a technician. Since I hadn’t picked up the phone when he called he figured I was in a lesson and would stop by. They ascertained that the phone line that Turk Telekom had set up about two weeks prior was not working, and suggested that I call them and have them come and repair it.
So I called Turk Telekom. They said that they would send a technician over to check if my phone line was working, and would call me with the result. I came home and found a note in Turkish taped to the wall signed by Turk Telekom. I called them up to see what the deal was and what the note said, and finally got through to someone on my third try (I’m paying for all of these phone calls, too. My fruitless phone conversations about my nonexistent internet connection are draining my funds.) Turk Telekom said that there was no problem with the phone line anymore, and that if I still can’t connect I have to call TTNET to talk with them about my internet problems.
So I rang up TTNET again. Is my modem plugged in? Are all of my cables plugged in? Is the internet light on the modem lit up? Well, they will alert their technicians of the problem and they will call me in the next few days. I told them that it’s now been two and a half weeks since I waited for two hours in their office to set up this connection. I needed confirmation that I would not be paying this month’s internet bill. She said that they would send me an SMS to notify me about my bill.
So the next step was to replace all of the phone cables in my apartment. My landlord came over to do this one day, and I came home eager to see if this would solve my problem. Alas. After a ten minute phone conversation with TTNET, they once again realized that my internet connection does not work. Again, they will alert their electricians about my problem, and they will contact me about how to solve it. I believe the problem is in the phone line in my apartment itself. Someone will call and set up an appointment to check the connection in my apartment.
I think I’m just doomed. My apartment is the internet black hole of Istanbul. I’ve spent about 30 lira on my phone bill just complaining to them. To counteract the poison running through my veins, I’ve been reading up on some Rumi to prepare myself for a trip to Konya for the annual Mevlana festival celebrating the anniversary of Rumi’s death. I’ve been reading up on things like universal love and being at peace, those kinds of things. But I’ll go out on a limb and say that not even God has any love for Turk Telekom and TTNET.