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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

F.X., phone home

This is the week that I would normally begin my extremely personal review of the many movie people who passed on to the great beyond during the previous year. And I definitely intend to do that, as has been my tradition for (whew!) seven years now. But I felt that, to do these departed legends justice, I needed just a bit more time to ponder on the meaning of their lives and look into my soul to discern the true meaning of their lives. Okay, actually, I’m just feeling lazy because I’m enjoying the break that Christmas and New Year’s has imposed on me. So I will start my 2007 retrospective next week. In the meantime, I am doing the next best thing I can think of to do a “best of” placeholder. Below is an email that I sent to a few friends five years ago, in the months after we made the big move from the U.S. to Ireland. It was one of several (and generally the most popular) anecdotes about the culture shock of adjusting to rural Eire.

It has nothing at all to do with movies. Well, here’s one strained movie connection. It is heavily redacted (nod to Brian De Palma) because the original email used actual individuals’ names and that somehow seems unwise and unfair, given that the web site’s audience exceeds the number of my personal friends by a factor of, well, at least one or two additional people. So, journey back with me to late in the year 2005…

Anecdote #3: The Telephone

Franz Kafka, eat your heart out!

Okay, I had heard that getting a telephone in Ireland could take a long time, so I decided that I should try to get the ball rolling before we moved over. Unfortunately, the only number you can ring Eircom (the Irish telephone company) at is a toll-free number that only works in Ireland. So I went to their web page to see if there was a way to contact them from abroad. There was no phone number that could be dialed outside Ireland, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that you could set up an account and order a phone line on their web page. So I did it, providing them all my details. I wasn’t convinced that all the info wasn’t going into a bottomless data bucket, but what the heck.

After we arrived in Ireland, I rang them up, half-expecting them to have no record of me. To my further pleasant surprise, I was informed that my account was all set up and that my phone line should be in within a week or two. The only reason it wasn’t done already, they said, was that they couldn’t contact me. As a contact number, I had given them my American cell phone number, beginning with the international access code for America (001). Someone had changed 001 to 01, the area code for Dublin, and of course that didn’t reach me. A reasonable error, under the circumstances, I thought. I was impressed with Eircom and felt that I had misjudged them.

A week later a man in an Eircom truck stopped by the house. He looked at our house and the telephone pole directly across the road from us. The three houses right next to us were already connect to that line. Our builders had laid a cable from our house under the road and left it dangling on the side of the pole, mere inches from the line. This should be easy, I thought. He merely has to connect the two dangling lines. The Eircom man muttered something about us not being in his district and said not to worry, someone else would be out soon. And he drove off.

Nothing happened for a week, so I rang up. This began a multi-week marathon of phone calls. It seems that our house straddles the line between two different exchanges. The game went like this: I would call customer service and cajole them into giving me the name and number of the technician in charge of our installation. First it was F.X. McRory of Exchange No. 1. When I got a hold of him (after many voicemails and unreturned calls), he told me that we had been transferred to Jake O’Shaughnessy of Exchange No. 2. Then phone tag with Jake began. When I finally got a hold of him, he told me that it had been switched back to F.X. After this happened a few times, I was told, no, it was now with B.J. Monkeyshines of Exchange No. 3. Soon I was back trying to get a hold of Jake.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law ordered a tank of heating oil for us as a welcome-home present. When the oil truck didn’t arrive, the Missus rang the driver. He said he had delivered it. It turned out that he had gone to the wrong house. He went to a half-finished house a quarter-mile down the road from us and filled the oil tank there. Why did he go there? He said he was looking for our place and stopped there because there was an Eircom truck parked in front. He asked the Eircom guy in this was the our house. The Eircom guy said, yes, I think so. So the oil guy filled the tank. Since this episode, we have been imagining that the half-finished house down the road has a fully functioning phone line while we are still lineless.

Finally, I had had enough. I rang customer service and tried to get the name and number of a manager who could decide which district we were in, once and for all. I was all but told that Eircom had no managers, but the customer service person said she’d try to resolve it for me. I never heard from her again. I rang customer service again, and begged and cried and asked for pity. A nice young man named Tom said he would take “ownership” and get it resolved. Several days later, I hadn’t heard from Tim, so I called back and asked for him. I was told that Tom wasn’t there anymore, and instead I got a woman named Mairéad.

Mairéad encouraged me. She sounded like one of these Irish women who has eight children and beats them all regularly just because it’s good for them. She sounded tough and business-like and no-nonsense. After hearing my story, she was nearly as mad as I was. She said she would get to the bottom of this once and for all. Sure enough, a few days later, Mairéad called back. She said she had good news and bad news. The good news that the question of what exchange we were in was finally, once and for all, resolved. Jake was in charge of our installation. End of story. The bad news was that the telephone line just yards from our front door was “at capacity.” This meant that, before we could be hooked up to it, the line had to be upgraded. Regulations required that the new line be put underground. Before they could turn a shovel on the road, they had to apply for planning permission from the County Council. This process takes up to 12 weeks. Sorry.

At this point, I all but gave up. I decided to think of the telephone line as some nice thing that might happen to me in some indefinite far-off future. Something to dream about like, say, like reading all the books I have sitting my 60 boxes in the back room. Of course, that meant I had no Internet access at home. When I wanted to log on, I have to drive 30 minutes either to my father-in-law’s house or to my sister-in-law’s house and borrow their telephone. Oh, well. And the company from which I ordered my satellite dish wouldn’t even schedule an installation until I had a phone line because it is company policy, since they don’t want to install a dish unless the box is capable of dialing up and ordering pay-per-view movies. Oh, well, at least we had our wireless phones, of which the bills are regularly hitting the triple digits.

After another week or so, I thought to myself, don’t give up. If I keep after them, it might be 12 more weeks to get a phone. But if I don’t keep after them, it might be 112 weeks. So, I starting ringing Jake to pester him. What is the status? Has planning permission been applied for? His (eventual) response, when I finally got a hold of him, was: don’t worry your pretty little head. It will happen when it happens. Sigh.

Then, on Halloween evening, a man driving an unmarked red truck stopped in front of the house and started nosing around. I went out to see what he was up to. He said he was from Eircom. I resisted the impulse to attack him. He asked if I had ordered a phone line. Yes, I answered emphatically. He asked me if my name was Bergman. No, I said. A light bulb seemed to click on his head. Oh, he said, that explains it! Explains what? He said there was a guy across the main road from us named Bergman. He is the one whose line needs to be upgraded and who needs to wait 12 weeks. (Apparently, Scandinavian surnames all sound alike to the Irish. The fact that, in the rural areas, Ireland does not have street numbers only complicates the problem.) What? So, when do we get our phone line? Oh, you’ll have yours probably by Wednesday, Friday at the latest. If it’s not in by Friday, something has gone terribly wrong. (Of course, something had already gone terribly wrong. I was dealing with Eircom.)

Anyway, I let myself get my hopes up. Every day, when I passed by the window, I would look at our cable dangling on the side of the telephone pole across the road and check whether there was an Eircom truck nearby. Sure enough, on Monday there was an Eircom guy standing there looking at the pole and scratching his head for a few minutes. Then he was gone. Another week went by with nothing else happening. So, I rang up to see what had gone “terribly wrong” this time. (Here’s where the story gets really good.) I called customer service and asked for an update. The nice woman kept me on the line for about 15 minutes while she tried to get me a status report. Finally, she said that all the info about our order had been taken off the computer system because our case had been transferred to the Rapid Response Unit. Maybe this is a good thing, I thought. (Thank goodness, anyway, that it hadn’t been transferred to the Get Around To It When We Damn Well Feel Like It Unit.) After a week and a half of seeing no sign of or hearing anything from the (smirk) Rapid Response Unit, I rang up again. The nice customer service lady offered to transfer me to the person in charge of my case. The phone then rang for several minutes and then went dead. Then I tried ringing Jake, the last person who was known to be in charge of our case. He told me that, no, he has no longer in charge of our case. It was now F.X McRory. But he is out sick, and T.S. McHugh is acting in his place. He talked to T.S. for me and assuref me that our phone line will be installed in two weeks, definite.

Call me a cockeyed optimist. I’m already holding my breath.

Postscript: A few weeks after the above email went out. Two Eircom employees arrived and attempted to push the phone line through the tube under the ground between our house and the pole. After several minutes of not being able to get it all the way through, the fellow who kept looking at his watch opined, “It’s not going to work. Let’s go home.” The other guy (bless him) calmly and efficiently went to the other end of the tube and pulled the line in the other direction and it went through. Since then we have had a working phone in our home. The experience taught me that, if you wait long enough, eventually everything happens. Heck, since the end of summer we even have broadband. Although no thanks to Eircom.

-S.L., 3 January 2008

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