We originally wrote this September 29th and posted it October 12th after we got the internet.
Before the weekend started we went out to get internet. We need internet not only for fun, but so we can: Make our visa appointments, look up Spanish phrases, do our jobs, communicate with our jobs, tell people at home we’re still alive, do banking, plan a trip for the upcoming holiday weekend, and generally stop playing Spider Solitaire.
To get internet we needed money in our bank account. So we went to the ATM, took money out then waited in line to hand it to the teller to put it in our account. Yes there are easier and more efficient ways to do this but they need internet. It was the same two bank tellers who helped us last time. The man who doesn’t understand us but is friendly (learned his name is Juan Angel) understood where he could put that money when we handed it to him (obviously our account). We thanked him and prided ourselves on a good day banking (ominous foreshadowing).
Next we needed to get the internet. It’s a simple three part plan, in principle, 1) put money in account 2) get internet 3) they take some of that money out of the account to make the internet happen.
But it’s never that simple.
A good start is that there is an internet store directly beneath us. Most of the apartments are above shops so we have this internet/phone store and a home-wares dollar store below us (convenient if you need a last-minute whisk or some internet). They have really short hours and keep the door closed and the lights off (I think they don’t want to deal with people). So it seems like a strange place. We marched in anyway, the employee was our age with Arabic tattoos all over and some adult braces. He was very patient with us, he spoke slowly and gestured at phones, cords and computers to help us.
There were posters all over that had good deals for the internet. Turns out they’re all out of date (I genuinely believe they keep them on the windows so people can’t see in/the light can’t get in – it’s like a computer cave in there). He showed us the deals that are current – get a landline, a cell phone plan and internet for €36 a month. To have only internet would be €29 a month. So for €7 more we can have another cell phone plan (we need this) and a landline (we could care less).
We picked this plan. “Cool” he said in Spanish “you’ll need your bank information and your identity cards or passports.” The only bank information we have is a huge packet about the ins and outs of our account. It’s basically our entire identity (bank number, routing number, US address, passport number, Spanish social, American social security number, etc). We handed it over maniacally. Take what you need, just give us the internet!
“Nope” he said, politely averting his eyes from our entire identity. “You need a thing?”
“Thing? What’s that? What are thing?”
“Thing.” He gestured, we made an I-dunno motion. “Uh.” he picked up our passport and gestured inserting it into something, an ATM.
A bankbook. Crap, we didn’t have one of those.
We wouldn’t be getting our ATM cards until next Thursday. But bankbooks usually just have your name and number printed in the front cover and they can do that in seconds. So it was back to the bank.
We waited in line behind and obese and possibly blind lottery ticket salesmen (just trying to give you a picture of the diversity of the folks here). Juan Angel, who can’t understand us, seemed perturbed we were back but took a breath and braced himself.
“Want bank book” we announced.
“Want bank book” we pointed and gestured at a pile he keeps near his computer.
He grabbed a blank bank book, “this?”
He handed it right over. A blank worthless notebook until it has the right numbers printed on it. I’m not sure what he thought we wanted to do with this blank bank book (say that three times fast) but he was more than happy to just give us one if we’d leave.
“Soooo do we just write our account number in it or what?”
“Oh! You want to use it? No. No you can’t” He took it back and looked to the person behind us as if to say ‘next!’
“We talk to her” (Hablamos con ella) I pointed at the friendly woman’s office door.
“Please do” [at least you’ll leave] was implied but in a friendly way.
We knocked on her door while entering (Germans do this so we just took a page from that cultural book.)
“We want bank book”
“You can’t.” She said flatly.
“But … internet” we whined. We showed her the internet brochure we had been gripping madly. We were so close.
“Oh! We can give you a thing”
“Great. Give us a thing. Thank you.”
It was back to Juan Angel who was helping another customer.
“Make them a thing” she instructed him.
“You’re younger, you understand (their English) better” he said embarrassed she had figured out what we wanted so quickly.
Some customers laughed and began joking about us that seemed in good fun but we knew we were being talked about. In Korea this was often done cruelly so I just stared at the ground and regretted ever trying to get a thing.
Juan Angel is sweet and smiley and always wears some variation of a blue striped shirt. I like him. But he is a bit slow. Actually very slow. When the woman stands behind him and watches him type or click she snaps and points and seems frustrated by his speed/abilities.
Poor Juan Angel told the customer he was helping to just wait a minute. His boss (the woman) overrode this other poor customer with our thing. So we stood embarrassed to the side. Like the last time, a crowd began to form as he took his time. He typed, frowned, typed. Minutes ticked by. He tapped the backspace button more than he entered anything new. Oh jeez this was going to take forever. We thought about trying to just say “just forget about it” but he wouldn’t understand us and we would just have to get the woman again.
It was dead silent. 8 people were in line and many were huffing, checking their watches and glancing at us. I flipped our passports around to hide the cover.
He printed something. Oh sweet Pantry Jesus, was it over? He looked at it for a moment then crumpled the paper. Back to the computer. Backspace backspace backspace. Finger typing. Frowning.
Words cannot describe how long this seemed. We had cut other people off (not our choice) and caused a 10-15 minute delay for everyone. We felt terrible.
Finally he printed again. The printer jammed for a second. Oh my god. I thought about just leaving. But it came through and it printed. He took his time inking his stamp then stamped it, hard, then handed it over to Chris.
“Do you want one?” he asked pointing at me
“No no no no no no” we gestured big Xs with our hands. No. No. No. We’ll make this one work.
Heads down, we scurried out of the bank.
Siesta started in 10 minutes for the internet hobbit but we had the thing! What was it, anyway?
A special letter from the bank that I have done my best to translate
The Sir or Madam XXXXXX of Bank name on Full address does certify that according to our archives on this day the 29th of September in 2017 that Bank Number XXXX is open and good to go as of 28th September 2017. CHRIS full name with the identity number of XXXXX is good to go.
And according to our records he is effective in corresponding with the Mr or Mrs Chris Lehnus is certified…. I don’t understand the second part but its really official.
Love, from: The Bank
Then there is that stamp and a warning that this is official European Union stuff.
We brought this new paper back to the internet hole. TaDah! Give us internet!
“Okay what plan did you want again?” Had we been gone that long!? We started over a little but got moving.
He began typing things into the computer but then we hit a wall. He called a few people to ask about it but it wasn’t meant to be.
“Come back Monday” he said.
For real? After all of that?
We came back Monday. Nothing had changed but it miraculously worked this time. “The earliest we can get internet installed is next Tuesday. Here’s your phone card. It won’t work until next Tuesday, either.”
So it was another full week and we couldn’t even have the phone even though we had the sim card and had paid. Obviously no internet. So it was back to the only thing we could do – Spider Solitaire.
On Tuesday I would have to go to work late to wait for the internet technician. He said 9, the paper they gave us said 11:53 (oddly specific time). He came around 9:45. I needed to be at school at 10:30.
He walked around, popped some panels off the wall and asked us for our keys. Then he left.
He was gone a long time. Chris needed to be at school at 10:15 so he was ready to leave. His Spanish level is better than mine (also I seem to be remembering every word in German I had ever forgot and basically just pepper in German in every sentence, Spanish or English. So Chris is also a more reliable communicator).
We left the front door open and kept an eye out for him. He went to another panel in the hallway and popped it off, then he entered another apartment or a closet for a while. Finally he returned. “We don’t have thing.”
He started packing his things. Are you freaking kidding? We waited 2 weeks, we’re all going to be late to school and he’s just giving up.
“What do you need?” Chris asked. What can we do!?
“Thing” as if that was so obvious. If I had internet, you know, I could look up whatever the hell “thing” was.
He left again, but left his backpack behind the international sign that – I will be back. He returned with a box and the internet started getting set up. So what was going on? We didn’t have thing but it didn’t matter?
Chris left and explained “Hope it all works. Don’t talk to her.”
He piddled around for forever. 10:15 came, I should be leaving for work.
“lajdflakjdflakjdflakjsdfalsdkjf” he told me.
“Okay.” I answered in English. He left. 10:30 came. He had been gone for 15 minutes and I was late for school. This was more important as we can’t do our jobs or get our TIE card to stay in the country legally without the internet.
He came back up and packed everything and was heading out the door. “Okay!” he said in English “It’s okay”
He had me sign a paper then walked out.
“Wait! Uh…. nombre?” What’s the name of our wifi, and consequently the password?
He came back and showed me where it was. “And the password is here,” he said in perfect English “It is A-H-2-J-K” he read the whole thing in English as well.
“Thank you very much!” still in English, he gave a little wave and went out the door.
The whole time we had been bumbling around in Spanish he probably just heard us when we said “hey ask him what he needs.” “Tell him you’re leaving and that I don’t speak Spanish.”
It took a village to get the internet, Arabic tattoo guy, Juan Angel, Friendly Bank woman, 15 people who were late to work because of our banking letter, internet technician guy, and 25 kids who missed my class because I was late. Big shout out to those people.