I Blame Canada (For My Unrealistic Expectations)
Every summer I have the very distinct pleasure of returning to Toronto and spending time seeing old friends, meeting new friends, seeing family, eating pork on the daily, shopping at Farmboy, visiting places and seeing things. I catch up on business, pay my Accountant, and mostly this summer I worked. I have 3 balls in the air at the moment. Roaming Camels is my first and highest priority and as any independent business owner will attest, there is no taking time off when you have a small business to run.
I rented a car for my time in Ontario. Full freedom of movement, although apparently my driving skills have taken a hit over the months. (And that’s all I’m saying. To avoid potential litigation)
I visited my bestie in Alberta for two glorious weeks. I was up north a few times, and just generally had a grand old time.
Whenever I arrive home, for the first week or more, I experience reverse culture shock. The first sign of it was on the plane when I was trying to fill in the landing card. I got about half way through it and then I got stuck on a word I didn’t understand. Only then did I realize that I was working on the French side of the form and it was all available in English on the other side. The language of my people. And only THEN did I realize I didn’t even need the silly card because I have a Nexus card. Retina scans all around. It was a hard re-entry.
I notice weird things when I first get back to town. For example, I noticed how everything is set for speed and convenience. It is assumed that 99% of all people work 9-5 and have kids. This is the hamster wheel effect that I shot myself out of years ago, but the more time passes, the more set up things get.
For example, when you go into the grocery store, you can head into the main area and do your weekly, or you can skirt the edges and pick up a pre-made or “heat and serve” meals in the same area where they have prepared fruit all cut up in case you are the “snack parent” for whatever sport you are rushing your kids off to. God forbid you have to go looking for things.
By the way, the other 1% are either retired, or have babies. In the case of the baby mom’s you will know them because they are driving SUV style strollers around Sherway Gardens in their yoga pants and pony tails. True story. Go to any mall at 11 am on a Tuesday and you can capture hundreds of them in their natural habitat. Often near a Starbucks.
I had a $20 bill in my pocket when I arrived, and while I can’t remember the circumstance, I had 3 $5’s when I left. All my transactions were done by card. “Tap” to be precise. And I giggled like a school girl every time I used it because it’s so cool! Don’t take that for granted. It is so convenient. I’m pretty sure we will skip right over wink’em and blink’em and move right on to “nod” in the general direction of a payment station by next summer. Like on your iPhone. Just look at it to unlock. Cool!
All in all it was a great summer and I got totally lulled into the efficiency and convenience like everyone else. I loved getting a text when my phone bill was due, clicking the link and paying at the press of one button in 5 seconds flat. Amazon surely sees a drop in sales when I leave.
And then I came back to Morocco.
Being an organized monkey who has run this rodeo many times before, I was prepared. I had a 100 dhs ($13 Cdn) recharge card in my wallet with my SIM card so I could set up my phone to full function before I stepped off the plane. Then I had another 100 dhs card waiting in my office with my emergency wifi access point so I could get that set up and have home Internet so I didn’t have to rush off to Orange to get my unlimited wifi box up to date. I know.
Skill level : expert.
Yesterday, Friday, after a good night sleep, I walked over to the grocery store and Carre Eden which is the near by mall. I went to Orange to pay my monthly bill and get unlimited Internet and then groceries. Easy peezy.
And that’s when it happened.
You see, the Orange store that is most convenient for me is at Carre Eden but they were closed for renovations for a long time in the Spring.
Since Orange is “not able” to send out a monthly bill or text notification of our monthly bill like every other company on earth does, all us foreigners just guess when the bill might come due and go to the store to pay.
I had been going over to the train station (not near my house) for a few months because of the closure. Before I left for Canada I went to the train station and specifically asked what I should do.
Should I pay in advance? Do I need to pay while I’m away? Can I pay for a few months at once? The answers came back. No need to pay while you are gone Madame. Just pay in September and you will be fine. Mashi mushkil. No problem. Cool!
I arrive at the newly opened Orange store at Carre Eden and wait my turn. For a really long time no one is moving. No turn over of customers. It was like the people that were being helped where enrolling in a 4 year college program and selecting their classes because that’s how long it was taking. I was hot, having walked over in the sun. I’m not used to walking. Or sun. So I am delicate.
Finally its my turn and I offered up my “phone number” which is a mythical set of digits they use for bill correlation. It has no other purpose.
“Oh”, she says. “It’s broken. Your contract is finished because you didn’t use it for 3 months.”
Ok, 2 months, and I don’t have a contract. But whatever. “So can I get a new SIM card please?”
“No, Madame. You need a whole new contract. Your contract has ended.”
“Ok. So can you get me a new contract? All my information is there.” (She showed me the screen). “Just use that and I’ll pay you.”
“Oh, no Madame, we need your passport to start a new contract. And you have to buy a new box. Your old box is no good. It’s garbage.”
I lose my mind.
First of all, my bad for not carrying my passport with me everywhere I go in a foreign country. I should have known I would need it.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Have you heard that the planet is dying? Do you know WHY Morocco banned plastic bags 3 years ago? Does it make one ounce of sense to anyone that this entire plastic box and electrical cord is now GARBAGE. Why is there not a way to recycle it? I can SEE the SIM card. Can’t you just replace it.
In Canada, we recycle our recycling. I just can’t with this news. Honestly. Is Donald Trump in charge of this process?
WORST BUSINESS PRACTICE EVER.
So I go home to get my passport and run out of steam. I’ll go back today when I’ve had some more sleep. And some food.
I head out first thing with my DAR box because if I have to put it in the garbage, it might as well be their garbage. I need to check and see if I understood correctly.
I walk over, stopping for lunch on the way so I’ll be nourished and happy when I arrive. It’s Saturday so when I get there I find a crowd.
This time they are all registering for doctorate programs. A month goes by as I wait. Some lady is screaming at one of the agents in French. Something about 300 dhs. That’s all I could work out. She walked outside, lit a cigarette (as the French are wont to do) off some poor guy at the cafe and came back to stand outside and yell some more, waving her cigarette for effect. (Don’t be that person. Don’t be that person. Don’t be that person).
After about 8 1/2 hours it’s my turn. She confirms my box is garbage. She does not understand my issue with tossing it wastefully in the trash. We move on to payment.
You see, despite what they told me at the train station before I left, I did indeed need to pay my bill over the summer and I could in fact pay a few months at a time and then none of this would be happening. But they are Jon Snow over at the train station office and so here we are. (“You know nothing, Jon Snow” a famous line from GoT for those who don’t watch) (GoT =Game of Thrones) (Oh come on what do you do with your time if you don’t know this reference??)
So now I hand over my passport, they photocopy it again because it has to be verified (I know this is a French practice) and she fills out a whole new form as if I were brand spanking new and never in their system. Never asking for my address or phone number so aside from my passport they can not triangulate my whereabouts.
She gets my new box complete with packaging and then she drops the bomb.
“You have to pay your debt from the summer before I can activate the new contract. To do that, you have to go to the train station store because we do not have the ability to take your payment for that debt here. I can take your payment for the new contract here yes. Just not the money you owe. You have to go there to pay.”
I search my brain for any signs of anything she just said making any sense in any version of this world. Nothing comes to me.
YOU ARE AN (International) INTERNET COMPANY. That is your core business. You exist to provide Internet. You are telling me you are somehow not connected to your own payment system?????
Don’t worry she says, just SMS me when you have paid there and I will activate your account and you will be fine.
I disagree about being “fine” but whatever. People are waiting behind me while this whole registration process happens and as a Canadian I am morally obligated to apologize to each of them, in 3 languages, and to rush myself along because I feel bad for them.
Now I have to go to the train station. I’m hot. I figure I’ll take a taxi. I attempt 9 taxis (I counted for the purposes of this blog post, lest I be accused of exaggerating) before I find one that is a) going that way and b) willing to put the meter on.
Just so you know, the actual fare was 4.01 dh, by law I have to pay a minimum of 7 dhs and I gave the man 10 dhs for being honest. The first 3 told me 30 dhs for the ride, no meter. Welcome to Marrakech.
Over at the train station, I find 2 men behind the counter. I’m the only person there at first. Pandemonium ensues.
One guy just abdicates all responsibility right out of the gate and goes on to select a filter for his selfie. The other speaks no English. No clue why I’m there. I give him Hakima’s number and they talk for at least long enough to plan the menu for Sunday dinner. He begrudgingly takes my money. 353 dhs. He makes change.
Then he tells me he can’t take my money and I should go back to the other store. I’m confused. “The system is broken.” (Amen to that) I need to come back tomorrow (Hell to the fuck no to that). They can’t take my payment. Even though I’m trying to remember how much change he gave already for the payment they can’t take.
I get on the phone with Hakima and she says come tomorrow, maybe the next day, train station, later, just come back. Come back to the store. I give the man back his change. My change. I don’t even know any more.
By this time 3 people had arrived and I was completely confused. The nice lady said “can I help you?” This is what happened next.
Me to her, “Do you speak Darija?”
Her, “No, but he does.” (Points to her fellow)
Me to him, “Do you speak English?”
Him, “No, but she does.” (Points to nice lady)
I feel tears coming.
I explain my question to her. She explains my question to her fellow in German. He explains my question to the agent in Darija. He then tells her the agents answer in German.
She laughs and says “you have to go back to Carre Eden.”
I walk this time. If they were quoting me 30 dhs at Carre Eden it will be 60 dhs from the station sure as shit. It’s not that far. So what if it’s hot. I need the exercise after 2 months of driving everywhere.
I get back to the store. They greet me like I was their long lost cousin. Apparently Hakima had put my passport number in the system wrong. She put in an oh where it should have a zero. So that got sorted out, I suppose.
I told them about my meeting with Jon Snow over at the station and she and I made derogatory “man” jokes. A “king” was mentioned. We laughed.
And then this happened. She told me I didn’t have to pay my debt from the summer. For my troubles. “Don’t tell anyone.” (Oops) They forgave my payment in favour of customer service.
WHAT THE HELL?
Never before in all of Morocco have I heard of this happening. I was thrilled. Not as much about saving the cash but at the concept that this was happening!!! OVER THE MOON! Flabbergasted in fact.
Then she said, you have my number Kati. (Because th is not a sound in Arabic so I will forever be Kati).
“Just call me. If you need to cancel, you call me directly. If you want to come in next week and pay in advance you are welcome. 6 months or one year. Come anytime. See me.”
I can’t even believe that my story ended that way. I’m home now, waiting to see if I pass the one hour test period before connection.
Signed, Hopeful and Possibly Connected in Morocco (But not yet)