This started in February, before I even left Germany. I called up ahead to confirm the possibility and costs of setting up a land line and fax of my own at home. Good news: it was cheap, and I got a major bonus by securing some easy number that had only ‘2’ in it, plus the occasional ‘1’.
Delay was unnecessary, and I quickly called for the bureaucracy to start, trusting that by the time I finished my last month in Germany and flew back to Kampala (via Dubai, blah blah blah), enough time would have gone by for the connection to have been made.
Bureaucracy did indeed kick off, in the form of one buxom, slowish-speaking Cynthia. A month after I had settled into Kampala, she readily turned up at my office to present invoices that she had already emailed me, but I took that to be “better safe than sorry”. Smilingly, I discussed with her guarantees that the phone and fax numbers she had promised me in her email (2222something111222etc) would be available for me till I had enough money in the bank to pay the relevant fees.
“Don’t worry,” she assured me, and conducted a weekly countdown for the next two weeks over the phone till indeed the money was in the bank and the cheque in my hand. D-day came and she showed up pronto with her receipt book.
Then she disappeared. For a long time.
I actually forgot that I had paid for a landline and fax at home until my regular cellphone got cut of. Then, it occurred to me that her slowly-spoken assurance of, “They will come to install the lines tomorrow” was both too good to be true and not good enough.
“They”, I recalled, had visited the site (my home) in early March to ensure that a line could be installed, and that was all. I refused to believe that they had drawn a map and inserted it into a file kept centrally for all Uganda Telecom employees to access when I finally decided to pay up for services.
So I called her and told her so.
“They haven’t come yet?” she asked, sounding surprised. That was when I first considered that the slow speaking was a sign of her speed of thought. I wasn’t surprised because “they” never show up in Uganda. In fact, “they” just don’t do anything positive. “They” fail to fix roads, “they” cut off power and water, “they” generally do bad things. And I told this annoying Cynthia character exactly what I thought, plus words to the effect that since I had paid her she had definitely earned a commission and should feel guilty at eating my money without ensuring my phone and fax lines were fixed.
I called again a week later, followed by an angrier email than the two of three I had already sent her.
As luck would have it, “they” showed up on the day I was at a BBQ at the home of Cynthia’s boss. My maid beeped me to tell me “they” had arrived, and I was unreasonably angry but kept a lid on that. I knew I had told the irritatingly inefficient Cynthia person that it was important for me to know when “they” arrive, in order to: a) have my maid expect them, otherwise habits would be formed that would result in someone showing up and telling her I had sent them for the TV; and b) to guide them on where to install the lines, which for me was important because the phone and fax had to be in …ah, back to the tale.
“Don’t worry,” “they” assured me over the phone, a little impatiently, “We do this all the time.”
So they left this for me:
And “they” disappeared for a further month until I had emailed people three levels higher than the wretched Cynthia. So “they” returned, very irritated. And disappeared again.
“The wires are out of stock,” Cynthia emailed me.
Nobody knew, but it was written somewhere that there were wires missing, and the unbearable Cynthia sent me an email to prove her point:
My problem, as you can clearly see, was that the 2222something111222etc phone number I had been assured of was not on the technical team’s report.
This worried me in a big way. In spite of all the anger I seem to have been expressing towards the slow-witted maid called Cynthia, I kept a cool head through all her flipfloppery in the belief that at the end of it all I would have the most organised telephone number in the whole of Uganda. I was counting on having the type of phone number that I would whisper to a celebrity such as Obama and he would have no choice but to remember it.
Politely, as you can see in the email to the right there, I raised this matter with the Cynthia woman.
I gave up.