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Valentina stood tip toed on a chair in the attic. She had her mobile phone up to her ear, with it cradled in a big piece of aluminium foil in one hand, as she held a deformed wire hanger in her other hand, which she had stretched out of the small top opening window and was angling around, while she tried to have a conversation at the same time and not fall off the chair.
Her telephone landline was dead yet again. It was at least her thirtieth phone call to the telephone company since the problem started a year earlier. Ironically, it was the only bill she was ever up to date with, but the line seemed to be down more than it was ever up and the phone company either wouldn't, or couldn't fix the problem. Each time she called, she would have to go through explaining the entire problem again and each time got back different answers, different advice or different promises than she had had the previous time. Each time the subsequent phone company associate had no knowledge that there was a problem or who the colleague that Valentina had spoken to previously was, what department they might have been in, or why they hadn't proceeded to escalate the complaint and send an engineer out again (or do whatever it was that they had promised on the previous call) not that the engineers they sent out were ever able to do anything that would fix the problem for any length of time. However each time the new associate assured her they would «certainement» solve the problem.
Valentina felt like a blood vessel would burst somewhere important. She found it difficult to explain herself in French because the problem had become so compounded and once again she found herself in a situation where she couldn't understand the rapidly spoken technical words they used, which she was sure some of the phone company workers were doing on purpose. All she knew was that the phone bill had always been paid and she hadn't ever gone two weeks without a problem with the connection for a year or more. It was not only inconvenient, being out there alone with a telephone that so often didn't work made her even more vulnerable. To make matters worse, just in phoning the telephone company about the ordinary line, she spent up the credit on her mobile she could scarcely afford phone each month, as soon as she applied it. So the mobile that should have been a safety net in the case of an emergency also rarely worked and when it did, there was no signal. She felt both helpless and furious.
«[I do not know, I do not work there... ... Yes I am certain... ... NO, I am remember that he says this... ... Yes exactly, that is correct. He promises me he sends someone to fix... ... Pardon?... ... I don't remember. You don't have the information in your computer?... ... Just one moment...]» Valentina got down and hastily leafed through her journal to a page dense with scribbled notes. «[His name is: Jan-Olaf... ... NO, I do not know the family name. We are in France.; you have more than one Jan-Olaf who works there?! Look you know there is a problem! What is the difference that who I speak to? I pay you. You need to fix. Just fix. It is not my job this problem! This is your problem...]»
But it WAS her problem, the phone company was all paid up as her contract stipulated. If one studied the small print, they on the other hand, had never promised a guaranteed line. So as far as they were concerned: 'it was regrettable if the customer felt dissatisfied with the service' and they would try to help, being the upstanding company that they were – but there was no "problem" as such... Next she would be on the phone for half an hour with accounts, trying to get reimbursed for the mobile phone credits and the downtime on the landline and the whole process would start over. Yes, she was certain a blood vessel would burst somewhere important, very soon.
The call cut out, forcing her to call back and go through the whole automated robot voice again and then through the foreign call centre again. And then when she finally got through to a customer service manager in France, a voice recording from her mobile phone company interrupted, informing her that she had very little credit left and that she would be cut off soon. Luckily she was able to get the telephone company to call her back, but when they did, the cell phone reception started to cut out again and she was left running around different rooms of the upper floors sticking her do-it-yourself antennae out the window. She was at the window of her bedroom and the phone slipped out of its slippery aluminium foil cradle, but luckily Valentina caught it with her knees and somehow, by a rare stroke of luck, managed not to shut it off. Then when she composed herself and started to speak to the manager again, the cell phone cut out completely. She didn't have time to get aggravated, because just as she was closing the window to go back to the attic and stick the antennae out that window, she could see the entire herd of goats had gotten through the fence and were walking down the drive toward the road. She shoved the phone in her pocket and rushed down the shaky ladder as quickly as she could.
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