Friday, May 31, 2013

We are blessed

We have been in a bit of a funk recently from living in this tiny apartment and with both us and the cats suffering from cabin fever. We also could not find out about our sea freight delivery and the thought of another month here made us quite mournful.

However – today we heard that our furniture has arrived in Indianapolis. This is a good sign and may mean that it is only a few days – or possibly a week – away. (nearness does not guarantee early deliveryness). This means that this may be our last weekend in the apartment. We are blessed!

So blessed that I have the strength to blog again.

In other exciting news I now have an Indiana driver’s license. I made a mess of the parallel parking but the examiner was  cat person – and we discussed her cats at length – so she forgave this indiscretion.

Cate still does not have a social security number so still does not exist.

Our new bed was delivered to the new house yesterday. This is a king size bed as the cats simply did not have enough room on the old one and also thought that the mattress was too soft for them. There will be room on this bed for us all to comingle without having to battle for every inch of space.

We are turning the second bedroom which – shudder - does not have a bathroom - into a dressing room for Cate.  Our new mate Mike is at the house as we speak and is up to his ears in carpentry.

Mike and I went to the hardware store on Wednesday and bought all the supplies and shelving and he is working to a plan that I drew up. I am hopeful that he will not stick to this too closely so that we may get something serviceable.

The good news is that I can now have the smaller walk-in closet and will finally have enough hanging space. I will no longer have to keep most of my clothes in plastic bags under the bed. I expect to find some things I have not seen for some time and I also expect that they will have shrunk.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I am not going to enjoy this

I found someone worse than AT & T – it’s DIRECTV.

I thought I had dealt with the telephone, internet and TV issues but no. Late yesterday afternoon I got a call from Cherise at  DIRECTV saying that they could not find any record of my social security number (?) and to prove that I had one I had to send them a copy – together with a copy of my passport.

No problem I thought – I will just send them an email with a pdf attachment. Oh no – she said – you have to fax it. FAX IT? Do people still use faxes – well DIRECTV does.

I gave this task to Cate and she actually found a fax somewhere in the bowels of Ducky Pharma – dusted it off and sent the fax.

That was the easy part.

The hard part was that I was told that after I sent the fax I had to call them to tell them I had sent it. Apparently actually getting the fax was not hard enough evidence for them. I should have included a certificate from a notary public confirming that it was indeed a fax and I had sent it.

But the harder thing was that I had to call the general DIRECTV number to do this. I envisaged that this would be nearly impossible to do - and so it proved to be.

The DIRECTV call center is impenetrable. They have built an electronic curtain around it. I imagine a call center in which there are no staff. Only empty desks with cobwebs hanging off the unused headsets. Why would you need staff when no one can get through?

There are NO circumstances under which you can speak to an operator no matter which menu choices you make – and I tried them all.

Most of them send you back to the website. Some cut you off immediately. Some fool you into thinking that you will get to talk to someone but them connect you to AT & T (Because that’s where I lodged my order).

AT & T will then connect me back to the DIRECTV phone line. Occasionally you can get part of the way through the menu and almost believe that you will get to speak to someone but after you have been on hold for 15 minutes the line drops out.

I eventually twigged to the idea that I could call the number on which Cherise called me - and after three tries I got through and they were indeed able to confirm that they had received my fax.

I have had limited experience so far but I am guessing that this total grizzly, ghastly, mind-numbing catastrophic shambles is what passes for customer service in America and that I will find this no matter who I call.

I am not going to enjoy this.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another one added to the list

Yesterday I received my social security card. It is made out of cardboard. This is a bit disappointing considering what I went through to get. I know times are tough in the USA – but cardboard?

Yesterday I went to apply for a driver’s license. I was expecting the worst – having heard about American bureaux of motor vehicles -  but it was quite a pleasant experience. There was almost no one waiting – there were lots of people serving - and my wait time was less than 5 minutes.

The woman serving me pointed out that my enormous pile of documentation was deficient in that I only had one letter which had my home address on it. I started to snuffle and whimper so she let me off because I had taken my cardboard social security card accompanying letter with me and this had my address on it.

I did my written test on a computer and passed. I had done some study for this so was well prepared. I think my score was probably 46 out of 50 but they did not tell me.

Today was not quite as easy as I had to talk to AT & T to whom I applied yesterday for telephone, internet and TV services. I received a letter saying my order was confirmed and that installation would be on 30 May.

Later in the day I got an email saying that they needed more information from me. Uh Oh!

It took me an hour to finally talk to an operator who could help me. On two previous occasions I managed to get through the system to operators who said they could not (Surprise!) help me but that they would transfer me to someone who could.

Surprisingly both spoke to me even though I could not tell them my PIN code – which to my certain knowledge does not exist. How could I have a PIN code without an account?

The first time I managed to speak to an operator who said that she could not help me but would transfer me to someone who could. This led to a second operator who also could not help me and then down a dark path and after a long wait a voice said ‘please call again’ and cut me off.

The second time they cut out the middle person and sent me straight into the dark path with the same result.

The third time I found someone who could help me and after much farnarkling told me that  the TV service is not in fact provided by AT & T but by DIRECTV.

Oh no – I thought – I am going to have to call DIRECTV.

But no – this heavenly creature – who thought my accent was cute – relieved me of $642 for a deposit – confirmed my order – an sent me on my way. Oh Bliss!

I have added AT & T to the growing list of people to whom I never wish to talk – EVER again. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

I never want to go there again

It was a tense and exciting struggle but we finally closed on our house at 4:30 on Thursday. We are now the part owners of a historic house in downtown Indianapolis. The bank owns the rest. 

We have been over there on the weekend trying to work out where things will fit – or not fit – which is mostly the case.

The next hurdle – and one I have taken a full day to surmount – was getting the gas, water and electricity connected.

I knew this would not be easy – but it was harder than I had imagined.

See – they make you believe that you can get connected over the Internet – and you probably can if you have a social security number AND a credit record. Without both these things you are a non-person.

The other complication is that the house is in Cate’s name – but she does not have a social security number so I have to apply in my name. 

I have a social security number but no house and no job and no credit record. The ONLY thing I have is a social security number – and I found out – to no great surprise - that this is not enough. 

I made two trips downtown and spent some hours waiting in soulless places with other unfortunate creatures who either wanted a new connection or – even worse – wanted to be reconnected after being disconnected.

Citizens Energy was not too bad – they seem to have some systems in place – and they have toilets which is good if you are going to keep people waiting for hours to be served.

Indiana Power and Light was an altogether different kettle of fish. I waited for hours there and at one stage the only person serving disappeared for 45 minutes – I guess she went to lunch – but never did come back – and was replaced eventually by a colleague who was actually quite nice when I eventually got to speak to her.

I spent my spare time counting the sad sacks waiting to see the cashier – clutching their bills and the wads of cash.  The maximum was 137 and the line was almost as long as the immigration line at Dulles.

I succeeded in both places. Naturally both places wanted a wad of documents and my passport – and  a deposit  -  which I was glad to pay.

One of my life’s goals is to never – ever – visit either of those places again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The smell of goats filled the air

Things went swimmingly at the social security office with the sole exception that Cate could not get a number.

Apparently – when we applied for our visas in the US consulate in Vienna – someone input her birth date incorrectly.

This means that in her immigration records the date is not the same as her passport and birth certificate – an error which the keen eyed assistant at the social security office pounced on within a nanosecond.

He hesitated mid keystroke and said ‘Aha!’

The smell of goats immediately filled our nostrils.

Shaking his head sadly he said that he would have to send the paper work on to a higher authority and that she would not get a card for maybe four weeks. This would not have been a problem except that the people lending us the money had said they would not close without a social security number – and (shriek) our purchase agreement expires today.

We threw ourselves on the mercy of the lender and after a tense day they came back at 4:30 to say they would close without the number – and we hope to do this tomorrow.

My name is also wrong in the immigration records – they have repeated my second name – but he let this go so we would not both be disappointed.

I should be able to get my number tomorrow and some of my problems will be solved. Of course I have quite a few people to tell.

In other news – to distract the cats from their tiny apartment I bought them some cat toys (actually one of them is a dog toy but they won’t know). So far they have shown no interest but I am hopeful.

I hope in the next day or so to show you some pictures of our fabulous apartment complex and – with luck – some pictures of ducks in the swimming pool.