Posts Tagged ‘utilities’

I had read countless nightmare stories on expat nonresidents in Chile being unable to get internet hooked up. Therefore I was in GuardedGringo mode when I went to try and get mine put into our new old former crack den.

VTR was my first choice, but in our area (Centro/downtown) they are unavailable and only offered a 2 megabit wifi line, which would be unacceptable. Maybe sometime in the future they will roll out more cable and I can get one of their nice fast 120 megabit lines. Ah well.

Movistar is the one which causes everyone to run screaming and/or projectile vomit (hence their colloquial name “Vomistar”). They were my second/last choice. And, unfortunately, they only offer a 6 megabit connection but it’s DSL and not wifi so that’s a little better. So I decided on them, not really, more like settled, but whatever. Half of something is better than all of nothing. Nonzero, bitches! I went to the Movistar office at the mall, and asked the lady at the counter about how I could get the hookup.

“Do you have a resident card?” she asked.

“Nope. But I’m en tramite.” I told her.

“That’s OK. Do you have a work contract?”

“Yes I do. But not with me.” Not exactly the sort of thing one carries in their wallet. “I’ll have to come back.”

“OK, no problem,” she says.

“Understood, but when I come back, I take it to mean from your unexpected agreeable attitude that this is possible and I can get an internet connection with just a work contract and no resident card?” I inquire.

“Yes.”

And, of course, when I return, she is nowhere to be found. Ghost lady. The guy there now is douchy Guido and tries to tell me that I can’t sign up for internet here. Bullshit, you just don’t want to do the paperwork. Whatever, up yours pal, I’ll try the other office down the street.

So I go there, and the dragon lady at the desk tells me I can’t get one without a resident card. “You need a Chilean credit history for accounts to approve it.” Again bullshit, if I don’t pay, just cut my line. Simple. I try to tell her that I know the game, but she foists me off on a grumpier, older guy, who tries the same bullshit. When I insist, he just walks off. It was Friday and about 6pm.

It should be mentioned that Movistar is formerly knows as Telefonica, the old government monopoly, which was sold off. The old functionaries who don’t want to help you are still there somewhere, jamming up the machine with the tar-like substance that oozes from their ears. OK, I can play this game another way. I go home to the refuge of my computer.

WifeBob, by the way, noticed my “been playing with bureaucrats” look and called me out on it. Maybe it’s the veins that pop out of my neck and forehead and the sparks that fly from my grinding teeth.

Movistar has a website where you can solicit a new line through a web form. They then call you to verify the information, and set up a time for you to have the line installed. Minimal human contact, and the only pressing info they need is an address and a Chilean RUT number, which any schmoe can get in 10 minutes. No credit card, nothing else.

I solicited the new line on Friday, and they called me that evening to verify the info. The lady on the phone told me that within 15 days I will be contacted for the installation. OK, I think, South Americans NEVER call you back, ever. In 2 weeks I’ll go see the VTR guy, tail between my legs, and opt for the crappy 2 meg connection.

Surprise surprise, Movistar called me this Tuesday to ask if I would be ready in an hour for the line to be installed. OK says I. Come on over.

2 hours pass and the guy finally shows up. Along with delivery guys bringing the chairs I ordered yesterday, which arrived on time. Everyone showing up at once. The guy installs my internet, it works at the advertised speed, all I had to do was sign the form stating it was installed and answer questions from a tech on the phone, verifying that I am me and that I live at my address and that the line works.

Done.

I should also mention that had my expectations not been drowned to death, resuscitated, and then drowned to death again, and again, and again, and again, and again, in Uruguay, I’d probably be flipping my lid over stuff like this. One cannot know the taste of sweet unless one has been force-fed rotten dog shit by the ton.

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Last night we ran out of gas. The bottled kind, which heats our water and runs our stove. As there are several providers and RioGas and the others have consistently dropped the ball, leaving us taking cold showers for several days while we wait for the truck that never arrives, I called Acodike, who had until today never sucked total ass.

The call having been made in late in the day, I was not surprised to hear them tell me the truck would come “mañana, medio dia.” OK, no problem, completely understandable. We have a small reserve, enough to cook with but not enough to have showers more than luke-warm, maybe enough for another day or two max.

This morning I was sure to call them back and sure enough they had no record of our previous request. “Hoy, tarde” was the official arrival time of the truck. OK, no problem, but “cuando, mas o menos?” “Hora y medio, señor.” OK, excellent.

3 hours pass, still no truck. So I call back again. No record of our second request. “OK, I shall call again every hour until you send the tank.”

Each call, there is no evidence of my previous request.

5pm approaches and still no sign of the truck. I call them back, “Truck is in your area.” Uh huh. I wait a little longer, until 6pm approaches, and still no truck. There is no longer enough gas to take even a warm shower, and the cold weather last night guarantees an icy shower. I am starting to stink. So I start getting kitted up to go outside, remove the empty tank, and drag it into town on my own and do their jobs for them.

No sooner than my laces are tied and I have my keys in hand, the truck shows up. They bring the new tank down and switch it with the old one. TankBob opens the valve at the top and heads back to the truck with the empty, without even checking his work. Just standing there a few feet away I can already hear the hiss of a leak and can begin to smell the gas.

“It’s got a leak,” I call to him. He comes back and listens. You can even smell the leaking gas. He jiggles the valve a bit, tightens the fitting, listens, doesn’t seem to detect any more leak so he asks me to have a listen myself. I do. Still hissing.

“I think you’re going to have to change the tank. This one is no good,” I explain. He grumbles something about not having another tank but I insist, knowing full bloody well he’s got a truckload of them. And I make them change it. This time no leak, no hiss, no smell of explosive escaping gas.

This guy’s job is to make sure the stuff he hooks up is safe and not leaking. And to change tanks. Neither of which he wanted to do. Failure can cause the loss of life and/or property. Not cool. I’m no fan of government regulation but come on, man, that’s not only common professional courtesy; that’s basic safety any idiot can and ought to make sure of.

This is the constant situation here, and I was talking specifically about this with GermanBob last night over dinner: Part of the reason getting anything done here is Sisyphean, is because the culture keeps stretching it out as long as humanly possible for no reason, even at a loss in their own profit or loss of continued business. It keeps you constantly bouncing between “I’ll finish it myself” and “Oh, you’re here, please continue,” and we’re such suckers that we keep letting them do it to us. Here’s how it plays out.

The Uruguayan 12-step program for Progress:

  1. You contract a service.
  2. The guy doesn’t show up on time, so you start to wonder if you should have gone with the other guy.
  3. Then the contractor shows up, and starts work. He gets maybe 3/4 of the way through it and then vanishes.
  4. You call him and email him and ask when he is coming back to finish. He doesn’t respond.
  5. You contact your second choice and ask him if he can complete a job the other guy started.
  6. After he takes a look at it, he is nowhere to be found on planet Earth.
  7. You still have no contact from your first guy. You begin to plan out completing it yourself.
  8. You go out and buy all the materials and tools to complete it yourself.
  9. You get on your coveralls and everything put together, and no sooner do you lift the hammer that your first guy shows up to complete the job, so he says. Lots of excuses, sick aunt. Always a sick aunt. Uruguay must have some selective virus that only targets aunts of contractors and has a 100% infection rate.
  10. You leave him to it. He gets to 90% completion and then disappears again.
  11. You declare it done enough and feel ripped off every time you look at the sloppy work.
  12. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This morning, an UTE technician shows up to install the new meter for our Opcion Inteligente service, which they refused to give us yesterday. I tried explaining to the guy that the lady at the office refused to let us change our service, but there he was to change it so “OK, go ahead.”

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.

I wonder if someone at UTE reads this blog, or perhaps GhoulBob started the process and it was more trouble to cancel the request after she refused to accept our power-of-attorney, did the standard cultural “eeh” with shrug and eye roll and let fate decide. Truly weird. What makes it doubly ironic is that it is not even a consistent stream of weirdness and stupidity but a manic unpredictable chaotic stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have the service installed.

…but is it, really?

We shall see in the coming months when (if) I receive my bill.

This is the time of year when I trim the fat from the budget and see where I can save some cash. My target at the moment is the electrical bill. UTE, the Uruguayan electrical monopoly, has a program called “Opcion Inteligente” which has different rates during different times of day, and allowed us to save quite a bit on our power bill (cut it in half, actually) in Montevideo.

Why don’t we have it in the new house? Because we asked for it to be installed with the new service, that’s why.

So today I went to the UTE office, with Power of Attorney in hand (the service is in my wife’s name and Uruguay does not respect spousal authority). After waiting from number 50 to number 75, playing Solitaire on my phone amid the numerous warnings that cel phone use is prohibited (boredom mandatory!) and just itching for someone to say something about it, I got my call to the desk of my assigned nondescript sunken-eyed ghoul.

I explained what I wanted, and she began to get the pile of paperwork ready to sign up for the service. She first tried to dissuade me by explaining that it is more expensive during peak times (5pm to 11pm) and I told her I understood. Then she asks, “Where is your wife?”

“At home,” she has better things to do than sit in an office waiting for zombies to do something that should have been done a year ago. And I do too, for that matter. Everyone does, actually.

“She needs to be here to sign,” she attempts to divert from actually doing something.

“No, she doesn’t. I have here a general power of attorney which gives me the ability to sign in her name for anything. It was drafted, notarized, and legalized here in Uruguay, and it’s even in Spanish.”

She looks at the document (not reading it) in its neat folder with all its seals and stamps, and then tells me, “It is old. I cannot take this.” because it was drafted in 2010.

“If you bother to read it, you will see that it has no expiration date and must be revoked to be null and void. Also, you will notice that it gives me the power to do things like decide medical procedures, conduct business, conduct unlimited transactions of unlimited amounts, and pull the plug to kill her if need be. So changing our electrical service plan should not be difficult.”

“That doesn’t matter. You need a certificado de blah blah blahh…” the noises she was making began to blur together and I couldn’t hear her anyways because of the adrenaline-fueled blood pounding through my ears, readying me to crush her larynx with my bare hands and drink the spurting blood as it shot geyserlike from her eye sockets.

I am Jack’s raging bile duct.

So while she stalls, I violate the no-cell-phone rule yet again just DARING someone to say something because now I WANT to hurt people, and I call the lawyer who drafted the document and explain the situation. “Put me on the phone with her,” so I do. They talk, and the lady refuses to budge.

“You do realize that you are a government functionary and you are officially refusing to accept a valid and binding legal document, drafted and legalized here in Uruguay. Correct?”

“Yes. You need the certificado de blah blah blah…” more sunken-eyed yammering from the bottom-feeding food tube.

With that, she got up and left her desk, never to return. Nice. I shall think of her while I rape the charred corpses of her coworkers.

A couple hours later, ArchitectBob, whom I had dropped in on during my wanderings and told him the story when he noted the veins bulging from my neck and forehead, called UTE of his own volition and tried to change our service for us, using his old POA from the construction of our house. They informed him that he had the power to cut our service completely or add new service to that property in our name, but he could not alter the plan (?!). So nice to know we’re so protected. Thanks UTE!

So I must return tomorrow with WifeBob in tow, and not get laid for a month due to the fallout from making her enter the den of bureaucrats and wait an hour to sign a piece of fucking paper. Thanks UTE!

EMP

Posted: March 22, 2012 in Life
Tags: , ,

A storm was blowing through this morning and, like many other mornings this week, its thunder woke me up. I like the sound of storms and the sound of the rain hitting the window, so I stayed in bed to listen to as I drifted back in and out of sleep. I was quite enjoying it until lightning struck one of the trees right next to the house. I saw the flash through my closed eyelids and the sound came instantly afterwards; it scared the hell out of me. I went out to check on things and find I have no internet; the EMP from the strike has fried our router.

Literally just yesterday we were talking with our neighbors, who complained that they have to replace their router every year for unknown reasons (now I know why), “Doesn’t that ever happen to you?”

“Uhm, no.”

Until now, anyways. Shit. Add a new router to the grocery list.

Every car and house alarm around the block was going off, and one house’s alarm continues to bleat and cackle over an hour later.

Monday, we had a party. We had planned it for a while in advance. It was supposed to celebrate the completion of the garden beds (which still have no dirt in them) but then it changed motive to be a general purpose party and a goodbye to EasternBlocBob who has become a good friend. Saturday was spent acquiring all the food and whatnot, Sunday was spent cooking and prepping, and Monday morning was for preparing the yard.

Sunday you already read about, with the power line oddities and the blackout. Monday, however, we wake up again to not having any electricity (it would happen again every day at different times, and today it would be out for 5 hours during the hottest time of the day). The yard needed some attention so I pulled the lawnmower out of storage. I started it up and it ran for a few minutes and then choked and died. It still had a full tank of fuel.

Normally I would have torn it apart to find the problem and fix it but I had limited time with the rest of the yard prep: setting out furniture, tables, getting the fire pit set up and laying out the lights and power cables if we might happen to have electricity. It should be mentioned that this lawnmower is the exact same model of Briggs and Stratton invincible Yard Machines lawnmower that I pushed in mom’s yard for many years and she still has today, and it never had a problem except need of a blade sharpening once. Mine, however, I have had for maybe 6 months and it won’t work because it’s in Uruguay.

It has been fathomed for a long long time why machines and appliances here never work right out of the box, and we recently got a bit of urban-legend proof from friends in Argentina. All of the items that do not pass muster during quality control inspections in China make their way to Argentina, and those not needed in Argentina make their way to Uruguay. Same with the rejects from Brazil. Made in China, for Argentina, is apparently a special class of crap. Made in China for Argentina and passed on to Uruguay is even worse. I cannot vouch for the truthfulness of this information but it makes sense considering our various experiences with appliances sucking or not working at all.

So the lawnmower won’t restart and I throw my shoulder out trying to get it restarted after draining and replacing the old gas with new to see if it will help. No good. Then I get out the Hyundai (decent brand) weedwhacker, which is only a couple of months old, start it up, and it runs for only a few minutes before it conks out and won’t restart. I do the same gas drain and refill with fresh stuff but it didn’t work here either.

Now I am pissed and in pain, and I still have yard work to do, raking all the 5 million tons of pine needles out of the lawn, so I throw the mower and weedwhacker into the truck and drive them to the place I bought them from to have them repaired. WifeBob is having a meltdown now because the lawn looks like shit. It hasn’t had a proper rain in 3 months now, and we can’t adequately water it because most of the sprinkler things we have bought have broken as well.

When I get back, thankfully DiverBob has shown up since he was in town early and he offers his assistance with whatever we need to prep for the party. I put him to work helping me with the mountains of pine needles so we rake them all up and position them Carolina style around the trees and things in the yard. WifeBob hates this so then demands we remove the pine needles somehow. We start throwing them in the fire pit and burning them but then the dead dry lawn sets on fire…

WifeBob asks me if there is any way we can rent a mower to trim the lawn down, but on short notice nothing EVER happens here so the answer is no. The neighbor’s gardeners show up and start doing their thing. I go talk with the gardener and explain how my mower and weedwhacker are dead, and ask him if he can give the yard a quick once-over, I figure it would take a half-hour. The guy looks around and agrees it will take him half an hour to mow the yard.

“How much you figure it will cost?” I ask.

“Fifty bucks,” he replies. This blows a gasket in my head but for the sake of WifeBob I go back and ask her if she has the money because I certainly don’t. The answer is no, so I have to go back and relay the bad news. Good riddance. 50 bucks??? Maybe it is worth mentioning that these are the same clowns who were doing the gardening when we rented the neighbor’s house during the construction of our own, and they left the irrigation system on when I was at my brother’s wedding, thereby racking up a $900 water bill that they tried to blame on us. Slap me and call be bitch!

So no lawnmowing. WifeBob has another meltdown.

Now the electricity was thankfully back on, and she could finish prepping the party stuff, and when the sun started to die down in the sky, folks started showing up and we had an excellent time until the wee hours of the morning. The weather held out nicely.

Now we are having daily power outages and I am not sure what the problem is. It wasn’t like this in previous years. In Ciudad Vieja, we would get power outages sometimes during severe storms but that was standard practice anywhere in the world. Here, who knows what is going on. Perhaps the infrastructure simply isn’t up to par to handle a lot of people using air conditioners to escape the heat. And it’s not a heavy high season this year either, not a lot of people around, so it’s not like every house is using the AC. Kristina has knocked the teeth out of the middle class Argentines with her currency controls so they aren’t showing up here to spend their money, and it has reduced the summer tourist population by quite a significant amount.