Complaining is a kind of connectivity

THE FIFTH COLUMN

As a responsible journalist, I must report back on what happened between my last Fifth Column, two weeks ago, and this one. As an irresponsible journalist, I have to crow about the fact that at least two people read it.

For those who didn’t, it was a long whinge about Vodacom Fibre and Vumatel. Nine-and-a-half weeks (10 by the date of publication) since I had signed the contract with Vodacom Fibre and I still didn’t have the promised working internet connection. Vumatel were responsible for the physical technicalities.

One reader described this as the most boring column I had ever written. I hope to out-bore it soon, perhaps even with this account of its sequelae.

The lesson is that complaining in print works.


On the very day of publication, I heard from both Vodacom and Vumatel. The first to email was Sheryl Moodley of Vodacom, and the first to call was Grace Molale from Vumatel. I didn’t see Sheryl’s email till later, because I wasn’t at the office on that Friday and … well, I didn’t have “connectivity” at home.

(I might write a column sometime addressed to Apple: its theme would be “Please give me a R7 000 iPhone so I can pick up my work emails anywhere.” But then I suppose I would have to write one addressed to one of the service providers, along the lines of “Please give me huge amounts of free 4G bandwidth”  . . . Eventually, I daresay, I would be writing to the presidency asking for a pardon.)

Anyway, Grace very proactively apologised and said she would get on to the problem, which I believed. Amazing how you can believe such reassurances when you’re being given them by a real person and not a prerecorded message.

More phone calls followed, a few from Vodacom, a few from Vumatel. I would describe this as the left hand working out what the right hand is doing and vice versa. Some called me for information (“What is your precise address?”) and some offered me information I already had (“Your object number is …”) and had already passed on from one company to the other. I still can’t see why it’s the client’s responsibility to make the link between two companies working together to provide a service, but let’s leave that aside.

Twenty or so calls and text messages later (yes, we jumped comm streams!), two wi-fi guys arrived to provide the actual router, which is different from the “object” or wall unit, otherwise known as “the box”.

I noted they were from a company called New Generation, hence subcontractors.

With languid ease they plugged this into that, made X talk to Y, and one password later all the gizmos were in communication with each other and with the various Clouds bulging with bytes of stuff (I think the technical term is data). I was deliriously happy, though I tried not to be too effusive.

Now please, readers, don’t send me complaints about your service providers. I don’t want to know.

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Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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