There are a few things that are absolutely indispensible when writing a blog. Firstly, you must have an idea. It doesn’t have to be a unique idea – this post is an example of that – it doesn’t even have to be a very good / funny / pithy idea, although those do make better blog posts. Another thing that is indispensible is Internet access. You can write the funniest, brightest, wittiest, pithiest post ever written in the history of this planet but if you don’t have Internet access no one will ever know what a truly amazing writer you are! (tongue slightly in cheek here).
My experiences in Sicily have given me so many ideas for posts. So why am I not posting every day then? Well, let me tell you.
Our first year in Cianciana, the year we bought our house, we had no Internet access of our own. Mornings could find us huddled over our electronic devices in the MyHouse Real Estate office where we had access to their wifi.
Later, when we were in Agira staying in the ultra rustic stone “cottage” (well, not really a cottage, more a stone shack) we had no wifi whatsoever. I thought I would lose my mind. Nick, my wonderful husband, is an introvert by nature. He is quite happy staying home and playing solitaire on his iPad. Me, not so much. I am an extrovert and need to recharge by being around other people. So, staying for several days out in the middle of nowhere with my somewhat less than garrulous husband and no wifi, albeit in what was actually a rather beautiful setting, I was pretty much ready to be carted off to Bedlam.
Needless to say, the following year I told Nick in no uncertain terms that we HAD to get Internet. As it was our first year in Cianciana and we didn’t know very many people yet, we went to the one person we did know who had, to that point, been able to answer all kinds of questions for us. Gianfranco, our neighbour down the road and the owner of Tutti Regalo, a gift / kitchenware / beach supply /stationary / etc. etc. store, suggested we try the WIND chiave (WIND Internet key). If you don’t know what an Internet key is, it’s a little device that looks like a USB memory stick that you plug into your laptop or whatever, punch in a password and bingo bango, you are on the Internet. Or at least that’s the plan. With our WIND piece of crap Internet key we would click on Safari or Chrome or Firefox and then (cue the Jeopardy music) we would wait. And wait. And wait. And then we would… wait some more. We discovered if we were not online before 7am or after 10pm, there was not much point in even playing with the thing. We battled the whole summer with the WIND piece of crap Internet key.
Needless to say, the following year I told Nick in no uncertain terms that we HAD to get DIFFERENT Internet. This year we went to Massimo. Massimo had been tremendously helpful the year before. He had installed our antenna so we could watch 150 channels of bad American reality tv dubbed into Italian. At least if you are watching Say Yes To The Dress or Duck Dynasty you can guess what is going on as opposed to the shopping network(s) – yes, they have numerous shopping networks – selling items that I had not a hope of figuring out, or old cheesy, badly acted Italian films. And all of these are better than 2 ½ Men!
He had also saved us from ruining our washing machine on its first use because he noticed right away that the reno guy had installed in incorrectly and it was about to implode. So we had, and still have, lots of reasons for trusting Massimo. His suggestion was for us to use a Tre (3) Italia little modem device that worked off the Tre Italia cellphone towers just on the other side of our mountains. We could get Internet all summer for just €20! Sounded like a good plan to us. We bought the device and €20 worth of time and took it home to use it. It was great! It worked consistently at anytime of the day or night. It worked, that is, for about 3 days when it asked for us to buy more time. We did. And then we did again. When we had spent €150 in less than 6 weeks we went back to Massimo and said “WTF! Excuse me Massimo, this seems to be taking more than the €20 you suggested it would.” Actually, this wasn’t our first visit back to Massimo. He spends most of his time out installing various electronicky things while his wife (wo)mans the store. We had stopped by several times to be told, “He’ll be back at 7… at 8 … at 8:30 … you can catch him tomorrow.” When we finally caught him and he heard how much we had pumped into that little piece of crap device he almost hit the roof and told us NOT to put any more money into it. He took it and said he would find out what was wrong. He never did and that was the end of the Internet that summer.
Needless to say, this year I told Nick in no uncertain terms that we HAD to get WIRED IN Internet, which meant going with Telecom Italia. Telecom Italia has an infamous reputation amongst the foreign community, so, thinking that all we had to do was get ahead of the game, we emailed MyHouse and asked them to arrange for Telecom to set up the wifi for us before we arrived. We landed in Cianciana on July 3rd.
MyHouse informed us that Telecom would arrive on the 9th to set up the wifi. Not so bad – less than a week. The 9th came and went – no Telecom. We called MyHouse who called Telecom. Telecom asked if we had a phone line in our house previously. MyHouse said no and Telecom said that in that case, they needed to send out two technicians and then they assured us that we would see them on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. I said to Nick, “You know this means we will see them on Thursday, right?”, only half joking. No sign of them Monday or Tuesday so I called MyHouse to confirm that they would arrive on Wednesday. Oh no. They couldn’t come on Wednesday. Instead they would arrive on Monday 20th between 9:30 and 10:30. On Thursday I said to Nick, “We’ve been hanging around the house waiting for Telecom too long. Let’s go to the market in Ribera.” And off we went to Ribera. We were happily wandering up and down the stalls in the market when my cell phone rings. “Hello?” I said, not yet being quite onto this ‘Pronto’ thing. “Hello, Diane? This is MyHouse. Telecom is at your house. Can you let them in?” “I would but we are in Ribera.” “Oh, okay, we will let them in for you.” Joe at MyHouse very kindly said. Then he said, “Oh wait. Now they are saying that your balcony is too high and they need two technicians (Wait, didn’t they say that already and still they sent out one guy?). They promised to return the next morning (Friday). Of course they didn’t show. At this point we started researching and phoning other companies. We decided to wait until Monday to see if they would show up between 9:30 and 10:30 as they had promised at one point. Guess what… Yup, no show. We called MyHouse to say that we were done with Telecom and were going to go with another company. Joe informed us that the technicians who installed for Telecom also installed for all the communications companies and to go with another company would be getting bumped to the end of the line again. AARRGHHHH!!! So, once again, MyHouse called Telecom Italia and this time told them that we were PISSED slightly irate. This time we were told that they would arrive on Tuesday (yesterday) “Cento percento (100%)”. Tuesday morning arrived and – miracle of freaking miracles – there they were! Two guys with a ladder! One of them came in and said something to Nick faster than I could follow but I could read the expression on Nick’s face. “What is it?” I said with apprehension. “They can install the phone today but not the Internet.” I am beginning to turn red. “Quando?” I asked the technician. He shrugged. “Non lo so. Forse una settimana.” One week? One week! I suddenly became like every Looney Tunes character that ever exploded on screen all rolled into one.
“Una settimana? Noi aspettiamo per OTTO GIORNI PER VOI!!! OTTO GIORNI!!!” (We have been waiting for 8 days for you! 8 days!). “NO UNA SETTIMANA. DOMANI!!!” (Tomorrow!) “No signora, non posso. Forse una settimana.” (No ma’am, it’s not possible. Maybe one week.” “NO!!! DOMANI!!!” “Non posso.” “NO NON POSSO! DOMANI DOMANI DOMANI!!!” This was followed by a string of quite rude expletives in English from me that translate into most languages. At this point Mr. Technician dialed his cell and, half suspecting that he was calling the carabinieri (Italian police) to cart off this crazy foreign lady, I thought ‘Hmph, two can play at that game.’ I got my phone and I started to dial…who could I dial? MyHouse! I got Joe, long suffering and patient Joe, who agreed to talk to Mr. Technician. I thrust my phone in the technician’s face. He talked to Joe who came back on the line and told me that Mr. Technician had called his head office and the wifi would now be connected today. Wow. It is amazing how things that are not possible suddenly become possible in the face of a raging, crazed menopausal foreign woman.
Now, I had heard that there were all kinds of stories that foreigners had about Telecom including one couple in Cianciana who had moved and were told that their phone and wifi could not be connected because their new house did not exist. Didn’t matter that the house was 100+ years old, as far as Telecom was concerned, their house did not exist. So, I started to do a little research and in the space of less than 1 minute came up with dozens of stories of frustration over Telecom, all of which make our experience look like a walk in the park.
Deirdrè Straughan in her blog “Countries Beginning with I” said the following:
“…getting a phone line installed required “a recommendation and a bottle of whiskey.” The recommendation would ideally be from someone with contacts inside Telecom Italia, to ask the folks there to be nice to you. The bottle of whiskey would be a “gift” to encourage the technicians to get their job done, but you might need another bottle to tide you through the months-long, completely unnecessary wait!”
“No one deals with Telecom Italia any more than they have to, because the service is so horrifically incompetent as to leave strong men weeping in frustration.”
Rebecca Winke in her blog Slow Travel Stories said the following about getting her phone service back after a month with no phone, fax or wifi:
“…all of the sudden I am feeling all warm and fuzzy towards Telecom and beginning to understand that whole psychology behind why hostage victims begin to empathize with their captors.”
And finally, I can’t even quote from Pecora Nera’s blog An Englishman in Italy. His story is so long, involved and funny that you just have to read it for yourself.
A coincidental kind of Post Script:
As I was writing this post our door bell rang. I hung over the rail of our 3rd floor terrazza to see the Amazon.it delivery guy standing at our door with a parcel for me. I ordered this book (I will tell you about it in a minute) less than a week ago. They emailed me and said it would arrive on July 27th. Here it is, July 22nd and they have just handed me my book. In my humble opinion, Telecom Italia should just be handed to Amazon.it. Maybe we would actually get the service we want when they say they will deliver it or even before! Let’s make this a Facebook / Twitter campaign… #switchAmazon4Telecom!
As for the book, one of my Sicily blogger colleagues, Veronica di Grigoli, has published a new book: The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.
‘This tells the story of how I met my Hubby, became a Sicilian Housewife, and spent my first year in Sicily on an unpredictable journey of hilarity, reckless driving and dangerously large portions of spaghetti.’
Available on Amazon.com; Amazon.co.uk; and Amazon.it