Saturday, May 16, 2009

¿Aló? I've got phone frustrations...

Extra! Extra! We finally got a landline!

Unfortunately we don’t have a house phone for the line. While we have many phones in this casa—three cells and three Vonage phones on one system that are our lifeline to the United States—the sad, pathetic cordless we had in storage for our landline has met its demise. I suppose we’ll soon go to Hipermas and see if we can find a decent phone for a reasonable price. I'm ready to have a clear reception for national calls!

¿Puede hablar más despacio?
On the topic of phones … speaking with native Spanish speakers on the phone is probably the biggest communication challenge we face that has nothing to do with cultural understanding and everything to do with the often poor cell phone reception and fast-speaking people on the other end. On many occasions I’ve asked a caller to speak more slowly, please, only to have the person continue at a hasty mumble. I’ve been hung up on more than once which was surely a relief to both the caller and to me.

¿Quién es?
Now toss in common Tico phone mannerisms and cultural habits, and things really get confusing. For some reason Ticos tend to dial a lot of wrong numbers—and often continue to call the wrong numbers—and then still may want to talk. Here’s a typical conversation, in English for your reading pleasure:

Me: Hello?

Caller: Who is this?

Me: I’m sorry, who are you calling?

Caller: Who is this?

Me: You called me. Who are you looking for?

Caller: Is Carlos there?

Me: I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.

Caller: I’m looking for Carlos Zamora. Who am I talking to?

Me: I’m sorry, you have the wrong number. There is no Carlos here.

Caller: Do you know Carlos Zamora? What number is this?

Me: What number are you trying to reach?

Caller: I’m sorry. (Click.)

And then, often just a few minutes later, the phone rings again. Guess who! If I get desperate, often I’ll just start speaking quickly in English and that usually stops the madness.

¡Llamé, por fa!
Hands down the most frustrating phone situation I’ve found here in CR is the reluctance of people—even professional businesspeople—to return phone calls. This is especially maddening when I am waiting for a physician to call me back. If I’m calling the doctor, the question is usually urgent and requiring a timely response. What I’ve learned—with the doctors and anyone else I want to speak with here—is that one cannot be shy and must be persistent, calling and calling until lucky enough to finally get the desired person on the line. This is not considered rude but rather a cultural necessity.

Para recibir sus mensajes, marque uno …
Last week my cell phone went wacky and when I called to get my messages, the recorded woman’s voice kept telling me to dial 193 for customer service. The problem is, when I’d call 193 the voice would tell me that I couldn’t receive my messages and I needed to … wait for it … dial 193. ARGH! There were multiple theories concerning the problem with my phone, but after a day and a half it suddenly fixed itself. Patience is most definitely a virtue in Ticolandia.

Lave sus manos …
This isn’t a frustration but rather an observation. Every once in a while I get anonymous text messages about seemingly random things, and yesterday’s took the prize. My phone beeped at me and delivered a public health message: a reminder to wash my hands thoroughly and use a tissue to cough or to cough into my elbow. We’ve been inundated with information, cautions, and quarantines at work and school related to the H1N1 flu—and now even the phone company is in on instructing us of proper hygiene. Thanks for the tip, muchachos!

¡Pura vida!


Justine said...

Wow, I never thought you'd get a landline, but if the reception sucks that bad, I'm surprised you waited this long! You've been there well over a year now, no?
I love that your caller asked if you knew Carlos. ROFL

Justine :o )

Four in Costa Rica said...

We've been here 21 months. We didn't purposely wait to get a landline, it just took forever for the phone company to install one. The line had been on order since before we came to CR to find our house (which was in July '07). I actually blogged about it here:

Oh, and we get calls like that all the time! ;)


Shelli said...

Sounds like Dilbert en espanol...