Thursday, January 14, 2010

HelloMyNameIsEvanIt'sSoNiceToMeetYou and the Saga of the Vodafone

For the past few days, I've had a cold that I got from David. It hasn't been totally awful, but it has made me less than pleasant to be around. Unfortunately, I bought David some psuedoephedrine (the real Sudafed) when he got it, which means that I have been unable to buy some for myself. An individual is limited as to how much they can buy in a period of time for fear that they will use it to produce meth. Anyway, Andrew (my boyfriend) came to visit me before I left and was kind enough to buy me a box, right before we went out for coffee. By time we got to the airport, the combination of the two was making me incredibly excitable. Since I had a group flight, we all met in a room before boarding, where I socialized with a sort of intensity I usually reserve for life-or-death situations. This continued as I got on the plane, and, had everyone else not fallen asleep, would have gone on all flight. I hope I didn't scare anyone too much.

After being moved to the hotel and having lunch, I decided to set out and buy a cell phone. We had been told that there was a service that catered to American students with phone that automatically bills you, but it sounded like it was only useful for talking to other American students in Spain. Vodafone prepaid phones, we were told, were easy to buy and activate, so I decided to get one.

I set off to the Corte Inglés, which, according to my middle school Spanish textbook, was this sort of incredible store that sells everything. There was one close by and I figured I might as well see this bastion of capitalism I had heard so much about. The first thing of note is that Corte Inglés is not one store, or even a couple of stores nearby, but rather a series (I counted 4 or 5) of stores placed somewhere in the same neighborhood with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to their specialties. It included two stores that were eight stories tall, each with a different department on every floor. I'm still not totally sure whether they were affiliated or competing, as they seemed to sell a lot of the same things. By "a lot of things", I don't mean exclusively "things", I don't just mean objects, but also things like, insurance, travel packages, DSL, and haircuts. All of it was presented in a way that was sort of like that of a department story, but less appealing.

Such began my tragic encounter with the good people at Vodafone. I bought a prepaid phone at the Vodafone booth at Corte Inglés, got it activated, and then went back to my hotel to set it up. Before I could get the phone out of the box, though, I passed out from having not slept. When I awoke a few hours later, I tried reading the instructions, which, despite my supposed Spanish proficiency, I didn't really understand. I tried to call a friend, which got me redirected to Vodafone help. They basically continued telling me my phone was not activated, at one point making me go back to Corte Inglés for them to do it for me (which made me look like a fool, since it wasn't their fault). After calling 7 times or so, they finally seemed to give up. I was called back a half-hour later and told that if I removed the SIM card and battery, turned it off for a minute and restarted, it would work. Sure enough, they were right.

One thing I've noticed since I got to Spain: they're crazy for reflective vests. From the police patting people down at customs, to the guys trying to get you to sell gold and silver on the streets, they find a surprising number of uses for them.

Also, I finally saw someone wearing a Guardia Civil helmet. It looks like a hard plastic hat with a plastic bar behind it, making a shape sort of like a tricornered hat. They look really silly.

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