October 20, 2018 / 21:45
Nosheen Shakil

In exile: impressions from not so mobile telephony

12 September 2011 December 08:54
'Not working' said the under aged employee at the mobile phone shop in the idle hope to get rid of me. I replied that my not working mobile phone is precisely the reason of my visit to the shop.

'No English' he tried. 'No Turkish' I smiled like an idiot.

We took turns in staring at each other; looking away as soon as our eyes crossed. I wondered if winking would end me up in prison on pedophile charges.

He sighted deeply, shrugging as if he understood that there was no escape. 'Come', he signed to follow him into the unlit basement. Visibly an underground approach to settling phone registration, certainly part of the company's manual 'How to complicate expat's life with a maximum profit?'

The mobile phone story was ongoing since I set foot on Turkish soil at the beginning of the summer: making this SIM card function was at this stage a matter of stubbornness rather than a practical issue.

- 'Your number?

I swallowed 'I will give you my number once it works'.

- 'Forgive me for my ignorance, but I don't have the faintest idea. Not only nobody is interested in getting my number, this number has never worked since the very moment of purchase nearly two months ago.' I replied. Also here my unfailing technique of rattling with Scottish accent and innocent look proofed it is utility.
Fathi obviously did not understand anything. Neither did I.

He dismantled my phone, meanwhile checking with a furtive glance if anybody respecting herself could carry a simple Nokia deprived from internet, touch screen, Facebook and vegetable steaming options. I gave him the 'this was top notch when you were still wearing diapers' look. I failed and blushed. Thanks God for the darkness of the shop's basement.
In any country in the world you can buy a SIM card and start calling. Not here. You need to register your SIM and your phone and yourself. The latter you can only do when you have an identity card. And an identity card...never mind. My own assumptions. All of this would still be acceptable, if only someone explained, gave you a manual. But nobody does. They sell you SIMs and then sneakily withdraw in their basements to laugh. Comes the moment where employees are bored: 'Boring today, isn't it? The other replies: What you say...no foreigners. Let's block some phones.'

- 'This your number. Passport?' I am impressed: the company hires minor wizards. A pity that
English is not included in the magic pack. Fathi copied my passport at least 6 times, came back with a pile of papers which required my signature on 146 pages.

- 'Come' – I followed him up the stairs. People are chuckling. This time I wink, forget the prison. I do not recall any mobile phone problems in Midnight Express.

-'Wait'. He likes bossing me around, this little wizard of Tunalı. I wait, studying the phones. Then Fathi makes me sit, copies once more my passport. I see him muttering a spell.

- 'Now pay 10 TL'. Whatever you say, my little friend. Paying for unblocking my phone which has been blocked by your company for no other reason than the simple purchase? I feel a little sheepish when I enter my pin code. But Fathi ensures me: 'Three days-phone work'.

Suspicious I walk out of the shop: three days of nerve-racking waiting...how to survive this insecurity? Except if...my phone works and I get an offer as a belly dancer in Reykjavik, I will be back next week with more exciting news of Ankara's beau monde.
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