We had dinner at the phone bill lady’s house the other night. Does that happen anywhere else besides
So last time Jeremy went in to pay the bill, she invited us over to her apartment. She lives in a suburb outside of
The phone-bill-paying system they have going here is quite interesting. Unlike in
During Ramadan, I had a reduced working schedule, which made it convenient for me to be the one to go and pay the phone bill. Before I continue, let me explain something: our internet usage is billed to our phone line. In other words, we don’t use the pre-paid internet cards that are available (the cost is the same). Thus, our phone bill came to about 3000 lira (60 bucks) for the two or three months in the billing cycle. Not a particularly astronomical amount, considering that some of those costs would be reimbursed by my work (I do work for them through the internet sometimes). Anyway, I mention this because a normal, non-internet-included phone bill usually comes to about 150 to 250 lira (3 to 5 dollars).
It must have been the last day to pay without losing your phone line, because the office was absolutely packed. Also, they were closing early because of Ramadan. So everyone – the workers and the customers – were in an absolute frenzy to finish up and go home. Long lines from each payment window stretched all the way outside the building. People were jostling for position in the different lines. As I approached, I could tell that there were different lines for different areas, but the signs explaining the system were posted way up front, out of my view. So I chose one and hoped that the long wait ahead of me wouldn’t end in being told to stand at the end of a completely different line.
The guy standing behind me in line was particularly antsy. I have no idea what his damage was – there was no way the line could move any faster, and his pushing and making exasperated comments about how long it was taking were not helping the already tense situation. As we got closer to the payment window, he found an interesting way to amuse himself: listening to the worker tell each customer the amount due for their phone bill, and then re-announcing it to everyone in a loud voice!
So far, the amounts were all small: 100 lira, 150 lira, 250 lira, 200 lira, etc. Still, the guy behind me felt the need to repeat each amount loudly, making sure everyone around could hear. I was really, really dreading my turn at the window. I silently hoped that when it was my turn, the worker would assume I didn’t speak Arabic and write the amount down, instead of saying it out loud. Alas, I was not so lucky.
Sure enough, the worker told me, in Arabic, that my bill was 3000 lira. I thought the guy behind me was going to have a heart attack. He faltered, and repeated the amount to himself several times before letting everyone else know about it, too. I was so embarrassed. He kept on raving about it the whole time I was at the window handing over the money, getting my receipt, etc. As I walked away, and it was finally his long-awaited turn, he was still marveling about it, inserting some choice comments in Arabic that I couldn’t understand (I’m sure it was about the foreign girl who must talk on the phone
I haven’t been back since. We decided that it would be Jeremy’s job to pay the phone bill from then on.