Life is fickle. Sometimes fate has a way of turning my words to mush (for lack of more polite terms). Today was no exception. Words I had written earlier in the day had come back to haunt me as fate played its hand.
Earlier today (August 6), the LiP Web Magazine published my tale wherein I went in search of reliable Internet connectivity. A number of friendly and highly supportive comments from readers flowed in throughout the day. One of the readers, Danny, commented,
“… hopefully we will all be updated very soon on the details of being all “hooked up” and ready to surf the net, and provide excellent coverage of life in the Northern Philippines provinces for all of us here on LiP.”
Foolishly, I responded that I didn’t know whether I could stretch the details of the installation, etc. into another story of that caliber. I further related a short narrative of what happened on “installation Sunday” and that was pretty much that. Silly me – shamelessly disappointing a reader for whom I should be thankful. That’s a major error for a would-be writer, let alone a wannabe like me.
I told Danny the long and the short of it: A little “SMART-Bro truck” pulled up at our house on Sunday afternoon, just as was promised in the cell phone text message from SMART BRO. True to his word, there they were – three installers, “Manolito, Mo-Mo and Jackie-boy,” hopping out of the small truck. It was all zip-zap-zot and I was on the Internet. The three left as quickly as they came, taking only about fifteen minutes to hook me up. That was it; shameless of me to put someone off like that.
Later in the afternoon, it happened. MUSH. A young man cycled his way up to my house and called out at the gate. My dogs immediately went into alarm mode. I rushed to see what all the commotion was. My wife, Emy, was in town attending to some family business, so I was home alone. Here, an opportunity to interact with an unfamiliar face presented itself. Feeling a little trapped by the situation, I swallowed hard and went to the gate to investigate.
“Mr. Paul Keating?” he inquired. I answered back with my limited Ilocano vocabulary, “Wen” (“O-o”) [“Yes”]. “Please sign, sir,” he followed-up thrusting a card through the gate’s latticework. He was a courier for LBC Express and, after I signed his card, he handed me an envelope stapled into a plastic bag. “Agyamanak” (“Salamat”) [Thank you] was all I could get out as he quickly departed. Opening the plastic bag as quickly as I could, I wondered who would be contacting me via LBC Express. The stationary said it all. It was SMART BRO. He was contacting me, again. My adventurous nature tingled.
I “surfed” the Internet to the SMART Bro web site and caught a glimpse of something I hadn’t noticed before. “Share It” – a wireless router that offered 2Mbyte performance. The letter inadvertently led me to something quite interesting. The monthly fee was that same, strange 999 pesos, but there was a 2,500 peso price tag attached to the router. That’s still a sweet deal for four times the performance I am currently obtaining.
The letter had all the appearances of a bill – would there be a bill, so soon? Wait a minute, there’s a negative balance in the “amount owed” block. That’s not a good sign, is it? Back in the States, I’ve had numerous run-ins with the old negative balance gambit. Even had collection agents chuckling when I’d explain that the amount they were trying to collect for their client was a negative balance – a credit owed me. Had this brand of luck followed me across the Pacific? On the other hand, was this some sort of coded recall from SMART BRO himself? After all, it was on his official letterhead paper.
So, it was seven pesos to town so that I could catch the jeepney to Laoag, again. Twenty-seven pesos later, I was looking for that expert Laoag tricycle driver. This time, things were different. A different tricycle was at the head of the line. No doubt just as smart, but the subtle difference caused me to hesitate. Would he know the code? One way to find out: “PLDT, please,” I asked. Motioning me to get inside, we were off in a hurry. He knew the code, or at least he acted as if he did. When we stopped, it was nine pesos – we obviously took a longer route. Perhaps I was being followed or something. If so, this tricycle driver shook them off my trail.
The same guards were there carrying the same shotguns. They offered the same polite greetings and formalities. I said the same golden word, “SMART Bro.” This time, I received a piece of paper that said, “Customer 1130” with a time stamped next to it. The guard told me, “Please wait,” as he pointed to a group of dejected looking people. Yes, this was definitely different. No longer was I concerned about the bill. I wanted the upgraded service but had an unwelcome feeling that I’d walk away disappointed.
Off to the side, I noticed the customer service agent I had dealt with so successfully on the last visit. I wandered over to him and greeted him. He smiled back and asked if something was wrong. He also told me that I really should wait until they call my number, but I told him I just had a simple question. I laid it on the line: “Can I upgrade my service to the 2Mb ‘Share It’ wireless?” After looking left and right, he told me, “Sorry, sir, it’s not available here. Only the resorts in Pagudpud have it currently. Here, we will be upgrading in 2010.” “Only the resorts” (that’s where a lot of the money is in the province – resorts)! That was that. There was no handshake or farewell through the side door. I had nothing to do except return that slip of paper to the guard and ask him to cancel it.
The combination tricycle and jeepney rides back home gave me time to think. I can’t handle disappointment very well. There must be something positive that I’ve learned here. It was a long ride home with plenty of time to think. As I stepped out of the final tricycle, it hit me. There’s an adventure waiting for me in 2010!