Okay folks, it was a long journey, a difficult journey, with lots of hurdles, you know, of the bureaucratic type, a few of the technical type too, but we got to the finish. We now are the proud users of an Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). In order to get there I went to the local telecom operator, the former national monopolist, who still is the only party that can fiddle with physical wires into your home. It’s called OTE here. That stands for Hellenic Telephone Organization, but most people refer to it as “pOTE” which means “never” in Greek. In case you wonder why, read on…
After waiting in line for about an hour, there is only one desk for ADSL related matters, I got to speak to kyría Sonia. Kyría Sonia is the Tsarina of ADSL in Iraklio. You want ADSL, you’ve got to talk to kyría Sonia. Unfortunately kyría Sonia speaks only Greek, and my Greek is a little bit, how shall I say, inadequate in technical matters. I had to explain that I wanted the ISDN line changed to an ADSL over PSTN line. That took some time. Anyway, after 15 minutes kyría Sonia understood what I wanted, or so I thought. She started tapping on her computer and said “no, no, that’s not good”. But in Greek. I can understand that fine though. We needed another 15 minutes before it became clear to me that she had consulted my internet consumption through ISDN of the previous 6 months and was saying that it would not be a good economic proposition to switch to ADSL. I thought that it was none of her concern, but I told her that I had used the ISDN connection very rarely because I was on a wireless network most of the time. She proclaimed “how can that be, OTE doesn’t offer wireless connection to the internet”. When you consider yourself the center of the universe, I guess the notion of alternative ways around you is hard to grasp. Anyway, we got over that hurdle after a while too. She was ready to allow me access to their brand new ADSL infrastructure. To realize how brand new, you have to understand that ADSL was only launched here 6 months ago.
She handed me an application form for the ADSL connection. “How long is it going to take to install this ADSL line?” I asked. “5 to 10 days” was the answer. That was resonable, I thought. I filled it in, and tapped the check box which said “PSTN” in favor of “ISDN”, because that’s what I wanted. “No, no, that’s not possible, you have ISDN now” she said. I replied that I wanted the ISDN option removed and just wanted ADSL over PSTN. “But ISDN is much better!” she cried out in desperation over so much stupidity. I said I didn’t want ISDN. After another 15 minutes we came to an agreement that I would be allowed to downgrade from ISDN to PSTN. She tore up my application form and gave me another. That was a request the change from ISDN to PSTN. When I asked why she tore up the request for an ADSL line, she replied that I first had to go through this phase of changing ISDN to PSTN, which would take, you guessed it “5 to 10 days”. “Working days” she added. “And then you come back and we fill out the form for the ADSL application”. I was stumped. Baffled. Struck speechless. “Why can’t we do this in one go?” I asked bewildered. “Because the computer can’t handle it, you must first be converted to PSTN, before we can fill in the application for ADSL over PSTN”. “But why can’t the technician do this in one go? It’s much easier for him, and much faster for me? And then you can do the filling in with this stupid computer at your own leisure.” Nosirree! Nocando! Depressed over so much bureacratic incompetence I left the offices. What could I do, it’s not as if there were any alternatives. I decide to sit this out.
After 2 full weeks had passed, that’s 10 working days, nothing had happened. I went back to OTE, or rather pOTE as I had started to call them too. “No? Not done yet?” was the surprised reaction of kyría Sonia. “Then it would not take long anymore” she added undisturbed. When I reminded her that she had promised a delivery time between 5 and 10 working days and that it was now more than 10 working days, she shrug it off. “Τι να κάνουμε;”, what can we do about it? Mark this expression, I’m sure you gonna hear a lot more of it. The technicians would come by any day now, she promised again. I went out. Got drunk and trew myself under a bus. Luckily it was parked. Okay, that’s not true, just a joke, but I was really pissed off, even more so because I realised that I couldn’t do one damn thing about it.
Another week went by and no pOTE technician showed up. I noticed however that somehow it didn’t affect me that much anymore. Do you remember these faces that you could once see on pictures of people in Eastern European countries before 1989? No hope. No expectations. That’s what totalitarian regimes do to you. pOTE is a totalitarian regime. In that respect I’ve heard Greek people refer to “bureaucratic terrorism”.
Enfin, I went back once more to kyría Sonia, and this time even she thought that this was just a teensy weensy out of the ordinary. So she picked up the phone, dialed an internal number, did her performance of fast-talking in Greek and after a while triumphantically turned to me: “the technician will come this afternoon”. “Thank you” I said and walked out, no doubt leaving here behind in disgust over so much ingratitude.
When I went home that evening, the technician had come indeed, and we were now on PSTN again. But I was only halfway through the stations of the cross. Now we would have to go through that whole charade again for the ADSL line. Dutifully I went back to kyría Sonia the next morning. The one thing that hadn’t come up yet was the ISP connection. I needed the ADSL line from OTE, because I had not other choice, but I would rather have my hands chopped off than take an ISP subscription with them. Thanks to the liberalisation laws that were forced onto the Greeks by the EU, we could now choose. And choose I would. So, when kyría Sonia gave me the second form, to apply for an ADSL ISP subscription, I politely declined saying that I didn’t need it. Now it was here turn to be struck dumb. After she regained her normal self she stuttered and spluttered, stammered and sputtered “But why? Why!?”. I smiled at her most charmingly and said “because I can”. Two minutes later I walked out triumphantically, revindicated.
Now the waiting for the second coming (of the technician) had begun. Two weeks went by. Three weeks went by. As I said, it didn’t affect me anymore. I could be patient if I wanted. Then on that Saturday of the third week, at 10 in the morning, the telephone went. It was the OTE technician announcing that ADSL was now in operation. On a Saturday! “And if I please would connect the splitter myself and test the modem”. I said that I was told by kyría Sonia that I was not to touch this splitter, only a qualified engineer from OTE was assumed to understand the complexities of this device and connect it properly to their beloved lines. Okay, I didn’t say it in exactly those words, but that was the gist of it. “No, no, that was okay”, I was told, “I could do it myself very easily”. Probably an overworked technician. I’m just guessing though. Anyway, I connected the splitter, plugged in the phone in the appropriate socket and tested it by dialing to my mobile. Everything worked fine.
I didn’t have a modem yet because I was determined to find a source other than OTE to buy one, so I couldn’t test that yet. After one week I still hadn’t found one in or around Iraklio yet. Everybody referred me to OTE. I felt like a coward and a traitor when I went looking on the website of OTE to see what, if any decent modem they offered. To my very pleasant surprise they had an extremely nice modem/router/switch with 4 ports and firewall built-in. For only €80,- I immediately thought they had made a mistake. It was a Thomson (former Alcatel) Speedtouch 800. They also had a Siemens XPressLink with a single port for €110,- I looked for other sales points and found prices in the range of €120,- to €180,- for exactly the same Speedtouch 800 device. The decison was quickly made. Who needs principles when they can pull one over to the ennemy? I rushed to OTE during lunch time, waved at kyría Sonia from afar and went straight to the direct sales counter. Half an hour later I was out with my modem/router.
That evening I called the ISP of my choice who guided me through the login procedure and half an hour later I had connected our 2 computers to the internet. Life in the digital realm was restored once more. That was yesterday.