If you do not have family or friends living in developing countries or Asia you have probably not discovered, and perhaps will never discover, The Joy of Phone Cards.
Like many other things which bring people joy (food, sex, recreational drugs etc.), phone cards can be a mixed blessing. Yes, they offer many long moments of conversation with loved ones at relatively cheap rates, but man o man, do you get sick of punching in the long sequence of numbers: number, press 1 for English, pin, #, destination, #. And I’m sure they sometimes cheat you out of precious minutes.
Then, of course, it’s important to find the one with the best deal. I sometimes know which one that is, because DadaK tells me. But it seems to keep changing and he doesn’t always update me. I was merrily buying everyone Click Africa for Xmas, only to discover that they’re now all buying South Asia (yes, for Africa). To be honest, they seem the same to me, but then I’m not – or I wasn’t – calling Ghana every other day. I am now, & it’s not all for fun.
The combination of phone cards and developing country phone lines can try your patience. How’s this for a phone card adventure? I’ve recently had no outgoing calls on my home phone line (that’s The Joy of Phone Companies), so I have to use a special phone card to make local calls, i.e. to call the phone card number that I use for my international calls. So last night I was trying to call Ghana and on my first few tries the network was down. Ok, it’s not the phone cards’ fault, but by the time you’ve pressed 50+ numbers per call, you too would be a bit irritated to fnd it hadn’t worked. Plus, my local call card was almost finished, so as each attempt failed I watched my credit go down with an increasing sense of panic that I would never get through.
It was quite an important call. I’ll spare you The Joy of Children’s Passport Applications for now. I know DIAC have to be careful because some parents take the law into their own hands & abduct their children (click here for advice if this happens to you), but – come on – I need that passport so I can take my son to his father.
At last I succeeded, with my two phone cards and by now over 300 pressing of numbers, in getting through to the Australian High Commission in Accra, only to be confronted with the ubiquitous Demon Phone Menu – “Press 1 for irritation, 2 for despair, 3 to throttle the electronic voice, etc.”. (Actually, the systems I really hate are the voice recognition ones, because they don’t understand swearing or tooth grinding.) Fortunately, this system understood me, I got through to the right person and – hopefully – sorted things out. And thank god I get my outgoing calls back today! Now I just need to get that passport and my blood pressure will go down.