Leap Day – Short Story
By: Jacquie Gauthier
It took a day that normally doesn’t exist for the improbable to happen. I have an appointment with the elusive Internet Guy!
My neighbours have warned me that having an appointment and him actually turning up are two completely different things. They have been waiting for the mythical Satellite TV Guy for about 8 months now. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up but maybe miracles are more likely to occur on February 29; as though the Universe has opened a golden window of opportunity. I will remain optimistic. He just has to come. I will sit in the front yard and wait to be sure I don’t miss him.
I am a Canadian who followed her heart and her new husband to South Africa. This would be fine, except he isn’t here exactly half the time. In order to earn a living wage, he has taken his paramedic skills to an oil and gas exploration project in Mozambique. We rent a small stone cottage 23 km outside of the nearest town, and we don’t have a car yet. Before my husband left for his monthly work rotation, we drove the hour to Tzaneen to buy a modem and lots of air time so that I could better cope with my loneliness and isolation.
We got the modem home and tried to install it. Something wasn’t working. We called the helpline and they walked us through the procedure. Still no luck. Then we asked for the tech to come out. We were given a case file number and told to wait for the phone call that never came. We called. We emailed. The answer always came back the same. We will call you and set up an appointment. The phone mocked us with its silence.
After my husband had been gone a week, I started to get desperate. It was bad enough being apart, but not being able to communicate with him or my family and friends in Canada made it so much worse. I called the company again, but this time I was not going to hang up. Not knowing how to deal with me, the customer service representative put me through to her supervisor, who promised they would indeed call me back this time. Once again, they did not. Finally, I spoke to the supervisor’s supervisor who earnestly assured me that they would call and make an appointment. They did! The fabled Internet Guy is scheduled to be here at noon! I could be Skyping and instant messaging later today—amazing! I will never take those privileges for granted again.
A little burgundy Volkswagen has just turned in to the driveway.
Could it be? It is The Internet Guy! And right on time too!
A slight young man climbs out of the car. I want to hug him. Instead I extend my hand.
“Hello! I am so glad you are here! I’m Jacquie.”
He smiles broadly and shakes my hand.
“I am Rodanzi. Don’t be too glad until you see if I can get this working.”
I offer him something to drink, and ask if he wants to use the facilities before he gets down to business.
“Yes, please. I was going to use the side of the road, but then I saw this miniature crocodile thing. Then I thought about snakes and I decided to keep driving.”
Rodanzi grew up in Pretoria and doesn’t know much about the bush. Finally, here’s a chance for me to use my nature guide knowledge.
“The crocodile-like thing is a monitor lizard. He prefers food he can swallow whole, so he wouldn’t be too interested in you. As for the snakes—they make me nervous too, but apparently no more nervous than we make them.”
Rodanzi is not convinced. “That may be, but why take chances?” he asks as he heads into the house. He returns from the washroom and settles in to work. He tries everything he can think of to get the modem to connect to the network. He tests my SIM card in his modem and his in mine. He switches modems. He tries a dozen different procedures on the keyboard. After about 45 minutes he admits defeat. “This just isn’t going to work,” he says. “The signal is not strong enough here.”
I am deeply disappointed, but I persist. “But we asked if it would work here in Hoedspruit and they said yes. I thought your company had a deal with the other big company that has a tower on the mountain over there.”
“We do, to a point. When their system gets busy, they flip a switch and it cut us off. You are now enjoying the benefits of this arrangement.”
“Yes, being cut off,” he replies, and we both start to laugh.
“I know it’s a long drive and you have no vehicle, but I think you must find a way to go back to the store to try to get your money back. If you go through customer service on the phone and Internet, you will be waiting a very, very long time.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be a problem getting my money back, right? We asked if it would work here and they said yes.”
“You haven’t lived in Africa very long, have you?”
He packs up his things, and we shake hands again. I thank him for coming such a long way and for being so helpful.
He climbs into his Volkswagen and heads back to the city. As he is driving away, I notice the model of the car. It’s a Tenaciti. The perfect car for South Africa. It takes tenacity to get anywhere here.
Despite my despair over the Internet situation, I can’t help but smile. It was such a pleasure to meet this young man. He is educated, bright and funny. He dashed my hopes for better communication, but he gives me a glimmer of hope for the new South Africa.