A couple years ago my father and I went to see the movie Jack Reacher. Tom Cruise was in the movie and there were lots of explosions. But the take-away for me was that Tom Cruise’s character lived “off the grid.” He didn’t have a phone or a credit card. And the government agencies weren’t exactly sure who he was because he didn’t have a driver’s license or any legal photo identification to match his name. Until this week I didn’t believe it was possible to live like Jack Reacher, that is, until I realized I don’t really exist in Australia.
Most people cannot survive a day without their smartphone. For me, I gave up my iPhone when I went to Africa and haven’t had one since. When I got to Australia, UQ bought me a new iPhone; however, it’s my responsibility to get a sim card and pay the bill. The good thing is, phone plans are super cheap here compared to in the U.S. The bad news is that it’s practically impossible to get a phone plan if you aren’t a natural born Australian. For a week now I’ve been trying to obtain service and am no closer to success.
Several days ago I tried to order a sim card online through one of the major phone companies. I was having trouble with the ordering itself because I didn’t have a lot of the information, so I used the “chat with customer service” feature. Talking to a real person? Good. Getting the real person to understand I’m new to Australia and don’t have basic, everyday things like most others? Not so easy. I won’t recount the full hour long (actually, almost 90 minute) conversation, but here are the highlights:
Phone company rep: What’s your address?
Kelly: I don’t have an address yet. I don’t move into my permanent home for two weeks.
PCR: Ok, well, what’s your last address?
Kelly: The U.S., so I don’t think that really helps.
PCR: Hmmm… well I need to run a credit check.
Kelly: I don’t have an Australian credit card.
PCR: Ok, well, if you don’t have an address or an Australian credit card, give me your phone number and I can use that to run your credit check.
Kelly: I don’t have a phone number. That’s why I’m contacting you to get a sim card and phone number.
PCR: Do you have a utility bill that shows your address?
Kelly: No, I don’t. I don’t have a utility bill yet because I don’t have a house to live in yet.
If this conversation reminds you of another blog post I wrote about African efficiency you are correct! I'm pretty sure the people I dealt with in Africa when I was trying to get a UB ID card and extend my residence permit may be related to the phone company people here in Australia.
I can’t be sure exactly what happened, but after 90 minutes of back and forth, sending them copies of my permanent residency visa, giving them my employment information, and a whole bunch of other information, I was approved for a phone number and sim card.
Fast forward to today. Since I don’t have a permanent address where I live yet they couldn’t send the sim card to me directly. Instead they sent the card to the post office and told me where to pick it up. I went to the post office and we played the same game:
Post Office Clerk: Ok, I’ll need a passport and two other forms of ID.
Kelly: Here’s my passport, my U.S. license and my permanent residency visa. Will that work?
POC: No, I’m afraid not. The passport is good, but the other two aren’t. Ok, do you have a medicare card yet?
POC: Utility bill?
Kelly: No, I haven’t moved into my house yet so I don’t have a utility bill. That’s why I’m picking this up at the post office.
POC: Ok, what’s your phone number?
Kelly: I don’t have one. That’s why I’m buying a sim card.
POC: So, I guess that means you don’t have a copy of a phone bill to give me?
That’s right. I started to cry! And the post office clerk began to panic.
I’m typically not much of a crier. Most of my students reading this are probably laughing because I am normally the person who MAKES OTHER PEOPLE CRY! It’s not a hobby for me; I don’t go out of my way to make others cry. But it definitely happens. And it is normally related to grades.
But as I was saying, I cried because I didn’t have enough identifying information to get my mail, so I could get my sim card, so I could use my phone to talk to friends that I don’t even have! Ridiculous, I know. But, sometimes, when you move abroad it’s the little things that make you want to tear your hair out. You know that song, “Call Me Maybe?” Well, if I ever get a sim card to put in my fancy new phone, that’s going to be my ringtone. Or perhaps I will record my own version, “Call Me Maybe, But Probably Not.”