Wifi 101

So I’ve had my official first “everything is not perfect in Berlin” moment. Wi-Fi. Can’t live without it, right? So as you may recall, shortly after I arrived I learned the unhappy fact that there is no Wi-Fi in my accommodation. This is completely understandable from an organizational and administrative point of view, as I explained below, but pretty frustrating from my personal “I can’t live without internet access” point of view. So today, like several other similarly disillusioned new arrivals, I trudged off to the Saturn store in Alexanderplatz to obtain a Wi-Fi stick and a sim card.


Now during my days in Batumi, I had become completely enamored of (and dependent upon) a small USB stick with a monthly allotment of gigs as a marvelous way to carry around one’s internet access and avoid the dreaded TWC installation experience that awaits most of us as we set up cyber-shop in a new venue. Buy the stick and pay a very reasonable monthly fee – presto magic, the internet follows you and your laptop around the environs like a well-trained pooch. In fact, I was downright pissy when I got back to the US in the summer of 2013 only to learn we didn’t even have such devices available. Pah. We’re so 2002.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Brimming with confidence and bravado, off I go to slay the tech dragons and emerge victorious, a USB stick and sim card that will make my life here perfect clutched tightly in my hot little hands.

(You know this isn’t going to end well.)

First of all, Saturn is one of those gynormous soul-sucking multi-story commercial establishments, selling a mind-bending array of electronic devices that, under the best of circumstances, usually reduces me to quivering, sweating frustration, eyes brimming, voice catching, in under 15 minutes flat. Just imagine that all, but auf Deutsch, naturlich.


Step One. Establish that USB sticks are on the third floor. Find the escalator and head up multiple levels. Find sticks at far end of the floor. Head back down to sim card section on first floor. Run into fellow student who tells me USB sticks will not work with Macs.

Step Two. Go back up to third floor, chat with a sales associate. He scans in the bar code of the stick I have chosen and confirms that it does, indeed, work with Macs. Back down to the sim card arena.

Step Three. Try to puzzle out sim card section. First, do I want a German card or an international card? (Is the internet German?) Nice sales lady tells me I need the international version. Then I have to pick 8 or 16 or 32 or 64 or 128 gigs. How much do I need for a month? To be able to play Bubble Witch Saga and to interview my fellowship applicants on Skype? I settle for 32. It’s a number. The prices aren’t too different.

Step Four. Stand in line to register the sim card. Ooops, can’t do that before you buy it.

Step Five. Purchase stick and sim card. This sets me back about 60 Euro, but ya gotta have the internet.

Step Six. Go back to sim card area with proof of purchase. Stand in line again. Nice young man takes my passport and fills out a lengthy online form, probably one that goes directly to Interpol. I reflect that I certainly won’t plan any terrorist actions using that sim card ‘cuz they’ll find me in a heartbeat.

Step Seven. Since I don’t know what I’m doing with a stick and sim card to begin with, I head over to the Service Desk to ask for installation advice. Take a number. Wait for next available resident genius. Oh, this is an installation? Go down to the desk at the end of the counter.

Step Eight. Special desk at end of service counter. Nice young man explains that it will cost an additional 19 Euro to do the installation. This seems a little dear to me, but since I don’t want to get all the way back home and then not know what the hell I’m doing and break the damn thing, I agree. He sets out to get the stick ready, pops card in stick, pops stick in computer…

Step Nine. Nichts. “Device will not connect.” We try several times. Nice young man goes deep into the computer and learns that because I am running an earlier version of my operating system, the stick cannot register itself with my OS. Tells me it will take two hours for the new OS, EL Capitan, to download onto my laptop. I flash on the near future, sitting in the corner of this megalithic technology superstore counting sheep while the software downloads. I try to think of it as a learning experience and agree to do it.

Step Ten. I need my Apple password to download the new OS. I don’t have my f-ing Apple password. I have my Facebook pw, my Outlook pw, my Expedia pw, my blog pw, my bank pw, a few other pws, but not the Apple one, not thinking there would be any need for it during a German language class in Berlin. But the sad truth remains. No pw, no free download, no stick, no sim card, no internet.

Step Eleven. My eyes fill with tears and I look across the counter into the sympathetic face of the Nice Young Man. I suggest he really doesn’t want to see an old lady cry in right front of him just right now. He nods gently and writes something illegible on my crumpled service ticket #107. I take it and my now useless purchases to the same cash register where I had bought the stick and the sim card about ten minutes ago, confident that this horror will soon end.

Step Twelve. My receipt and the scribbled note from the Nice Young Man are not sufficient to reimburse my funds. I have to go back up to stickland on the third floor and get approval from the very same sales associate I had worked with there twice before to verify my return.

Step Thirteen. I show my handwritten note from the installation guy to the guy in stickland (after I track him down). He prints something out from his computer that apparently will do the trick. I head back down to the first floor.

Step Fourteen. I go back to the same cashier (we’re almost sharing recipes at this point) and she is able to reimburse me for the stick, but not for the sim card (since it’s registered to me and no one but me). I grab my documentation and stagger out of the store into the bright spring sunlight of Alexanderplatz, considering myself fortunate to have survived the experience, sim card or no. I guess I’ll be spending a little more of my leisure time at MLS (my language school) where the Wi-Fi is free and the doors don’t lock until 6:30 pm. So if you don’t hear from me as often as you’d like, this is the reason. Sic transit gloria mundi.


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6 Responses to Wifi 101

  1. John Van Meter says:

    I’m wore out. I thought this was going to be fun. Maybe talk about the weather and wine.

  2. arleebug54 says:

    You’re exactly right, John. But this is the kind of frustration my students face in the US and elsewhere, and my goal is to understand all sides of language learning in a foreign country, not just the classroom bit. So even though I’m not happy about this at all, it is grist for the mill.

  3. Janet Stebbins says:

    Oh god. TWC hell. I want to vomit. I wonder what others in your class will do? Is there an internet cafe near your apt? Could you beg the bakery downstairs for the password? Nicht gut!

  4. Janet Stebbins says:

    Do you suppose this purgatory just follow us around from place to place?

  5. rdrummond23 says:

    Ugh. Woman. I am in horror for you. I hope the lack of internet can get sorted out. Somehow.

  6. Tori says:

    Wow…. this felt very UAE-like with the back and forth and dissatisfying outcome. Sorry!

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