Saturday, May 5, 2007

23 March: Wintry Weather & Deutsche Telekom Strikes Back

It started snowing last night and we woke up to a blowing whirlwind of the white stuff. Seems like we brought winter back to Stuttgart with us. Several inches had fallen but it was very wet and already starting to melt by the time I went out to walk Cody. He was ecstatic to play in the snow again (for only the second time this winter), but it was only an inch or two deep in the woods because most of it had stuck to the tree limbs, creating a dense lattice-work far above our heads that prevented most of the snow from reaching the ground. As we descended into the woods we entered a muffled white world, as all around us the trees were literally coated with a layer of snow. I wished I’d brought my camera. Every so often a sagging branch would give way high above and shower us with snow. Cody tried to find the deepest bits to snuffle in. By late morning most of it had melted off the branches and enough had melted on the front walk that I didn’t have to shovel as part of my Kehr Woche duties.

Aside from this sudden resurgence of winter, spring has arrived much earlier than last year. Everyone’s gardens are bursting with color – purple and pink hyacinths, sunny yellow daffodils, purple and yellow crocuses, and round clusters of pink and yellow primroses. I am watching the tulips closely since I want to go over to the gardens in Ludwigsburg again. I only hope that the brief cold spell didn’t do too much damage to the rest of the spring flowers.

The phone rang early this afternoon. The display read “Withheld,” which I am always loathe to answer because (since it was too early for family to be calling from the U.S.) that typically means it is a German telemarketer. I answered reluctantly, and it was Deutsche Telekom. The woman introduced herself in rapid-fire German. I identified myself and asked her to please speak slowly. She repeated who she was and then paused and asked me (in German) if I spoke English. I said yes and she asked (still in German) if it would be better if she had her English-speaking colleague call me back. I almost burst out laughing and wanted to say, “You mean someone at Deutsche Telekom speaks English?” but I held my tongue.

Like clockwork, a rather haughty-voiced woman called me back five minutes later. She stated, “You currently have telephone and internet service with German Telekom,” (I thought it was so funny how she kept saying “German Telekom”) and I said, “That’s correct.” She said, “Yes, I know this is correct,” as if I was some sort of an idiot. She then tried to sell me a new combined phone/DSL plan for the low, low price of 49,99 Euro. This sounded like a good deal at first but when she started to describe the phone service, I noted that she said it only included calls within Germany. She asked me if I called the United States often and I said yes, very frequently. Those calls would cost extra, of course, on the order of 5 cents a minute. This didn’t seem to square up with what we are paying now. I told her that our current phone bill was right around 50 Euro a month already (our internet service is an additional 15 Euro a month), and does include calls to the U.S. She said flat-out, “That’s impossible.” Apparently she’d never heard that “the customer is always right.”

I started to think that maybe I should shut up before I revealed something – these are the people, after all, who sent us two complete modem kits and never charged us for one of them. She asked me to get out one of my phone bills to look at it. I started to fish one out and I could tell that she was getting impatient. Pesky Ami! Finally I decided to tell her that we weren’t sure how much longer we would be in Germany because of my husband’s work situation and that we were really quite happy with our current calling plan. She did not like this one bit and said, “But you are spending more money than you should be!” She wanted to know how long we might be staying and I said, “I don’t know – it could be one month or several months.” I finally convinced her to leave our phone plan alone but not before she insisted on “making a deal” to call back in one month’s time to see if I might reconsider. Needless to say I found this whole interchange rather amusing. I think I will make a point of not answering the phone when “Withheld” calls one month from today!

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