Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Misadventures in Electronics

I know that I've been rather remiss in keeping my blog au courant these past few weeks, but what with this and that, and a bit more of this, I've become a neglectful cow. And to make matters worse, I'm not even going to post the riveting conclusion to my last post (although I eventually will) but spin off in another direction altogether.

So instead of coiffures, I give you computers.

My laptop, purchased 3 1/2 years ago
in Morocco - with amazing ease and no cash down - is doing rather poorly. In a nutshell, it flickers. In all likelihood, this incessant flickering has more to do with the fact that I've hauled it across 3 continents (usually not in a padded laptop bag), tripped over its power cord literally dozens of times and sending it flying across the room, dropped it (a lot) and abused it in other diverse ways. Yes, the power jack, she is shot. In any case, I fear that I am now developing serious rage issues photosensitive epilepsy from said incessant flickering.

The price of fixing it is roughly the same as buying a new one. There's probably a tricky math equation in there somewhere but needless to say, it's not getting fixed any time soon. Compounded with my laptop's other indisposition - a battery with
the world's shortest charge - I've been in a leviathan more-than-average black crappy mood these past weeks.

So Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad suggested that we buy a mini laptop: they're awfully cheap and although not conducive to watching sweeping epic motion pictures on, will do the trick as a stop gap until we buy a regular laptop (
on which we can watch sweeping epic motion pictures). So we read reviews, checked the specs, visited the principle electronics stores in the area, compared prices, and yesterday - with a fistful of lira - popped down to the electronics shop around the corner from us. Because it is a major chain in Turkey, and their CEO might both be an avid reader of this blog and be a tad litigious, I'll just refer to the shop as That Crap Turkish Electronics Store.

We pop in - with a fistful of lira - and there is the laptop we want, kept securely behind barricaded glass doors. In its Istanbul chain, the same laptop sits happily on a display table where potential buyers might actually touch it - but no mind, perhaps Izmitites are, by nature, a thieving lot and extra security is de rigueur. We are ignored by the store's sales staff - which, because this is Turkey, means that there are four times as many staff as customers
- because we have been overheard speaking English and therefore have come equipped with a 10 foot pole. Had we not been overheard, we would have been harassed by every person in the store within seconds of entering it.

Finally I catch one Unlucky Girl's attention. In truth she cannot ignore me - although she no doubt wishes she could have - and I point to the imprisoned laptop in question and motion for her to free it from its glass cell so we can touch it, and maybe even buy it. No luck, she doesn't understand. She shrugs and looks blankly at us. I ask - or rather mime it - again. No go - we're shit out of luck and she has no intention of finding anyone in the store with a smidgen of English. She begins to walk away. On the verge of leaving
That Crap Turkish Store with a fistful of lira and no computer, I modify my charade to include an unlocking motion and Unlucky Girl's metaphorical light bulb (it is an electronics store, after all) flickers (momentarily) on.

She looks for help.

A moment later and she's hauled Unlucky Fellow in front of us. He's undoubtedly pissed because he had been successful in avoiding our glances earlier and
voilà! here he is serving us. He has enough wits about him to unlock the glass prison and allow us to touch the computer; however, he never actually turns it on. We explain (sort of - more charades) that we want to buy it - good thing we've test driven that model at other locations - and huzzah! he pops into the back room and returns with a boxed laptop. This is going so well!

We pay for the laptop - it comes to 615.55 lira - with exact change and we receive our receipt and a client loyalty card. He opens the box and from its deep recesses
releases our new laptop and turns it on. It works! We are very excited. No more flickering! No more pseudo-epileptic fits! He turns to us and mutters "English?" - what we assume is a hieratic version of "would you like the language of the operating system on your computer to be English?" and we nod enthusiastically. He begins to load Windows onto our laptop. We see a series of drop-down menus appear on the screen and then he walks away.

Where has he gone? I ask, for in his absence, nothing much happens. Shouldn't he be selecting menu options? I ask Mr. Cat's (Not) Abroad. As the words spill out of my mouth, another sales person who, until this moment has had nothing to do with our transaction, leans over the counter and arbitrarily starts pushing buttons. What is she doing? I ask. Stop touching our laptop! I spit- knowing full well that she has no clue what I am saying.

Unlucky Fellow returns and looks quizzically at our laptop. Soneone has played with the buttons. This does not bode well. He too taps a few keys. Finally we here the chirrupy Windows welcome tune and see welcome emblazoned on our laptop in Turkish. He looks at us. In unison, we shake our heads that no, Turkish is not acceptable. He reboots and starts from scratch. At this point a Pain in the Ass Customer appears and decides to toss in her two very limited cents' worth into the process. She goes behind the cash desk to assist him. I sincerely wish that she would just fuck off and stay away from our computer. It is, after all, our computer. I have a receipt and a client loyalty card to prove it.

For the second time, our computer welcomes us to its world in Turkish. Unlucky Fellow shows us the box in which the computer comes and explains "old box - not English". Old box? Are you serious? This has zippo to do with the box but everything to do with the fact that he doesn't know how to install Windows properly and there are too many Pinheaded Cooks in the Kitchen (the kitchen being behind the cash desk).

At this point, one might expect any or all of the following to happen:

a) Unlucky Fellow calls a manager over for assistance,
Unlucky Fellow asks that Pain in the Ass Customer to leave the secure area and mind her own beeswax,
Unlucky Fellow, who truly believes that the problem with the computer is that the English-only language box is old and therefore misleadingly does not contain an English operating disc, grabs another (maybe newer) box from the stockroom and tries again,
d) Unlucky Fellow calls the other handful of That Crap Turkish Stores in Izmit - and Istanbul if necessary - to order in a new one,
e) Unlucky Fellow offers us a comparable model for the same price,
Under no circumstances does Unlucky Fellow allow us to leave the store with a fistful of lira and no computer.

Of course, Option A should have taken care of everything but that never happened and nor did Options B to F. What did happen was that Unlucky Fellow voluntarily and rather arbitrarily processed a refund, handed me back my cash and confiscated my client loyalty card. And because this is Turkey where money is almost always rounded up (or down) rather than having to deal with the onerous task of counting out 5 kuruş coins (= 3 1/2 cents), I received a refund of 615.50 lira.

So just to sum up:

1) We left the shop without a computer, and
2) We left the shop 5
kuruş poorer than when we went in - in spite of the fact that I paid with exact change,

and thirdly,

3) my f-ing computer, on which I am tippy-tapping this blog post, is still flickering like hell.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Of Rabbits, Bees, Turkeys and a few Barbers: A Tale in Two Parts

Part the First: An Introduction and Cuts the First and Second

By way of introduction, I offer you a brief time line:

* 8th-9th century: the founding of Seville
* February 1816: the premier of Rossini's Almaviva, or the Useless Precaution - better known as the Barber of Seville.
* 1950: Warner Brothers (Looney Tunes) releases Rabbit of Seville.
2006: publication of my insightful blog posting: the Rabat of Seville.
* 2007: publication of my equally insightful blog posting: the Rabbit of Madrid.

Yes, they are all sort of interconnected and no, I don't expect anyone to actually read (or even reread) any of my older blogs. I just like to be thorough.

So. I got my haircut last week - my 3rd in Turkey. And for the record - in spite of my frequent blogs - no, I don't have a hair fetish. After all, I haven't bothered blogging about my hair since 2007 and I have had a few haircuts during that time. One might even say - in fact, I would - that I have fairly low maintenance hair. I went so far once as to suggest that it was nigh impossible for me to get a bad hair cut. O the hubris!

And then I flew to Turkey.

Cut the First:

I have not had my hair cut since before I left Italy in February and, it being April, my hair is approaching Shaggy Dog proportions. A Salon in Question (I have no clue what it's called) comes highly recommended (important) by a colleague of mine who speaks Turkish (very important) and who offers to come with me (insanely important). So off we go. Not unlike beehives salons in Morocco, it is populated by lots of twittering Helper Bees who do God-knows-what (beyond offering me tea and pick their nails) and a young King Bee with hair like a gorgon who does the styling & cutting. I find a photo in a magazine which, with the help of my translator, I explain pretty much mirrors what is on my head if you removed 3 inches of hair. King Bee nods and I am sent off to have my hair washed.

Having my hair washed, as it turned out, is a rather painful affair. I don't know why it should be so except to say that the King Bee (surprisingly he washes my hair rather than a nail-picking Helper Bee) keeps twisting my head from side to side quite abruptly. With both hands. I fear he may have permanently damaged my vertebrae.

King Bee cuts my hair and I smile mutely and gormlessly into the mirror (we share no common language) and I generally like to be encouraging. My Turkish is limited, at that time, to the words beer, thank you and stapler, so way to go King Bee! seems out of the question. I smile. Then I
notice that my translator is gone. It seems that she has an appointment at a tanning salon. No mind, King Bee appears attentive enough, has only dropped his scissors once - and besides, I have yet to get a bad haircut.

I do wish he would look at the photo though.

King Bee lays aside his scissors - is he done? There isn't much hair on the floor - and rummages about in a drawer. He takes out a hairbrush. What doe
s he need a brush for? I wonder. I haven't used a hairbrush since I was in grade school and even then it was my mother who used one on me. An uneasy noisome feeling begins to swell in my stomach as I realize that it is a small round brush and, brandishing it like a scimitar, he is coming towards me. Before I can scream (which I am stupidly too polite to do), he is back-rolling my 2 inch hair. I look like Don King. O the horror!

Where the fuck is my colleague/translator?

With super-human strength, I am able to swallow my politeness and scr
eam interject. I frantically mime (recall that my Turkish vocabulary is beer, thank you and stapler) that I don't want my hair back-rolled but dried forward with his fingers. Or my fingers. Just let me dry my own freaking hair. He understands only that I want my hair dried forward and solicitously continues drying my almost dried hair in the opposite direction causing it to stand up and dry completely vertical. Hair wax is produced and he then assiduously styles my hair so that the back is, if possible, more vertical than ever while the front and sides look like I have just walked through a wind tunnel, with the wind coming from due west.

I am distraught but know that once I get home, I can wash it and style it myself.

Distraught, I go home, wash it and style it myself.

It is a bona fide shitty haircut. I will have to take scissors to it and redo the bangs and sides. My efforts are an improvement but just barely. My head is ugly. I console myself with 2 facts:
1) My bona fide shitty haircut only cost 25 lira, or about 11 euros.
2) It will grow back.

3) I will never go back there.

Cut the Second:

I go back there.

My hair is yet again approaching Shaggy Dog proportions and I have been unsuccessful in finding a new hairdresser who speaks a modicum of English and who can simulate a haircut from a photograph. My translator/colleague who, I suspect, is a little in love with King Bee offers to take me back there. I don't have the heart to tell her that I hate him and his stupid salon because she has cancer (I figure she's had enough bad news lately) and because she is a little in love with King Bee. I think, with her at my side (in theory), perhaps my second visit will be better.
It is not. Nor is she by my side. What is the point in having a translator/colleague if they keep disappearing?

To be fair, King Bee remembers that I don't like my hair rolled backwards off of my head. Beyond that, cast your eyes up and begin reading at Cut the First. Stop after reading - but not before -
I will never go back there.

Cut the Third:

I do not go back there.

My hair is yet again approaching Shaggy Dog proportions and I have been unsuccessful in finding a new hairdresser who speaks a modicum of English and who can simulate a haircut from a photograph ...

To be continued.