The Internet here has a way of stopping shortly after midnight. It should be a lesson of some kind, something like, "it's just too late to be sitting on the computer." That’s what happened last night, as if on cue. It’s only happened a few times, but it’s always at or around 12:17.
Any sensible person might think, “time for bed!” But with my drive to fix things, I usually take it as my cue to put in a call to Bezeq, our internet company.
Maybe you think that makes a little sense?
Ha. What you don’t know is that in our nearly year and a half of being their clients, Bezeq has literally NEVER solved a problem for us over the phone.
But they are usually unfailingly polite and speak passable English. It's almost a pleasure to call. So I do.
Last night when I called, just after midnight, the system politely informed me that there was a longer than usual wait time and that my place in line was... 31.
Bezeq has one song-without-words that seems like it's been scientifically calibrated, in consultation with psychiatrists, to be the most upbeat, cheerful song ever.
So I waited. I had my earbuds on, so I wasn’t cricking my neck to hold the phone, and I couldn't very well stream my usual podcasts with no internet. So I listened to their music as I washed the dishes.
Gradually, my number dropped, from 31 to 24... from 24 to 19. I kept running over to the router to make sure the internet was still out. Wouldn't want to get to #1 only to discover that it had been working all along.
Just when the automated voice informed me that I'd been bumped up to #2 in line, the light on the router that had been red turned a cheerful bright green.
Working! it announced. Tra la la… everything’s fine!
I typed in some random letters on my tablet: "fdeqr." (That's how I test Google, because if you type in something you've searched for before, there's a chance you could be seeing a cached copy stored on your own device.)
And it worked. I had Google, I had internet, and... the music in my ears stopped. The line began to ring. I'd gotten through at last.
Why hang up now?
Even though I'd pressed 4 for English as directed, the guy answered with a torrent of Hebrew. All I could make out was the word "tekala," which means a negative occurrence of some sort. They never use that word when things are good.
"Actually, I think it's working," I told him in baby Hebrew. "I have Google. I have internet."
He repeated the stream of Hebrew, very, very fast. Hmm.
"Do you speak English?" I asked him.
"Yes, a little."
"Good. You can either tell me slowly in Hebrew, and I will understand, or you can tell me in English. Whichever you want."
In excellent, careful English, he explained: "There is a problem with Bezeq all over Israel. No Bezeq customer has Internet service right now. If you don't like it, you can contact Bezeq. Or you can go to sleep and wake up and it will work."
FYI: Yes, his company is called Bezeq. But that wasn’t the Bezeq he meant.
Over here, there are two layers of Internet service. You don't just call one company (nor do you just PAY one company each month).
You have to choose and pay an internet company PLUS another company called the "sapak." I learned this the hard way when I signed up for internet service and discovered that we STILL had to sign up if we wanted to actually USE the internet.
So his company is called Bezeq, but the other one is called Bezeq International. Whenever something goes wrong, they are always telling you to call the other one. Whichever one I call, it's the wrong one.
But frankly, at this point, it didn't seem like I had a problem at all.
So I told him in English, "I think it's working. I'm typing in Google, and I think it works."
"If it's working, it would be a miracle."
"Okay." I wasn't sure what to say. I guess it was a miracle.
Despite that, I thanked him. He had been cheerful and polite, even under the tremendous pressure of those 30 phone calls before mine, and probably hundreds more just like them.
I had already shut down the computer by this time, but I quickly downloaded the podcasts I wanted instead of streaming them in case it went out again.
Chalk one up for Bezeq. Sure, they may not have fixed the Internet (ever), but here in Israel, grace under pressure – and even English under pressure – is not something you see every day.
The truth is, you fix Internet problems here the same way you solve them anywhere else. Whether you call customer service or simply go to bed and hope things will be better in the morning, the key is סַבְלָנוּת / savlanut = patience.
Patience on both sides. Customers who are patient with internet providers who can’t seem to keep it together in the wee hours, and internet providers who understand – even in the wee hours – that bedside manner is 90% of the cure.
Have you had a good (or terrible) customer-service experience in Israel, internet-related or otherwise? Let me know in the Comments!