Friday, August 17, 2007

A New Olympic Sport

There are two basic concepts that I'm having a hard time grasping overseas. They are so basic that I feel ridiculous for not having mastered them.

1) I can't read military time.

2) I can't dial the phone anymore either.

Okay, the time issue first. In some parts of our life in KL, military time is used. For example, travel itineraries - which are a big part of our lives here, although it's usually for work and not for fun, which rates high on my list of Things That Suck. So I generally end up trying to quickly compute what time it is in "real time". "Oh, 2115? That's 7:15."


It's 9:15. It's simple mathematics really. I don't understand why I can't get this. But it's painfully obvious that I can't. I screw it up all the time. Had I read my itinerary correctly yesterday, then I would have been able to tell my colleagues that, no, I can't make a conference call at 8am Houston time. But rather than stop and do the simple math, I immediately think, "Oh sure, no problem - my flight lands at 2115 (which is 9:15pm), so sure, I can call in for an 8am Houston call (which is, uh, 9:00 KL time). But, see, for some reason I thought it was 7:15pm. Luckily, the flight was delayed just enough - we ended up landing close to 10pm - that I wouldn't have been able to make the call anyway, even calling in late. It's much easier to say that your flight was delayed rather than tell them that you are a moron who can't tell time.

I have the AM times down, as, well, they're the same. I even do okay during the afternoon. But the evening fucks me up. Always. The hours of 1700 to 2200 just don't compute in my head.

As far as dialing the phone goes, having to add in the country code is one thing. There are lots of people in the US who rarely have to dial internationally, so country codes aren't part of our every day existence. But, since some of my work in the US involved international folks, I had at least mastered that concept prior to moving overseas. But, when people give you their phone number overseas, they don't think to give you the country code. It's the same in the US. How many times have you given your number and said, "Well, the country code is this, then my number is this," and so on. It's just not something that occurs to us. Plus, since different countries all have a different phone number system, you may dial eight digits, 11 digits, or 1,529 digits to call someone, so you never know whether or not they've been kind enough to give you their country code.

Oh, and to dial internationally from the US, you dial 011 then the country code and number. But from overseas you dial 001 to dial internationally. Why must the US be different than the rest of the world with this? Sneaky bastards.

I don't even have the energy to point out all the other differences. But I'll try, since I know you are hanging on the edge of your seat and all. In some countries they add in extra digits. These digits all vary depending on not only if you are dialing internationally or locally, but also if you are dialing locally via home phone or mobile phone, and depending on if you are calling another home phone or mobile phone. Fun times.

For example:

The country code in Malaysia is 60. Or just 6, depending on the kind of number you are dialing. The city code for KL is 3. The mobile code for KL is 012. Other states have other codes, but they are all three digits, starting with 0. So to dial mobile to mobile in Malaysia just takes the three digit mobile code and the number. But to call land line to mobile means you also have to dial the country code (6), then the mobile code and the number. Landline to landline is just the number, no country code or city/mobile code.

Do you see why it takes me 30 minutes to order McDelivery? (Yes, McDonalds delivers here, via scooter. I'm surprised they don't know us on a first name basis.)

For those of you who are still reading...another thing. All those rules go out the window if you are dialing internationally. They may even throw in extra digits that you don't even need to dial - I've decided that's just for sport.

So, to find my driver in Jakarta this week, I dialed the number that was given to me, which was 018 blahblahblah. When I didn't see him in the airport, I called the number. I couldn't get through. Now, my cell phone is officially the biggest call dropping piece of shit you've ever seen, so when a call doesn't go through, sometimes it's the blasted phone, and sometimes it's user error.

So I called M.

"I can't find my driver and I can't call out on this mother fucking piece of shit phone," I explain to him in a not-so-discreet voice.

Yes, the people of Indonesia know that I am every inch a lady.

So M goes on a quest to figure out how to call the driver, because taking a taxi in Jakarta is taking your life into your own hands. Houston traffic, Dallas traffic, LA traffic...none of them hold a candle to Asia traffic. It's a sport, really.

Long story short (although it's too late for that), that "0" at the beginning of the phone number? Not necessary. The country code (which was not in the number given to me)? Obviously very necessary since I am calling from a Malaysia handphone. And the country code is one thing I didn't have.

So, rather than calling "018blahblahblah, it would be +62(country code)18blahblahblah. No 0 necessary. How do I know this? From getting twisted, i.e. "learning", from trial and error. Oh yeah, and to dial internationally, you have to use the + on the mobile phone. 001 won't work.

These are things that I generally don't bring up to other expats we associate with. See, most of them are seasoned expats who work for our company, and for me to turn to them and ask "Do you have a hard time using a phone?" would not help me in the HR credibility department.


At August 17, 2007 at 8:59 PM , Anonymous donna said...

Oh my.... I got so frustrated for you just reading that entry, that I almost threw my phone across the house in solidarity.

At August 21, 2007 at 5:28 PM , Anonymous reese said...

oh my god. jason does all my calling for me. lol. i'd be fired by now if I were in your position.


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