It was one of those days. When all your plans go to pot. Like yesterday, the day I launched my book pre-orders. Exciting news in the early morning ushered in a long stream of emails; I was tickled, quietly thrilled and frankly a little shocked. What, so many people, in this first day, already know that they want to read my book – which hasn’t even yet hit bookstores? That shiny, buoyant, helium balloon kind of day soon enough started to lose gas, sputtering into low gear. Even though it had nothing to do with my pre-order campaign. It had everything to do with my long-suffering android phone and an app that had gone wickedly and menacingly awry, sprouting one pop up window after another in the middle of my screen. One thing was clear: this LG was in distress.
Who ya gonna call? Nobody. I live in Bali. And the only LG service repair shop on the entire island lies close to an hour’s drive away – or so I soon found out.
What to do? Hunker down and push through, notwithstanding a severely disabled phone, and stay on top of a slew of important posts and emails and checks on this important day? Or set it all aside for a short time, while I get my phone repaired? In short order, I chose the latter.
Which meant that I had to do battle with my handicapped phone, to order a Go-Car, to pick me up, to drive me through Denpasar’s notorious all-day traffic to the sole LG store. I arrived to a nearly empty showroom – or what I naively thought was so. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the space appeared bright and clean.
While waiting my turn, I took note of the shiny white floors, two large flat screen TVS affixed to the walls on opposite sides of the waiting area – on one, a loop of LG ads played ad nauseum, while on the other – above a children’s play area, a dazzling series of cartoons, muted. Two rows of bright red couches were arranged, one clustered so closely behind the other, there was barely enough wiggle room to squeeze into the second row.
A long counter was partitioned into three sections – typical in the customer service industry, such as banks, car dealerships, government offices. A chair was positioned in front of each section, for the customer, while an LG employee sat on the other side. Behind the three seated technicians, as close as their chairs already were nearly glued to the back wall, still two young male high school students in uniform hovered and stood around, for seemingly no particular reason. It was a little odd.
A machine in the entry offered 3 choices for customer service: Electronics; Handphones; or Parts Sales. Much like in a bank, you’d press the requested service and a ticket with the queue number would slip out. Two plastic floor vases held long stemmed plastic flowers.
I looked up a sign on the wall: Life’s Good. Ok. Breathe. Life is Good. Only one person ahead of me. A technician should be able to fix this annoyance in no time. Wishful thinking.
My number beeped and I approached counter #3. Bhim greeted me and I tried to explain the problem. Language barriers are wont to happen. I asked for an English speaker. Afa came out to help. Bhim worked hard. I helped him. Afa tried to help too. I pulled out my laptop, a cable, my glasses. All the work was happening right there, on what I thought was just a customer service entry point. I shifted around in the bright red, lightly cushioned chair, as Bhim tried to tease out the problem(s). He asked me if I had a second handphone (?) – as if that is a thing in Bali. He seemed surprised that I said no.
Meanwhile, customers streamed in, one after the other, with handphones (which is Indo-speak for cell phone), speakers, and mostly flat screen TVs. A hefty woman walked in with her driver trailing behind – walking in and out, each time returning from the van with a large flat screen TV wrapped in a towel, laying each one of them on the floor. She sat down in the chair next to me and joked around with the technician seated across from her. Then the technician walked around, lifted the first one and carried it over to his section – and maneuvered it around and upside down until it was positioned with its backside facing up. He pulled out a power screwdriver, then a battery tester – with cables sticking out here and there, and all manner of tools. He unscrewed the back of the TV and went to work. He then did the same for all the others.
The final test on the last TV necessitated that he lean it against his chair, and leave it turned on. So for the following half an hour, the eyes of all the customers were transfixed on the gore and hilarity of Indonesian soap opera – complete with fake tears, punching, grabbing, slapping, spitting, hair-pulling, falling off a hospital bed and a young girl in a wheelchair. That entire raucous and melodramatic display happened, thankfully, to my ears (and sanity), in silence.
More massive flat screen TVS, more speakers and other electronic parts and gadgets, came parading through the doors. Minutes and hours passed. And still no headway had been made on my phone. They called in the big guns – or whom I believe was Sumatra, the assistant manager. He displayed a decidedly serious kind of professionalism as he tried to tackle my stubborn phone. Afa came out once again, an essential translation quarterback.
Long into the afternoon, boredom and frustration was setting in. The clock’s hands were moving and Bhim et al were getting no closer to solving the problem. I had nothing to keep me occupied; my laptop and phone were in use. I’d never thought to bring along a book – or to rent a second handphone. So I did what I do in such cases: I people-watched. That’s my thing.
Not long before closing time (which is about when the bulk of my phone problems had been solved), I turned around to scan the shrinking crowd, and spotted an older man wearing a t-shirt with a curious line printed towards the bottom: Life is worth nothing without problems.