Two days ago I cried while on the phone with a “customer service specialist” – actual tears of desperation rolled down my cheeks.

That’s right, sobbing over a crackly line to a man I’d spoken to for only a few minutes. A new low. Here’s how I devolved from chipper to ruined …

– 50 ways to make Dubai life easier

14 days ago 

I move into my new apartment. I unpack, I’m psyched, great. I call up an internet service provider to tell them I’d like to connect. I spell my name four times (“N for November. No, no, my name’s not November.”). I hang up mildly confused but thinking it’s all done. How naïve.

10 days ago

I ring up to check on the status of my request and read out my reference number. “Doesn’t exist ma’am”. “Can you search by my name or my phone number?” “No ma’am.” “What can I do?” “Your reference is closed ma’am.” “I thought it didn’t exist?” “I’m very sorry”.

I start the application process again, choosing an easier word than ‘November’ to clarify that my name starts with an ‘N’ and not an ‘M’.

9 days ago

I get a text to say I’m registered as a visitor and not a resident so I have to go into an outlet with my Emirates ID and get it scanned. ‘Hey, this stuff happens,’ I think. I take my ticket and wait in a tense (yet seated) queue that make most immigration lines look skinny. But not to worry, I’ve got a book and when it gets to my turn the lad is friendly, scans my ID and does a bunch of button pushing with my phone. Khallas, I think.

6 days ago

I ring again to ask about my request. “Your request was closed ma’am,” the gent says.

“Can you re-open it?” “No.” “Do you have my information?” “No.”

I go silent. I decide not to fight it, and say, “I’d like to request an internet connection” and start the process again. This time I get more creative with my name alphabet. “’N’ for newt. ‘Y’ for yummy. ‘R’ for radical”… and so on.

4 days ago

My phone rings. I’m in a changing room mid skinny-jean negotiation. I awkwardly burpee-drop to the floor to grab my phone as the jeans are so tight I’m unable to bend my knees (I don’t buy them as they make my legs look like tightly-packed bratwursts).

The cheery lad on the other end tells me that my “request was unable to be processed” as I’m still under a visitor category. I have to go in and scan my Emirates ID.

“I’VE DONE THAT,” I say, a touch too loudly – probably weirding out those in the other changing rooms, my social qualms are all but gone by now. “You mustn’t have been in the right place,” he says. “Ok. Well tell me the right place.” “Sorry. I do not have access to that information.”

2 days ago – AM

I go into what I hope is the right place – the man there is helpful. He scans my Emirates ID. Pushes buttons on my phone. He tells me that in an hour my status will be changed.

2 days ago – LUNCHTIME 

I call to check I’m now a resident and that the ball is rolling. “Sorry ma’am I can’t see any information about you, and your request reference number was closed in May 2008.”

After about five minutes of a near-existential discussion he seems to get that I’m officially inconsolable and passes me off to his floor manager. His manager suggests I give him my Emirates ID number to see if he can find out any information about me. I can sense this guy’s got nous and don’t want to lose him, so say, “Please stay with me while I run back to my apartment and grab my Emirates ID.”

I sprint, occasionally shouting down the phone, “I’m still here! Don’t leave me”. He replies politely, with trepidation, he can smell my desperation. I’m almost there. Then in the lift my phone cuts out. A little piece of me dies inside as I hear the dial tone of doom.

2 days ago – PM

As soon as I get inside and find my Emirates ID I call them back (my forehead pressed against the window as the reception in my apartment is abysmal). I get through to a lad, rattle off a greatest hits of my issues, and he says, “You need to provide me with a landline number under your name, otherwise I can’t process your request”.

“WHAT?! HOW can I have a landline under my name?! I’m not a customer yet! Shall I make one up?”. Silence.

We talk in circles, and when he tells me that the last three times I applied they didn’t take the right information from me, I start to cry. It was all for nothing?!

It begins slowly, quietly – then my voice cracks – and I whisper into the phone, “Can I speak to your manager please?”. He emits an indecipherable, disturbed grunt. I ask again. He says no. I snotty snob down the phone. “I’ll put you through,” he whispers – unimpressed by my lack of coping skills.

The manager? He takes my request (he – unlike everyone else – miraculously has all of my information in front of him). “How come the guy I spoke to before thought he couldn’t accept my application?” I ask. “He was confused.” Aren’t we all.


My husband phones, panicked. “Did you miss a call from the internet company?!”

“No! Did you?” I respond.

“Yes and I called them back and they said they closed our request because every time they call you and you don’t answer they close your request.”

“After just one phone call?!”

“Yep.” We’re now both hovering over our phones like on-call surgeons.

But mostly I’ve given up, I can’t call again. I don’t think I’d be able to listen to the hold music without breaking into a sweat (and it’s humid enough at the moment, I’ve lost enough fluid).

In the last two weeks I’ve spent about three hours on the phone trying to spell my name, and about 20 minutes shouting – that’s time, and dignity, I’ll never get back.

In fact, I’m going to swing by Kinokunya tonight as it maybe it’s time to just embrace it, and enjoy living off the grid for a while (just joking. That would be horrible).

– Have you ever had a similar experience? 

 – For more about life in Dubai straight to your inbox, like us on Facebook.