The Bureaucracy Blues
At anchor False Creek, Vancouver
The last couple of days has seen my frustration with bureaucracy rise to a new peak. One of the things I wanted to achieve while in Canada was to complete another unit of study towards a degree. To that end, seeing as I also wanted to cruise British Columbia's wonderful waterways, I purchased a mobile broadband device and a prepaid data plan with one of the Canada’s telecommunication companies, Telus. This was a bit of a nightmare in the first place. While in Prince Rupert I bought an unlocked “mobile hotspot” so I could use it with different service providers, including AT&T in the US, thereby hopefully amortizing its cost over perhaps twelve months of usage or more. I ended up having to get a prepaid plan because no Canadian telecommunications company will accept a foreign credit card. This was less than ideal, with only limited data at a relatively expensive rate, but it met my needs. I have been using the mobile hotspot device for a bit over a month now and it overheats and shuts itself down after twenty minutes of use (they cost $200 if you buy one direct from the Telcoms, and then have to pay an additional $50 to unlock it if you want to transfer it to another service provider, so I am not impressed). I had to make a stand for it with a computer fan blowing air over it whenever it is on so it does not overheat. BUT . . . this is not my complaint. At the end of the month I bought a top up card to extend the service, then went online to my account with Telus where I found that I was unable to extend the data plan. I contacted Telus and after a little bit of messing around I am told that my device is not compatible with a prepaid plan and I should not have been connected in the first place by the sales rep in Prince Rupert. I could not get a refund and I had to use up the remainder of my credit at the exorbitant rate of $2 per megabyte. In all I have now paid something like $260 for a bit over a gigabyte of data, which is completely absurd! I think I have a solution to this highly unsatisfactory state of affairs, but my confidence is not very high. Time will tell.
And today I had another interesting wrangle with another piece of bureaucratic machinery, namely the US visa service. I spent two hours in the library applying online for a visa appointment (because of course I do not have access to the internet from the boat), and when I get to the point of paying the non-refundable fee ($160 US), I find that the earliest I can get an interview at the US consulate in Vancouver is May next year. I stared blankly at the screen for several seconds thinking this must be a mistake, but it seems not. Apparently the US visa system is having some technical problems. I really had not anticipated such a lengthy waiting period and it puts me in a bit of an awkward position. My plan was to sail down the west coast of the US, but maybe I will have to leap frog right past it. To quote the www (wicked witch of the west), “What a world! What a world!”
One piece of good news - I have just delivered the Hydrovane rudder back to its rightful owners, after it got sent to me in Japan by mistake as part of the replacement unit after our collision with the MSA Asya. The thing has been sitting in its box taking up almost half the space in the V-berth for over a year. It is so good to have gotten the V-berth back after all this time. A good thing too, because RC and I are expecting some guests tomorrow. Not sure how long they are going to stay for or whether RC is going to approve or not. Stay tuned, it could be interesting.
All is well.