Neither virgin nor mobile

Octavius, who never told me his last name but who fixed my cell phone, is my new hero. I don’t remember the names of all the people I spoke to at Virgin Mobile over the last five days, but No. 6 was David, No. 7 was Carla, No. 8 was Jules, and No. 9, my hero, was Octavius.
I find their names intriguing, because clearly they are on another continent. My guess is that their monikers are pulled out of a hat of Western names. Or perhaps they are assigned by letter: Jawaharlal, you’re now Jules. Darshana, you’re Daisy. Vikram, you’re Victor.
It all should have been so simple. All I wanted was to buy minutes for a phone I use only when I’m in the US. I expected to give them my credit card information and get the minutes. It was that simple in the past.
But no, there was a PROBLEM. When I first bought the phone, about four years ago, its battery was faulty, so I returned it and got a replacement phone. Every time I came back to the US I bought minutes and got a new phone number. This time, the company informed me that I had never returned the faulty phone. Not only that, they couldn’t find any of the relevant documents.
Now if they couldn’t find any documents, picture me, 9,000 miles from home. I certainly didn’t have any. They said, most helpfully, that they would conduct an investigation. Call in Sherlock Holmes, the FBI, the Shin Bet. Dum de dum dum.
They said they’d call back in 24 to 72 hours. About three calls from me later, they amended this to 24 to 72 *business* hours. Five calls after that they told me no investigation had even been begun but that the matter needed to be investigated. When I protested, I suddenly found myself with a dead line.
Carla, however, in the RMA department (whatever that is) offered hope. She assured me that if I just coughed up seven dollars, the problem would go away. I protested, then paid under protest, and was promised everything would now be all right.
A cheerful e-mail message from VM welcomed me and informed me that my new  number was good to go. I noticed just one catch: It did not match the number Carla had given me.
The first time I tried to use the phone I was told the account could not be validated. The second time the same thing happened. After the third time, I called again. That was when I got Jules, who wanted to start another investigation.
At last, along came Octavius on his white horse. The problem, he said, was simple. How could it be simple, I asked in irritation, if the eight people before him had failed to solve it? “Trust me,” he said. And then he proceeded to check the serial number of the phone by talking me through a series of clicks. The moment the serial number appeared on the screen, I understood what the problem was. What was clearly a 5 on the screen was a 6 on the back of the phone, from which I had read off the number to the previous eight people.
Octavius sent me a text message as a test, and it worked.
Now, is it that Octavius is so smart, or that the rest are so stupid? Either way, I hope that Virgin Mobile shares Octavius’s know-how with his colleagues. And I tip my hat to Octavius, my hero.
Copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of this text may be used by anyone else without the express permission of the author.

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