Day 1. I freshened up from 28 hours of travel and set out to accomplish two basic tasks: activate the bank account I’d already set up before I left home, and get an iPhone. It took me all freaking day.
First, I needed to logon to my email to locate my bank home branch and the nearest Apple store. I was shocked and a bit indignant to find the hotel didn’t offer wireless internet for free, especially when a giant corporation like Starbucks could afford to. So I headed to the nearest coffee shop and settled in with my laptop and latte. Except the Starbucks free wireless deal only applies in North America. I pouted, then paid.
Location and map in hand, I ventured into the Sydney CBD (Central Business District), stopping off at the Apple store en route to the bank. I was told to come back the following day and line up at 6 a.m. I really wanted a phone. Today. So, not to be deterred, I asked if it would be easier to go to an actual phone service provider. Not so much.
Australia has stringent guidelines for phone contracts, and because I was a foreigner with no job, I likely wouldn’t qualify. But the guy I spoke to told me to try Telstra; they were the most expensive service provider, but they were also the best.
Slightly disheartened, my next stop was the bank at 48 Martin Place. After walking in exactly the wrong direction and retracing my steps, I finally found Martin Place. Except I went to 20 Martin Place, not 48 Martin Place. There’s a difference, I discovered, after waiting for 15 minutes for someone to help me. So off to 48 Martin Place I went.
There, a customer service rep named Alysa helped me out. Although I only needed to show two pieces of ID to activate my account, it took forever. First she had to photocopy my documents, then she had to track down my card, then she had to call the contact centre to set up my password, and then she had to have a supervisor provide clearance for something or other. Sound familiar, anyone? And no luck getting an Australian credit card without a job. It didn’t matter that I had an excellent credit rating back home or money in my Canadian accounts. Who you are in your old country doesn’t matter.
After the bank, I stopped in at Telstra, hoping and praying things would go my way. An hour later, I walked away with a 12 month contract and an iPhone 3GS. I don’t know what I was more excited for, getting the phone or actually being able to qualify for one. The guy at the Apple store wasn’t kidding though – I had to jump through a lot of hoops to qualify, and I barely passed the credit check.
Exhausted and famished, I set out to the nearest pub for a pint and a meal. The thing about pubs and restaurants in Australia is that you don’t get served. Period. I had to go up to the bar to ask for a menu, and then to order. And then they sent me to the kitchen on the second floor to retrieve my food. The food was good; the pint was better.