It is the middle of June in a year when people still actively remember Y2K fizzling out. I book a one-way flight to Toronto on a whim, with no real plan for when I land. Somewhere in my head I’m moving there, and maybe I am. To make that option seem more concrete, the day before I leave I visit my phone representative at Bell Aliant, Anna, and find out about getting my phone number switched to an Ontario one. She lays out clearly that the change will cost $10, and the company will save my current 709 number for me for two years in case I want it back. This was very important because I absolutely adored this number because on the touchtone keypad it spelled out 70 WRINKLES, my favourite number of wrinkles.
About six weeks later, I am back in my old house, having only visited and not having moved to Toronto. I return to Anna and tell her I have come to reclaim my previous number. She informs me that while it had been set aside for me, for a reason she cannot explain it was given to a man in Torbay named Steve. The following exchange went a little something like this:
Me: Well, it seems like there was a misunderstanding. Too bad for Steve, hey?
Anna: I have his number if you want to reach out.
Me: I know his number. It’s my number, remember?
Anna: Right. Well this is just too bad all around.
Anna is chalking this one up to an unfortunate series of events and is offering no apology or restitution. I ask her what my options are, as I want this number back, and Steve isn’t picking up. She tells me to escalate it to their customer support team and turns back to her other work as I call that line. Their hands are also tied, apparently. I’ll need to contact the vice president of customer service. Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. Surely this person will be able to help me.
Me: What’s their number?
Customer service representative: Oh, he doesn’t have a phone number.
Me: That’s strange. You’re the country’s largest phone provider and one of your VPs doesn’t have a phone. Well what email can I use?
Customer service representative: Sorry, he only has a personal email. I don’t have access to that. You’ll have to write him a letter and mail it to this address.
This turns out to not be a joke, and in my ire I return home determined to get that number back. I type up a letter, outlining the many ways in which I am unsatisfied, and I print it off. This includes Anna’s handling of the situation, as well as the fact that I cannot file my complaint using a medium invented in the last thousand years. I locate the stamps in my father’s coupon drawer and bound down to the post office, eager and smug and some other undesirable ways to be.
On my way, I pass a small child, crying over a lost balloon. There is no one else around, and my attempts to find her guardian are met only with lost balloon-related tears. And that’s when it hits me. A single complaint can be managed. Seven pages of apparent ranting will only come across as bitter and, dare I say, a little crazy. My letter will never get read. I turn for home, and place the unopened addressed and stamped envelope in my bottom drawer, where it remains until my house burns down a few years later.
Man, I hope that kid’s okay.
[Editor’s note: In case, you were wondering, schubladenbrief is a German word for a letter you write but never send.]