I had an entire post written yesterday, but my connectivity in the advanced industrial society known as the United Kingdom has been so sketchy since I arrived that I was unable to post it for a number of hours and eventually forgot it was there and shut down my computer, losing it.
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If you’ve ever considered paying for the “international roaming” features of various stripes offered by AT&T, don’t. They want you to pay through the nose three separate times for three separate monthly-billable features, once for voice (which reduces your voice cost to “only” $0.99/minute), once for test messaging, which at $10.00/month gets you a super-exciting 50 (yes, fifty) international text messages a month, the rest to be billed at $0.50/each, and once for data at a whopping $200/month pro-rated, which gets you all of a few dozen megabytes, with additionals billed at $5.00/per.
The punch line, of course, as you find out once you’ve paid these extraordinary prices, is that none of the features actually work at all. I’m in the United Kingdom, not fscking Zaire, but I spent about $30 in minutes trying to make a voice call (for which international dialing takes 60-120 seconds, versus the 3-5 it takes to drop the call) yet none of the calls ever got past “Hello?” from them and I actually managed to make a few people think I was in some sort of trouble over here and phoning for help; text messages have come in in spotty fashion while absolutely refusing to go out; and there is simply no data access apart from a few seconds intermittently every several hours, not a single web page or email completely successfully loaded.
All of this with a “full” signal and 3G roaming on Vodafone and Orange. Basically, it’s a giant $215/month scam. Offer absolutely nothing whatsoever at insane prices and rake in the dough.
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When I finally broke down and bought a local sim instead, it was £10.00 for a pay-as-you go, no contract T-Mobile sim, £5.00 of which went to give me free, unlimited data access for a year anywhere in the U.K. and that works with no issues whatsoever and can be topped up for voice calling whenever I want, no further obligations. And I paid in cash and didn’t even have to fill out a single form or sign my name anywhere.
And they wonder why people unlock their phones.
The American mobile carriers are committing highway robbery and probably ought to be behind bars in a third-world prison somewhere.
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You can never be sure whether a plan involving family and long-distance travel is a good idea or a bad one until you actually carry it out, at great expense in time, money, and emotional reserves.
Sometimes you still can’t quite tell after the fact.
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For all the moaning about meals disappearing from airplanes, I wish they would just go already. On a six-hour redeye flight on which everyone, including our five-month-old baby, was trying to sleep, there were no fewer than ten (10) interruptions by the flight crew, nearly a wake-up every half hour.
Snacks, drinks, trash collection, dinner, drinks, drinks, trash collection, breakfast, trash collection, duty-free midair shopping. Dinner and breakfast (both containing approximately enough calories for a three-year-old’s meal and looking and tasting as though they cost about $0.99 out of our $1,000+ plane tickets) were served no more than three hours apart and there were three interruptions between them.
Totally not worth it.
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If this seems like a giant whine, see my earlier post. It may also serve to illustrate something about how expectations work for both guests and hosts on a trip of this kind, and about how the trip is going.
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Only our daughter, so far, is perfect (as always), having miraculously slept all the way across the ocean, despite loud and continuous interruptions by flight crew, and having put up with more than any five-month-old ought to ever have to deal with.