Is there anything else I can help you with?

If you live here, you’ll know there are only two phone companies – Etisalat and Du. Which means if you’re not satisfied with one, there’s only one other provider. And after that … well, you’re back where you started.

You might also know that Dubai has plans to become one of the world’s smartest cities. We’re talking wi-fi on the beach, smart taxis, smart buses, smart rail, smart parking and, at DSO Smart City, even smart lighting that gets brighter when pedestrians are passing, and solar-powered, motorised smart shading for open areas.

All well and good. Except when it doesn’t work, and the technology leaves you scratching your head and reaching for the gin (like when the SMS parking system doesn’t let you pay; or the ticketing system for the shiny new $1.1bn tram spits your credit card out in disgust and won’t give change).

Dear Du, My recent interaction with you left the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as though they were about to march off and do battle somewhere
Dear Du, My recent interaction with you left the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as though they were about to march off and do battle

So, back to my phone. I get an ominous sounding message, among the million other ‘special offer’ SMSs from the phone company. The text says I need to visit one of their shops immediately to avoid disconnection.

But I’m at work. I can’t take a whole morning off to queue up at the Du store. So I do what any other hopeful, time-pressed mother might do – I assume they’re just joking.

Until two days later, when I wake up to find the number I’ve had for six years no longer works. And I end up at the Du office, in their queuing system, with 33 customers to be served ahead of me.

And, two hours later, the man tells me that the documents I’d re-registered with a year or so ago (my passport/ID card) had expired, and, without actually being told, I was meant to somehow know to bring my new documents in to re-register for a second time. Who needs telecommunications when they can use telepathy, after all?

I hand over my passport, chew the inside of my mouth, and ask when I’ll be reconnected: “In 24-48 hours Ma’am.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

At this point, his face has become an oval with two vacant, expressionless eyes and just a slit for a mouth, and I leave, flashing him my best dissatisfied look and knowing there’s an apocalyptic pile-up of customers behind me and making a fuss won’t help.

But you know what: something strange happens over the next 24 … 48 … yes 72 hours. I love not having my phone. I quit a freelance job that’s making me wait months for payment, knowing that the boss won’t get on the phone to talk me into continuing. I spend a day with my bestie from the UK, safe in the knowledge that the school, my car pool, etc, will have to get hold of DH instead.

Then after 72 hours, DH casually mentions: “Have you rebooted your phone?” No, Du never mentioned that, I think to myself – and it turns out to be another telepathy fail because as soon as I reboot, the network springs back to life.

Anyway, rant over. The moral of this post being: if the phone company threatens to cut you off, they’re not joking. Far from it … then they’ll ask what else they can help you with.