In Saigon, no phone signal, no worries

By Kim Kim   January 5, 2023 | 07:36 am PT
In Saigon, no phone signal, no worries
A phone using MobiFone network has no service at 7 p.m. on January 4, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Que Anh
If somebody had asked me a month ago which item I would miss the most if I did not have it, they would have been spot on with my reply with my mobile phone.

Little did I realize that as I was cycling around Saigon's District 3 back from the gym that I would witness my phone getting crushed and obliterated before my eyes; anyway, no big deal, just have to get back on the bicycle and buy a new phone after making a few stops.

Yet, if somebody had asked me that very same question a week ago during Christmas, I would have said my credit card. You see, when persons unknown hack your account and decide to deposit your hard-earned cash in Facebook advertisements, you understand that the bank has got your back and you will inevitably get a refund in a fortnight after spending a few hours at your local branch.

However, if somebody asked me now, I would steadfastly retort with my 4G. Combining the fact I had a somewhat working mobile phone and that I did not yet have access to a credit or debit card since it had been locked, you would think that life in Saigon would be alright. Here is how it all went down:

My SIM card being registered with MobiFone decided at exactly 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, as work finished, to not boot up their system and allow myself to get a taxi home. Perplexed, I looked around and saw the local school children all mulling around and trying to locate their ride home, but to no avail. Being proactive but not so astute, I went to the store and top up my phone thinking I had forgotten to renew my MobiFone monthly subscription. Nothing happened, but a text came through acknowledging my payment. Still, no credit does a person get home now?

After 2km casually strolling home and in a somewhat mood, I went to a local store and asked if I could have access to their wi-fi; I was in luck and managed to find a Grab. But, I realized I couldn’t transfer any funds as I did not have 4G for banking. So, I trundled on and after 6km managed to get home and started raiding my unfrozen food for the rainy days.

My story is not the only one that has come to fruition throughout this 4-hour period of turmoil. One of my friends fired his cleaner as she did not call him and explain her whereabouts. Another friend was lost somewhere in Binh Thanh when he should have been in Thao Dien. Another friend had bought his SIM card at the airport and for 3 hours was lost completely thinking he had been ripped off. Another was late for his rendezvous with a potential date and he never made it. Alternatively, think about the receiving end of all of those recipients.

What I have learned from this experience is that I must be much more engaged and switched on so that other people who rely on me will not suffer. And, the truth is that unnecessarily many people suffered throughout this block out: Not a warning, not an apology, no immediate response.

Yet, the positive outcome has been the overwhelming positive behavior of our Vietnamese compatriots. Many of the expats who had no service were welcomed in for free wi-fi or somebody would book and order for that person and make sure they had arrived home. Others had had Grab drivers allowing them to follow their path so as to get to their destination. Others have realized that they need to tighten their ship and get their house in order. All in all, a painful experience, yet somehow advantageous.

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