On Morning Crossness and Coffee-to-go Queues

Slowly, I step out of the Intercity train to Amsterdam, en route to university; I’m tired, I need some coffee. I check my watch and realise my metro leaves in 3 minutes, so I need to hurry in order to and buy me a coffee-to-go, and make it on time to the metro platform. I pick up my pace to run, as Mike Skinner would say.

There’s a huge queue in front of the coffee stand. I mumble something unfriendly under my breath about the people waiting in line, which relieves my usual morning crossness a little bit; however, as always, it somehow does not make the queue any shorter or faster. Painstakingly slow, the minutes pass by, and sooner rather than later, I see line 50 arrive– and leave. Again, I curse the queue; again, futile. Damn, now I need to call Lisa I’ll be late. But she’s on a different network.

Reluctantly I take my phone out of my pocket, and browse through my phonebook until I reach the ‘l’. My right thumb hovers over the ‘call’ button for a few seconds, while my brain is calculating what this little joke is going to cost me. She’s on KPN, I’m on T-Mobile. KPN, The Netherlands’ biggest mobile operator, made a monster-deal with the 2nd biggest operator, Vodafone, about 18 months ago which led to all the troubles we have today. T-Mobile, in my country a smaller competitor in the mobile market, like so many other mobile operators, was left out of the KPN-Vodafone deal, basically limiting its possible potential to being nothing but a minor player, having only roughly 3 percent of the market, while KPN-Vodafone together own about 90 percent.

Calling with a Vodafone account to a KPN account and vice versa is painless; it costs the same per minute and per call as calling to other Vodafone customers. However, if you’re stuck on one of the other operators, like so many who happened to have signed a two-year contract right before the megadeal was struck, you have to cough up. You were left with two evils: pay 5 times as much per minute as well as per call when calling to KPN-Vodafone customers than when those customers call among each other; or, accept commercials being inserted into your conversations every minute. And of course, one at the very beginning.

I opted for the former of the two evils. Many simply signed a second mobile contract to be relieved of the fuss; I cannot afford that. After completing my calculation, I come to the conclusion calling is in fact cheaper than sending a text message. We complete the conversation in 5 seconds, roughly telegram-style. Very upsetting when talking to one of your best friends. I’ll never get used to it.

A little later, during lunchtime; me and Lisa are sitting on the benches in the main hall of the Free University. I humbly apologise for the call, like I always do, and she does her usual ‘It’s ok, you can’t help it sweety’-line. I know it’s not the end of the world, but unpleasent it is, still. We chat away, forget about the stupid call, one of many, and go on to have a great day.

When I get home, I am relieved to jump behind my laptop, fire up MirandaIM, and be able to talk to all my friends, at once, without commercials, without paying extra to talk to Lisa, without all the fuss the mobile world in my country is enduring.

I sigh. How happy I am the United States did the right thing when backing Net Neutrality a few years ago, setting a precedent for the rest of the world. It saved the world so much fuss.

Disclaimer: This story was fictional. This was deductable via linguistic means, but I guess that rather complicated structure was a bit too much for some. Hence, this disclaimer.


  1. Kokopelli 2006-06-25 11:22 pm EST
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