How to Get a Phone Number in 10 Minutes… or More

I have to admit: getting a phone can be a hilarious experience here. Of course, in the States, just like everywhere else, there are several cell phone providers. In order to get your own phone number, you don’t need to sign an agreement – all you need is to go to one of the multiple service points scattered all over town and get it with no documents at all. It usually takes 10 minutes. Let me stress the word: usually. 

The business, just like many here in the States, is run by immigrant families, which means it involves at least two generations behind the counter. I and my cousin wanted to get a new phone number, so we went to one of the service points around noon – this one proved to be run by a Pakistani family, who told us to come back around 4 pm. Since this happened to me at the same place before, I knew what it meant: this was the time the son of the family was getting back from school (and he’s the only computer-savvy member of the family, thus the only one capable to perform the service). We came back at 4:30 and there were already three people at the counter. They asked us for our address, charged $60 (for the service and for the first month), the gentlemen took our phone, started to fumble with his computer… after which he disappeared in the other room, saying this thing takes time. We thought this was suspicious, especially since the guy standing next to us, who has just requested the same service we did, has heard that it will take “at least 10 minutes”. We were waiting and waiting – and suddenly an old, silver-bearded fellow (so far siting in the corner) served us some mineral water. We were impressed by the politeness. As we were half-finished with drinking the water (about 15 minutes later), the son of the family rushed into the store, still breathing heavily from running – it was then that we realized that the water was there to distract us from the fact that nothing was happening with our phone, since the son was late. The son quickly threw his school backpack to the corner, the father quickly explained the situation to him (namely, that we were standing there like a bunch of idiots, waiting for something to happen), and so the son started acting immediately, placed the new SIM card inside the phone and soon (some 30 minutes after first entering the store) we were proud owners of a brand-new phone. After this episode, I thought to myself that Poles and Pakistani have something in common – namely, the unflagging know-how in every situation.