Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arrival in Texas

Well, we made it to Austin. The flight was pleasantly uneventful. 10 hours to Dallas on a Boeing 777, then hang around for a while and 30 minutes to Austin on an MD-80. We arrived about 18:30 Austin time (GMT -6), got our hire car (a Chevy Cobalt) and drove to the apartment. Michele met us there as she had collected our keys earlier - the office was shut by the time we arrived. She had also put loads of food, beer and furniture - including a bed - into the apartment for us. What a star! That was so nice.

As I write, that was only last night. Seems like ages ago already. We have had a busy day trying to sort out things that need to be done.

Breakfast started with fruit from the fridge (thanks Michele!) followed by coffee and bagels at Quack's which was marvellous. Alan reckoned it was one of the best coffees he'd ever had.

First post-breakfast stop was the Cingular shop to try and get cellphones. Here is where the ol' social security number thing raised its head once more. To get a phone contract, you need a credit rating etc. To cut a long story short, we had to put down a hefty deposit on our contract. I also ended up having to get a new handset which was annoying. I have a lovely K750i phone which is triband, and Alan has a K800i which is the same but quad band. Guess which frequency Cingular uses? That's right, the one missing from the K750i. So I now have an LG CU500 flip phone which is about the best one Cingular had (without going to a full on smartphone organiser thing). It seems nice in its own right. It's a 3G one so it will be fast, but doesn't have the 2MP camera of the K750, or many of its customisable features. However at the end of the day I need to make and receive calls, so here we are.

Next, we went to the bank to change our address on our account. Simple enough, but after talking to the banker we ended up walking out with an upgraded account and various bells and whistles. So far so good.

Next stop was trying to get the electric sorted. Oh dear. Although the electric is on in our place, we have to get an account set up with Austin Energy ASAP as the apartment people won't stave them off forever. However nobody told us about the things they require to set up an account. Of course, naturally, without a social security number we can't set it up on the phone, so we have to trawl down to the office to do it in person. We eventually find this office - it's tucked away at the back of a community centre - and join the line. There's a big sign saying "All enquiries, join this line". After 30 minutes in this line, they rebuff us to join a different line. It would have been so nice if they'd told us this in the first place. This second line appears to be going precisely nowhere; nobody is seeing anyone in this line. Eventually a chap appears who checks everyone in the line - we're all trying to get new accounts. It turns out we need to show a copy of our apartment rental lease, $200 deposit and passports for each leaseholder (in the absence of other Texas ID). Quite what business the electric company has in knowing any of this stuff is beyond me. Surely it would be enough to provide an address and some money like everywhere else??? Needless to say, we left there in a less than cheerful mood.

Still, the day ended a little more positively. We managed to get some stuff for the house - pots, pans, ironing board, food, beer, shower curtain, coathangers etc. We got a good deal on the pans which was nice.

Light switches still work the wrong way here. They are upside down to us. We have a big fridge though with an ice maker on the front. We almost had a pet dragonfly which wandered in but proved too noisy, so got evicted. There's loads of them nearby, flying around the lake below our windows.

I'm rambling now so it's time to quit.

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