Today was the day for me to go to Batam Centre to get my “smart card” to allow me to breeze through immigration on my upcoming every-60-days trips to Singapore, under the rules of my new multi-entry business visa. Batam Centre is a $5 to $7 taxi ride each way. My driver was on time but he and Edi, my main driver, both insisted that the smart card office was in the immigration building next to the ferry terminal. My agent told me to go to the ferry terminal, but I listened to the drivers, thinking maybe the buildings were one and the same. Of course, they weren’t but the mistake was rectified.
Lina from Okusi Associates was waiting patiently. I handed her my passport and prepared to hand her the fee of about $150 when I was called into the back to have my picture taken and fingerprints scanned. The picture was no problem but for some reason their electronic fingerprint scanner would not take my prints. It was almost funny to watch, as at one point I had three people staring at the screen, while several different people tried to scan my fingers. Each would take a tissue, wipe the scanner face, wipe the end of my finder, press my finger into the scanner, and then look bewildered as nothing happened. Over and over again this happened, as if repeating the same process a number of times, by different people, would have a different result. I choked down the urge to suggest they reboot the system.
Maybe I shouldn’t have suppressed that urge, as their solution was to say, “Sorry, maybe come back another day.” They didn’t seem to understand that it was expensive for me to make the trip and that even if I did there was no guarantee the scanner would work. Even Lina said, basically, “Oh well.” This is often the reaction you get in these situations here. Customer service is often an oxymoron.
On the way home, I satisfied my anger by remembering I saved $150, although now I will have to endure the immigration lines on both sides of the strait when I make my mandatory 60-day visits to Singapore. And just for perspective, those trips will almost always involve me taking a ferry to Singapore and then getting on the next ferry back to Batam, unless I have some specialty shopping to do.
Also on the way home, I had the driver stop at a garden center along the road to pick up some bags of soil/sand. A little raggedy man with most of his teeth missing said 15,000 (rupiah). Having already priced these bags at Rp10,000 elsewhere, I told him 10,000, saying where I could get the dirt for that price (about 90 cents for 5o pounds), and we went back and forth before a woman came up and agreed to my price. Why do I need the soil? I am starting to grow some herbs and vegetables again, this time on the roof of my apartment building. There were large pots already on the roof and the dirt filed three of them, which now also have basil, oregano, sage, cucumber and tomato seeds planted.