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Confessions of a rich man


You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m one of the wealthiest people in the history of the world.

For a start, I’m on an Australian disability pension. That puts me in the top 15% income bracket of all people on the planet.

OK, when I was an IT contractor I earned more in three hours than I now get per week, but hey I just blew all that extra money on drugs, travel and donations to whatever ‘worthy cause’ took my fancy.
Its not like I’ve ever done anything responsible with it, like raised a family, took on a mortgage or bribed a politician to give me extra tax breaks.

Who needs all that stuff?

I can eat every day, have access to unlimited clean water, have a safe, comfortable place to sleep and if my clothes are a bit ratty, at least I can afford to keep them clean.

I also reap the benefits of Australia’s socialised medical system. Free healthcare of a standard that Queen Victoria could only have dreamed of – although I doubt she would have had to wait months or years to see a specialist.

I can even regularly eat the kinds of foods Victoria could only afford on the rarest occasions, even when its out of season in the Southern Hemisphere.

What’s more, I can afford technology that gives me access to the art, knowledge, entertainment and wisdom of millennia.
Newton and Einstein would have been green with envy.

On Monday I will get into a $200,000 chauffeur driven Mercedes for my trip to the shops, where I will fill a basket with more food than many Sudanese families see in a month.

When I pass beggars I can almost always find a few dollars for them, which shows how much richer I am than all of those well dressed people who are too embarrassed by their impecunity to even look at the homeless.

Louis XVI, Alexander the Great, Kublai Khan … they could not have imagined the sort of luxury I take for granted.

Filthy rich I may be, but do you think I’m satisfied?
No way.
I want more.

I would like to be able to afford to heat my rental property during winter, though that is a completely unnecessary luxury.
I have plenty of clothes and blankets and its not as if it ever gets below freezing around here.

It would also be nice if I could do something permanent about my impacted wisdom tooth, but even an extraction is beyond my current means and root canal therapy is out of the question.
But antibiotics are cheap, so I just go back to my government funded GP whenever I get an abscess.

I wish I could travel more easily to visit members of my scattered family, but even if I could buy a car I wouldn’t be able to afford petrol for it.
So I sniff my bus tickets instead.

And I can’t afford a broadband internet connection, and that’s getting increasingly annoying.

Don’t get me wrong, I could afford to pay the broadband fees of Australian ISPs with only slight rearranging of my budget.
What I can’t afford is a telephone connection that can actually support broadband.

You see I live less than five kilometres from the centre of the biggest non-capital city in Australia, but my phone connection is worse than you would expect in the most isolated farm house in the Australian outback, even though I am paying the same price for it that the richest Australians pay for lines that support high speed ADSL2+.

For starters, my phone line is paired gain, which means I don’t have it all to myself. I’m sharing it with at least one other poor sucker who is paying Telstra full price for half a service.

Except that its not even half.

Telstra has a monopoly on landline infrastructure in this area and they know it. So they haven’t bothered maintaining it.

As well as being paired gain, my line has thirteen joints, two bridge taps and four gauge changes in the 350 metres from the nearest hub to where I live.
What this means is that simply trying to use the telephone results in crackling and drop outs in good weather.
If its stormy, raining or especially hot it gets even worse.

Sometimes the service packs it in entirely and I have no phone or internet at all until Telstra technicians get around to patching the string-and-two-cans system they sell as a phone line.
It generally takes them a week or two to get around to doing it ‘properly’ (i.e. back to the same appalling standard as before).

So on a good day my internet connection runs at 28.8kb/s.
That was not a typo. I meant 28.8kb/s.
And the good days are getting rarer as the infrastructure is increasingly loaded and decreasingly maintained.
Often I only get 19.2kb/s or even 16.8kb/s.

So streaming audio is just a dream to me and streaming video or Skype a wild fantasy.
Emails of 1MB take around ten minutes to download and bigger ones time out and jam my POP server.
Lots of web sites take ages to load or simply don’t load at all. My favourite web page is “Problem loading page”.

When I post this to my blog I will spend five to ten minutes staring at the ‘Publish’ button waiting for a good enough server connection to click it.
It’ll probably take several tries just to get the “Add New Post” page to load.

What can I do about it?

If I had about $7000 to spare I could pay from my own pocket to get a proper line installed, but if the landlord found out he’d probably respond by raising the rent so its a good thing I can’t afford to do that.

My only real option is to move house and hope I don’t have the bad luck to end up in another house with a joke for a phone line.

I can afford to move house.
I can even afford to pay about 25% more rent. It currently only absorbs about a quarter of my income.

The problem is the shortage of cheap rental accommodation means that when I go to inspect a letting I am competing with dozens of other prospective renters, some of them two income families.
So even with my spotless tenancy record I rarely get a look in.

Can you believe I’m complaining about this?
A man of leisure, one of the richest in world history and I’m having a whinge about having a 1940s standard phone line in the 21st century.

Boy I need to check my privilege.

From → rant

One Comment
  1. “My favourite web page is “Problem loading page”.” – not only a good post, it’s funny!


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