You might have seen on FaceBook that E and I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday. An explanation is in order. E and I are 21st-century Americans: we want our Internet, and we want it fast. We use it for communicating with people back home, for entertainment, and also for receiving messages regarding where we should be when because we are cell-phone-less here in France. So on Friday at 1:15 p.m. when it stopped working, we panicked slightly. Not on the level of Peyton-Manning-has-retired, but more along the lines of I-have-a-zit-two-days-before-prom. So it didn’t work right before we left to read our World War II assignment in the park? It surely would when we returned.
Our panic level rose from yellow to orange, in the manner of the Homeland Security Advisory System. It was now prom day, so to speak, and the zit had grown to hairy-mole size. We played with it for a bit, but ultimately decided just to go to bed and assume it would kick itself back on in the middle of the night. You can sleep off a headache; why not Internet malaise?
You can’t. At least not in France.
By Saturday morning, we were on full alert. Batten down the hatches, boys; it’s Internet or bust! After becoming completely disgusted with both the troubleshooting manual and the piece-of-crap Internet box itself (called “Livebox”), we decided to visit McDonald’s to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi. The priority was making sure our families knew that our silence and missed Skype dates came from an Internet malfunction, not abduction by angry French World Cup soccer players. But wouldn’t you know it: our computers simply would not hook up to McDonald’s Wi-Fi. Our vexation mounted.
We went across the street to an Internet café. At least we knew it would work there. And it did. From a computer attached to a French keyboard, which is laid out far differently from an English-language one. (For example, the placement of the letters compared to where they are on your keyboard is scrambled. The punctuation marks are also in different locations. Plus, the numerical keys include two additional symbols apiece. Yeah, that’s not easy to finagle.)
In the end, we spent 25 minutes and a euro each sending two emails per person of three to five sentences apiece, something that takes less than five minutes using our own computers. After that, we were back to the issue at hand: fixing the Internet in our apartment since we’d each paid 26 euro for it. Remembering the exorbitant price and feeling the anger mount again, we tried to call our landlord. Unfortunately, he lives in Avignon, which is nowhere near us. We got a busy signal anyway.
We returned to the apartment and fumed, frowned, and spoke harshly to Livebox. Nothing happened. Livebox is a jerk. E read the troubleshooting directions to herself. Then out loud. I did the same. We restarted Livebox. We restarted our computers. We turned off everything. We turned it back on. We seethed.
Leaving the apartment, we headed toward Orange, the company that makes blasted Livebox. They sent us to SFR, the primary Internet provider in Lyon. They sent us to France Telecom, the centralized French telecommunications company. They sent us to Orange. We noticed a pattern. We tried another Orange. They sent us to France Telecom. We tried a second France Telecom. They sent us to…wait for it…Orange. Our problem seemed to be no one’s but ours. We returned to the Internet café and dialed up France Telecom. There’s no toll-free number, but by that time, we didn’t care how much it cost to get the Internet running again. That is, until the café owner told us we owed him fifteen euro for the phone call. Then, admittedly, we cared quite a lot.
Raging anew, we lamented the fact that we’d spent money at McDonald’s, the Internet café (twice), and the landlord, and ended up with no Internet. Discouraged and forlorn, we returned to Quai Claude Bernard, growling and murmuring all the way there. Eventually, I said, “This may sound like the stupidest idea ever, but we could ask the guy at the café who speaks English to help us.” (We live above a café.) E said that she’d thought of that earlier, but was afraid to mention it since he was unlikely to be of any help. But he was our last option, and no one else in France cared that we desperately wanted to talk to our families.
Upon returning to our apartment, we found English Speaker and breathlessly explained our troubles. We handed him the troubleshooting manual, Livebox’s serial number, and several phone numbers. Expecting him to do what, I don’t really know. In the end, English Speaker was indeed able to help: there was a particular username and password that had to be changed periodically, and it was time to do so. It wouldn’t let us back in until we changed said information. Showering English Speaker with a deluge of Merci!s, we hiked up the 10 flights to our apartment and tried the password-changing. It worked! For two minutes.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that we pushed every button on Livebox and our computers, and everything was finally functional again, after another hour or so of work. We consider our connection to be pretty tenuous at this point, but at least it’s running again. I’d make a comment about how dependent E and I are on the Internet, but the fact is, it’s actually our families we’re addicted to. More than anything, E and I just wanted to be able to communicate with the people who are so special to us. So this post is dedicated to you. May we never have to be cut off from one another again. Cheers!