When I was in 7th grade, I wrote a short story entitled “Bad Day Gone Good.” BDGG was my ticket to literary greatness for quite awhile. All of my Jr High teachers lauded over it and proclaimed its greatness. I then used it as the cornerstone of my writing portfolio for 5 years in a row to launch into honors English/Writing classes (some would call that lazy, I’d call it efficient). It was a story about a Jr High kid whose luck was down pretty far one day and then something happened at the end that made everything worth it. Today I got to live the grown-up version with a foreign culture twist...
We came home for lunch, and were greeted with the distinct smell of an electrical fire. Never a good smell to greet you at home. I followed my nose to our office and as I sniffed around our electronics I discovered our modem/router/box was completely fried. Internally the modem had melted, and thankfully nothing had sparked or spread beyond its metal walls. Needless to say, our internet was down. On top of that, our cell phone wasn’t working right (something wrong with our contract had caused service to be shut off, a phone call early in the week fixed that, but we still faced a technical problem), and our modem is also the box that controls our home phone and tv. It’s friday. We have a lot of communication plans for the weekend, and I knew I had only the afternoon to get it all fixed. But there were some problems to overcome:
-Because calling the cable company would not get us a new box today, I needed to find an address and go in person to get a new one
-To find the address and directions, I needed internet.
-Internet was no longer possible.
-Our cell phone has internet capabilities!
-Our cell phone’s not working.
I was immediately reminded of a time in the States back in the fall. We’d just arrived home from Africa, and we were staying for a few days with our friends Paul and Tracy. We were there alone at lunchtime. We had not had time to go get any groceries. We didn’t have a car. The nearest food place was a good distance away and we had an infant. Let’s order a pizza! The internet had been messed up that day. I called Paul,
“Where’s your phone book?”
“We don’t have a phone book, use the internet.”
“The internet’s not working.”
“Oh yeah, that’s a problem, huh?”
Back in France: I called our cell phone provider (could still dial their number at least!). God was merciful to me this time. I got an operator and started explaining my problem, but was quickly tripped up and I launched into my “I don’t speak French well” speech. He responded with, “Ok, speak English.” What?!? He went on to tell me that he was happy to speak English because none of his coworkers could and he needed the practice. Really? This one guy in the whole call center is who I connected with? Thank you Lord! So we talked through a bunch of technical stuff that I never would have understood in French and got the phone working.
Then back to the internet problem. I couldn’t find a local address for our cable provider, so I looked at the return address on our package that the modem had come in. I looked it up, it wasn’t too far away so I borrowed a friend’s car and took off. When I arrived I found myself looking at a bunch of unmarked warehouses! I tried talking to people and explaining what I was looking for, but I ended up sitting in an employee lounge staring at a vending machine with no real idea of where I was or what I was doing. This was the shipping yard, not a service center of any sort!
I then spent the rest of my afternoon on phone calls that mostly were pointless... because if Parisian French is hard in person it’s quadruple hard on the phone with an automated switchboard. I eventually found out the right process, but it would require waiting until monday when a service tech could come look and say “Yep, it’s fried.”
Clearly our internet was not coming back on today. But we live in an apartment high-rise with 100’s of other people who all have their own password protected wifis! Thus a new idea... I’m no hacker, but I do know how to knock on a door and ask. So just now, at 9pm, I have returned. At the end of my rope from a day of running in circles technologically, I had lost all regard for propriety and etiquette. So I knocked on the door of our neighbors and asked for their wifi password. They invited me in (that’s the first french home I’ve been in!). We talked. I met the whole family. I might have maybe suggested dinner at our place one night. They had no idea what Mexican food is. I assured them they’ll love it. And here I am, on the internet. And we just started a friendship with our neighbors!
A bad day gone good indeed.