Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Skipping Christmas

No, not skip it completely because we had a wonderful day. My mother-in-law knitted me the perfect sweater in bamboo (this is not a joke), people remembered to give me books, there were lots of DVDs, a great Christmas dinner and too much to drink. What more could I ask? Considering that I'm not even Christian?

But here's the best present of all. Since 2002 and maybe before (memory is dimming), the government, the regional governement, France Telecom, satellite services, Wi-Fi services and the world have been promising us broadband here in the (officially) deprived rural areas. Last week it arrived. Sort of.

Today, the France Telecom engineers arrived, took away our digital modem and set the line for ADSL. Unfortunately, the new modem, which should have arrived in the post two weeks ago, has not, and a call to the "service" (as we fondly call it) line at FT confirmed that it has not been sent and, in any case, is the one that we expressly said -- three times -- that we did not want. Fully realising that it would be a fruitless journey, we drove to Nyons to try to get a modem from the local office. Fruitless because they probably wouldn't have one in stock and because the Nyons office appears to have a policy of hiring the technologically other-enabled. Almost any conversation with the staff there can reduce a customer to tears within minutes.

In order to maintain the advantage of surprise, we decided not to telephone first. The French in shops or offices ( government or private), will tell you anything -- the most bold-faced, outrageous, unbelievable lies (they don't expect you to believe them) -- to put you off, get rid of you, transfer your problem to someone else, or whatever it takes so as not to be inconvenienced during their working hours. It is best not to give them extra time to prepare.

As it turned out, the twin miracles (a customer view) of deregulation and competition have recently come to France and Nyons have abandonned their "hire the incompetent" policy. There was someone, nay! three employees, capable of checking our line and selling us the correct modem.

In any normal country, we would now have broadband. In France, we are waiting for someone, somewhere, to push a computer button to activate the damned thing. In any other country, they would have pushed the button -- if a button were necessary -- before they got here. So, not only do we not have broadband, we have lost our higher-speed dial-up and are back on a sl-o-o-o-w modem for three days, a week, 10 days, months, years, eons. . .

I don't sound crabby, do I?