I hate technology. I try to avoid it if possible, or let someone else do the paperwork and set up for its acquisition. Thus, sorting through technological procedures in French = nightmare.
I needed to buy a cell phone, and then get prepaid service, but I wanted to do it as cheap as possible. So, I took someone’s advice and went to Barbes-Rochechouart, which is in the not quite as nice section of Paris. I wandered around until I found a kiosk with exceptionally ghetto neon paper and marker signs and decided that it looked promising. First I wondered around looking for the cheapest phone. A far cry from rather sedate US shopping, the French forsake their laid back approach to life the second they cross the threshold of a store, or at least one where telecommunications are at stake. It takes me about 20 minutes to slowly make my way to the front and procure a piece of paper that says I want a certain phone. Then, I fight my way to the back to pay and get my phone, before fighting back to the front to have it activated, which takes about 20 more minutes because several more aggressive shoppers continue to shove in front of me. An hour after entering, I depart with my phone.
Then I attempt to get service. I just want to put 100 Euros or whatever on my phone. That’s all. I don’t want Internet, texting, photo, video, etc. I want to call, be called, and maybe check voicemail. Basically, I wanted the Brick — my beloved huge US phone that is indestructible, 5 years old, and doesn’t even have T9 capabilities. The French telecom lady is talking a mile a minute, telling me I automatically get all these bonuses, and talking so fast I can’t keep up (of course even in English, I am practically cell phone illiterate), so I think I have texting also, but I really don’t know.
Next I attempted to buy Internet that is better than the temperamental connection in my apartment. Failure. Not only is it monumentally expensive, but just to buy internet service– even if I pay for all the months up front, I have to provide my passport, visa, copy of my French bank account statement, annulled check from French bank, letter from M. Pernot saying I have a house, a copy of his identification, something that verifies his address, and something else from my bank that I have forgotten, probably a vial of my blood and a promise to give them my first born child. The French LOVE photocopies, I am finding. They revel in red tape, special offers that don’t exist unless you know magic codes, and old school negotiation tactics. Thus, I am not getting Internet. But I do have a phone. And probably could have gotten free Internet on it if I had known what I was doing. Oh well, tant –pis (too bad!).