I never thought that one of the happiest days of our time here would be when we agreed to a mobile phone contract. When we left NC I had just ended my 5 year “relationship” with Sprint. The phone that I used there I had gotten in the summer of 2005 when we moved out of Durham. As many of you know my phone did nothing more than allow me to make and receive phone calls. You remember phones like that, don’t you. No camera, no texting, no internet connection. After the initial 2 year contract, I was on a month to month basis with Sprint. I liked it that way. There were “no strings attached”. I knew my non-state-of-the-art phone wouldn’t work here in France. And when we left I called them and just said, “Au Revoir“, turn it off. But we found that without a phone here we were nobodies, and we needed a phone to be able to set ourselves up in France. I longed for my old phone back.
Steve had called the Apple headquarters before we left, and they said he could indeed use his beloved iPhone in France, but it could not be unlocked in the U.S. He would have to wait to do that after we arrived. So, we arrive in Grenoble. We see a few phone stores in Grenoble named Orange, SRF, and Bouygues. We decide to visit the ubiquitous Orange “boutique”. This is the equivalent of an AT&T or Verizon store in the U.S. We sashay in and start looking around. Eventually, we discover that we should sign-in first. Une faute that elicits smirks and glances from the Orange employés. Finally, we are invited into a side room where the employee sits on a stool at a high counter and the client stands next to him. With our handy-dandy dual language dictionary we try to get the phone unlocked so we can put in a new SIM card. Surprise! No, they can’t do that. We protested. Apple had said Orange was authorized to do that! No, Monsieur, they were wrong. So, Steve cannot use the iPhone at this point except to connect to the internet. (Actually, you can pay someone under the table at one of the electronic stores to do it.)
What to do now? As mentioned in a previous post, the visiting teachers at CUEF have been very kind to us. Marie-Charlotte works at an Orange store and offered to help us. Marie-Helene brought in one of her own old mobiles for us to use with a new SIM card. She even accompanied us to the Orange store to do this. She spoke to the employee there explaining our situation. No, no SIM card can be had. We did not have a French bank account nor a permanent address as of yet. We offered our Visa card. Not good enough. With new security they don’t just hand out cell phones like candy anymore. We are missing most of the essentials for getting a phone. We have a pièce d’identité (passport will do), but no carte bleue or chèque annulé, RIB, or justificatif de domicile.
The RIB and the carte bleue can only be gotten by opening a French bank account. (That is another full story for a future blog entry!) For the present entry, we finally do get the above-mentioned items. We return to the Orange store. We enter the hallowed alcove and meet Pierrick, a young male fashion plate with a beautiful smile. (Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures of him, because I thought we’d never get a phone if I tried that.) We show him the mobile avec Orange catalogue turned to the page with the phone we want. The forfait allows for 1 hr. 30 min.. talk time, unlimited SMS in France, and 200 Mo in France (2000 webpages/mo.). All this for a one year commitment at the “economical” price of about $30 per month. The price of the phone after rebate is €1!!!
At this point this only takes care of the mobile phone. We still didn’t have internet, cable or a land-line phone in our new apartment. Now that we had an address we could go ahead with all that. We didn’t need to go with Orange for that, so we started checking out other providers. Yes, they could set that up for us. It would be about 25 days for that to be installed. We couldn’t believe it – 25 days! They also would need to know whether it was an “open or closed line”. How would we know that? What was that? If we could tell them the previous tenants, they could check. How would we have that info? We went to see our Guardian Angel, Madame Pellissier. She had owned the apt. for about 2 years, maybe she would know who lived there before her previous tenant. Madame was busy at her office, but stopped to see if she could find out the info. She made a few calls and then asked us if we would like her to call Orange/France Telecom to make the arrangements for the service and give them the info. We were so tired by that time that we almost kissed her! She made the call, and the service was turned on yesterday- less than 2 weeks time. That must be a record.
There were more misadventures hooking up the Livebox (for the internet connection), the Décodeur TV, and connecting the phone. I cheated by finding the English version online for the phone manual after Steve got it hooked up, but I am still trying to figure out how to put a voice message on it. Do I record it in English or my French with my southern twang? Even in English I’ve never been very good at programming devices. (Have pity, I was an English major. Steve’s the engineer.) I’d like to say “we” hooked everything up, but you know that’s not true. I’m not sure if Steve wasn’t an engineer that it ever would have been up and running.
So I am now able to work on this blog in the privacy and comfort of our own apartment. Without an internet connection here we skulked nefariously from place to place searching for free Wi-Fi (pronounced wee-fee here). For the price of a café au lait at McDonald’s down the street (another blog topic to come) or the tram ride to la bibliothèque, we could access free internet. Since the Ville de Grenoble provides some free Wi-Fi areas in the parks we’ve occasionally accessed it on a park bench dans le place Victor Hugo while enjoying the beautiful Grenoble weather . We’ve even Skyped in the park with Beth. You should have seen the looks that got us.
Even after all that the best way to reach us from the U.S. is by email, FaceBook or by posting on this blog.
My Skype name in MaureenCWalsh. If you’re interested in skyping for free, email me and we’ll set up a time to talk. We’d love to hear from you!
Un faute:a mistake
pièce d’identité : form of identity
carte bleue or chèque annulé,: debit card or voided check
RIB: Relevé d’Identité Bancaire: Bank details for automatic payments
justificaif de domicile: proof of address
mobile avec Orange catalogue: mobile phone with Orange
forfait : package
la bibliothèque: the library (libraire is a book store)
dans le place Victor Hugo: in the Victor Hugo Square