The good news was that friends David and Marty Arscott took a break from an anniversary trip to Paris to stay with us these past 3 days. The bad news was that the house DSL line went down during a thunderstorm and would not come back up.
The DSL provider, SFR, publishes only 2 numbers for support – one number only works on their lines – not an option since ours was down. The other, a toll-free number, doesn’t accept calls from cell phones. I walked to the village pay phone to dial the number, standing in the rain, of course, only to be greeted by a phone robot that spoke very rapid French and had been programmed to hang up if no choice was made within 30 seconds. After 20 tries without getting a person or some other way to report the line was down, I was soaked and retreated back to the house.
Later I spoke with M. And Mme. Daubard, a lovely couple who live on a nearby farm and who keep an eye on the Lechat house when the family is absent, after which both tried to navigate the SFR phone system without success. A very helpful woman at the local Bureau de Tourisme also called SFR, with the same result. At this point 3 native French-speaking adults and moi had failed to dent the French telco’s robot “support” armor.
The Lechat family, who graciously allowed us to rent their home, were alerted to our crisis by The Daubards and they tried to contact SFR but the company’s only published public number doesn’t accept calls from outside France (the Lechats reside in Belgium when not in Ameugny).
Finally, after a Marathon march through about 20 levels of the SFR phone tree, Anne Daubard got a message that a technician would be available in 8 minutes. About 20 minutes later a human came on the line and said that we would have to go to the house, stand by the modem and find a way to receive a call on a French phone number and appointed a time one hour hence. Fortunately, the Daubards’ farm has a long range wireless phone that reaches across their pastures to the Lechat residence.
At the appointed hour Anne Daubard spoke furious French with an SFR technician, while we plugged, unplugged, reset, restarted and otherwise reconfigured le Neufbox numerous times, after which SFR pronounced Neufbox dead and said we could get a replacement in Cluny (at a flower market, of all places) in about 5 business days.
Anne apologized to us for the whole miserable situation, which was hardly her fault and had cost her some aggravating hours and asked if we would like to be driven to Cluny on the appointed day. We thanked them profusely, said we knew where to go in Cluny, and I gave M. Daubard one of our best bottles of Bourgogne as the couple departed.
I was suspicious of the diagnosis, however. Le Neufbox showed signs of life – a boot sequence displayed on its six lights, when disconnected from the line. My belief was that SFR needed to reset its end of the line, and hoping that they had or would accomplish that, I continued to experiment trying various different sequences of booting with line connected, disconnected et al.
On the fifth or sixth try, M. Neufbox came up with his angry red status light glowing a tranquil white: his six lights performed an orderly march perhaps ten times before the ‘@Acés’ light stuck on – I held my breath, and voilà, the ‘Trafic’ light began to flicker.
Linda and I raced to MacBook and iPad, and sure enough, the WiFi network I’d configured the previous week was there, and working fine. What a relief! Typical tourists – we can’t enjoy the glorious French countryside without Internet access…