So a few weeks ago I was in one of my rearranging moods, and decided to see what our bookshelf would look like on its side, perhaps creating a long shelf for our ever-growing collection of electrical boxes and consoles. This idea led to a chain of events involving humiliation, a mad Belgian and morning light in the South of France. Don’t worry, it all will become apparent after the jump.
In order to turn the bookshelf on its side, I cleared the shelves and unplugged the Internet box. In plugging it back in, I seemed to have broken it in some way. I called our crap Internet provider that night, a Saturday, and asked them to send out a new box. It arrived the following Friday after I received a call from the UPS man, who told me to meet him downstairs with LE SCOTCH (the tape, not the drink) so we could do the Internet box exchange in my foyer. Once back upstairs I plugged in that one, stood back, and was entirely deflated by seeing the same thing: nada.
I noticed on the website of our crap Internet provider that they had a service wherein someone would come to your home within two hours to check on whatever problem you may be having with their system. I called to arrange for it and proceeded to be humiliated and mocked by the customer service woman, who cavalierly said someone could be there the following Monday, which was approximately 200 hours later than their website promised. She was the worst person I’ve ever spoken to, and she made me so upset and ashamed (because I am not fluent enough to have fought back effectively) I cried until I made myself sick.
Then I got angry. Really angry. But, being angry doesn’t make you any more fluent. So I called on my secret weapon: Xav, the Belgian husband of my friend Fi. Xav is an incredibly quiet man except when it comes to customer service people who’ve done his kith and/or kin wrong. In this capacity, as for his driving skills, he is legendary.
I explained to Xav what happened, and he said he’d look into it. The next day, he told me someone would be at my house on Monday afternoon – now two days away, not nine – and that he would be at his phone during that time should I have any additional questions while the technician was there. He instructed me to get the technician’s name and employee number.
He also sent me the recording of his phone call, his calm, quiet voice so lethal that I could only listen to about two minutes of it. They hung up on him twice, but word must have spread at the call center because he told me the third time was the charm.
On Monday, at the appointed time, the buzzer sounded. I wanted to do Xav proud, but I’m not the confrontational sort, especially at home alone with a strange man in my house. I decided I would take the friendly route and introduce myself, assuming that since he was about to be a guest in my home, he would do the same.
I greeted the technician at the door.
“Bonjour! Je m’appelle Christine!” I offered my hand.
He shook my hand. “Je suis le technicien.”
OK, that didn’t go well. While le technicien had his back turned to survey the box, I brought up Xav’s number on my phone and placed my thumb on the dial button.
But it soon became clear that I wouldn’t need Xav this time. The guy turned out to be really nice, told me that the plug was fried, gave me a new plug, instructed me not to use a strip for that outlet, and even petted the cat.
You may be asking yourself, where was Cal in all of this? Why hadn’t he stepped in? Well, without the Internet, Cal was relegated to the Vert Anglais to use their wifi as he needed to be online all day, continuously. Don’t hate!
The Vert Anglais staff’s generosity is also the reason for the title of this post. You see, I only had to be connected at certain times of the day, namely from 9-10 AM, 5-6PM, and three late nights. While this was helpful in that I was available to wait for the new box and then the technician to arrive, the mornings were BRUTAL.
I am not a morning person.
I was harumphing my way up to the Vert on the final morning of this saga and saw the most extraordinary thing: The tiniest sliver of sunlight had fallen directly onto one of the lamps of a small side street. I can’t imagine the chances of seeing it; it couldn’t have been there for longer than a minute. It was a quiet moment of grace I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
And as I rounded the corner to the Vert, I witnessed another stunning moment of light:
Seeing this fleeting moment of beauty made me remember the other things I had experienced during this trying week, but for a variety of reasons couldn’t be caught on film:
- The night shift street cleaners meeting at a cafe to have an after-work morning beer, their straw brooms and carts huddled on the corner like tethered horses.
- An old French man who walked up to the open door of the Vert, yelled SHIT, saluted the bartender and sat down outside. People ordering Pschitt soda never, ever fails to amuse me.
- The smell of roasting chickens on display in enormous mobile rotisserie grills outside the butcher shop and the mini-market; the smell of rich coffee and buttery croissants and fresh baguettes.
- Tiny children with their enormous backpacks on the way to school, flitting around their parents like butterflies, chatting or pointing or singing nonsense songs.