After a resoundingly “meh” night out, I allowed myself again to sleep in Berlin-style (a.k.a., past noon) and then hauled myself out of bed. I had plans for doing laundry, which quickly evaporated under the intensity of my non-motivation. On the other hand, my lack of internet access was enough to force me into the shower and off into the city to find some solution. Priorities, eh?
The annoying thing is that my neighbors can get a free WiFi network called Ozone Paris if they put their laptops near a window, but I can’t. My laptop can detect it, but can’t do much about connecting to it. Alas, this has been one of the downsides of buying the a Mac in 2004, when the Powerbooks were all the Aluminum model. As shiny and durable and sleek as they looked, the aluminum casing acts as an ideal barrier for radio waves, i.e., the sort of waves you need for WiFi. My reception is nonetheless usually fine in most places, but wen a network signal is weak, I often have problems were people with other models don’t.
On the way out of my neighborhood, I stopped at a döner shop on rue St. Denis. The man at the counter was speaking Turkish, so I held some hope that I would finally get a döner that approximated the quality of what I found in Berlin. I greeted him in Turkish and put in my order (mostly) in Turkish, but the result was as underwhelming as my previous attempts: dry meat, wilted vegetables (with no shredded cabbage or cucumbers), and covered with soggy fries. Next time I order a döner in Paris, I need to explicitly say that I don’t want fries, because they’re always terrible and—quite frankly—a döner is a sufficient meal on it’s own. I don’t need another ½-pound of fried potatoes, thank you. Well, at least this doner was made from what appeared to be lamb.
Anyway, I headed off to rue Montgallet, the 200m-long street of Chinese-run computer shops that seem to exist in every large city. Thank goodness that most Chinese merchants don’t give a damn about observing Sunday as a day of rest. My plan was to get a range-extender of some sort for my laptop. Either an external antenna or a USB-key Wifi adapter that would have a better range. About half of the stores I visited didn’t sell the sorts of devices I was looking for, and the rest had stuff that was only compatible with PCs. After one merchant finally told me, “Look, with Macs, third-party WiFi is complicated,” I decided to call it a day and try again Monday morning at FNAC where they were more likely to have what I need.
I headed back over to the gardens above Les Halles to make use of the public internet. More so than last time, I had real trouble getting connected, but eventually I got my internet fix. I started the online application process for the Vélib bike rental program, but hit a barrier. The concept of online commerce hasn’t quite taken hold yet the way it has in North America, so often “online” transactions still require snail-mail or in-person steps to complete. A horrible, awful, evil example of this is the CampusFrance online application system for French student visas, which doesn’t do a good job of warning you that you need to send a money order to the French Embassy in Washington DC by mail, which will take two weeks from arrival to be processed, which will then allow you to make an appointment in the coming months at your consulate to get your visa. Before the advent of this system, you just made an appointment at the consulate and paid with a credit card (which you still do; you now pay once for the online system and again for the in-person appointment).
But I digress; the end of this story is that the Vélib “online” registration is really just a “pre-registration,” which means that I now need to print out an automatically-generated PDF document, photocopy various pieces of identity, include a relevé d’identité bancaire, and a personal check made out to them. Then, you wait for your member’s card to arrive in the mail. So, in other words, using Vélib is almost impossible for a tourist, especially one that doesn’t have a French bank account. Anyway, I’ll send out the application when my checks arrive at the bank, and we’ll see how long it takes for me to have actual use of the Vélib system.
After all of that, I sauntered home, made a bit of something to eat, and went to bed.