Travelogue #7: "The Number You Have Called is No Longer in Service"


Nancy and I went to Paris for a few days.  A great experience full of interesting sights and spectacular food.  And it had an interesting start.

The first night we were there, we hooked up with a friend (who is house sitting for us) and her boyfriend.  To protect the innocent, they shall remain nameless.  We were to meet for dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended to them.

We arrived at the arranged spot, and found them already in line at the crowded, obviously popular establishment, only to then be told that there were no tables for four all night.  Hmmm.  The place doesn’t accept reservations.  There were perhaps four hours to go before it closed.  It was enormous.  No tables for the duration?  Perhaps they had seen me coming.

In any case, a quick search found a restaurant just next door with a table immediately available.  We settled in without any idea where we were, until we were presented menus that made it clear.  Burgers, tacos.
 
We were in one of the few restaurants in Paris with an exclusively, to the point of being mocking, American menu.

So my first ever night in Paris, perhaps the culinary capital of the world, I had fish tacos.  Battered, fried fish.  With mayo.  Yum.  But the company was great, we had a great time, and all was well.

It was the only bad meal I had there.  It appears that the key to delicious cooking is butter.  Lots of it.  I don’t understand how it is that the entire population of France doesn’t die of coronaries at the age of 40, but they don’t.  I must consult my former nutritionist staff upon my return. 

We saw amazing things there.  For example, there was this enormous movie set that apparently was built for the movie, “Hugo.”  It was in the design of a large railway station.  After the filming of the movie, they apparently didn’t know what to do with the set, so they filled it full of old stuff like pieces of canvas with paint on them.  My favorites were those signed by Vincent somebody.  But the best part was the food in the cafe.  Now THAT is art!

While we were there in Paris, we hopped on a giant Ferris wheel on the Allee Centrale, near the Louvre.  Another photo opportunity from aloft on a day already packed with photos.  Nancy and I both whipped out our phones to snap pics.  I duly cautioned her to hang onto her phone as she sat next to the door which had an open space around it.

Now, you know that when you’re taking pictures through glass, it often helps to press your phone up against the glass to reduce glare.  I swiveled in my seat and pressed my phone against the glass behind me as we gracefully rose high into the sky.

And yes, of course I let it slip.  Rats, I thought to myself, now I’ll have to fish it out from behind the back of the seat.  I twisted, peered, and realized that there was no “back of the seat.”  I was looking at open air, with steel beams supporting our carriage some 30-50 feet directly below, and pavement an equal distance below that.  No phone in sight.

If you’ve ever been in a traffic accident, you know the feeling “no, this isn’t happening,” immediately followed by “no, this didn’t just happen.”  Suddenly, the beautiful view was lost on me, as we slowly circled around and around, and all I found myself doing was peering straight down for any sign of splattered electronics, to no avail.

When they let us out, I instantly bolted for the area into which it would have fallen — nothing.  I sprinted from one worker to another to another, each responding with, “You did what?”  I was referred elsewhere and then elsewhere until at my last chance someone stepped from behind the befuddled employee who didn’t quite understand me, and held out my phone.

It was intact.  I mean, the glass wasn’t even cracked.  An obvious yet minor scratch on one corner of the protective case, covered by a small bloodstain and a tuft of hair wedged between the case and the phone.

OK, so I’m kidding about that last part.  But I’m fortunate that I hadn’t actually beaned a stray passerby or I’d be writing instead about the workings of the French criminal justice system.

Despite the intact appearance, the phone was well and truly dead.  My attempts at CPR were useless.  I had killed it.

Days later, back in the UK, I trekked to the closest Apple store where they confirmed the irreparable demise.  We’ve paid for coverage that includes clumsy klutz damage, although we shall soon see whether that includes tossing the phone from hundreds of feet.  Perhaps those of my colleagues who work on the 14th floor of my former office will benefit from the results of my inquiry, as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one tempted from time to time to pitch my phone out the window.

So the same day that the “Genius Bar” staff pronounced my phone DOA, I went to the giant Tesco supermarket nearby and got a cheap, temporary replacement, so that my same phone number could be used by transferring the British SIM card we had previously bought, and importantly, to make it possible to connect with others whom I had ditched earlier that day and needed to travel home with. 

I proudly took my new phone and began texting.  None went through.  So I began calling.  None went through.  No problem, I thought, I had brought my tablet as a backup, and I knew that texts and at least email went through with that.  Halfway through typing my first message, it stopped working.  I mean, it would no longer respond to anything I did.  I couldn’t even turn the thing off because it wouldn’t respond to my touching the screen where it said, “swipe to turn off.”

Sheepishly, I walked back to the Apple store.  As I presented my tablet to a young man whom I swear I hadn’t seen earlier in the day, he greeted me with, “Oh, you’re the guy who dropped his phone from a Ferris wheel!”

I have achieved infamy on both sides of the Atlantic.

As I scribble this, sitting in a coffee shop in Watford (a city with which I am becoming much more familiar as I walk back and forth repeatedly between the same shops), I have no idea how on earth I’m reconnecting with anyone today, nor exactly how I’ll get home.  If you receive this, you’ll know that I survived... somehow... yet again.

 -Bob