It eventually happened.

It took a while, but I think I finally know how it feels to be the ancient one, sitting helplessly while the younger ones try to operate antiquated machinery from another era… say, a turntable.

Picture if you will: a standard Berlin bar, two cheerful yet terminally hopeless barmaids, a pair of standard-issue decks, a [presumably rather cheesy German] record to be played…

It went a little bit like this:

  1. Barmaid places record on deck, tries to play it for 2 minutes before realising said deck has no needle (stylus or cartridge, for that matter).
  2. Barmaid repeatedly tries to spot the beginning of some track she is presumably looking for, using a lighter for sole light source. Gets ever so slightly pissy when yours truly points [as gently as possible] toward the button to enable the dedicated target light that comes standard on all SL-1200.
  3. Barmaid #2 [unsuccessfully] tries to fit a raw stylus into the standard needle connector, apparently oblivious to the obvious size/shape difference.
  4. Barmaids have stroke of genius and finally decide to switch the entire deck with the other deck (changing cables and all), yet again failing to notice that simply switching the cartridge, would have been a considerably easier endeavour.
  5. After finally plugging the new deck in, barmaids enter long struggle to figure the on/off dial on the new deck. Get increasingly pissy at any attempt to point them in the right direction… Finally give up in frustration and put a CD instead.

Seriously: now I know exactly how old-timers feel, when they see condescending-yet-clueless youngsters trying to operate a 1930s radio… and miserably failing at it, as if it was some alien technology.

At the local store, trying to pick hair styling wax and looking for the lightest one. Two strengths are available: “mega starker” and “ultra starker”…

The only question is: does either go up to 11?

Sorry for the abrupt end of communication, earlier this month: past two weeks were spent far from civilisation and internet access. But snowy mountains, skiing and delicious local food more than made up for it.

Geneva, December 2009

Pralognan-la-Vanoise, December 2009

Pralognan-la-Vanoise, December 2009

In Paris for New Year’s Eve (and a few more days after that), before going back to Berlin until the end of Winter.

Off to spend some quality time with my good doctor friends, hopefully sampling their large selection of delicious pharmaceutical-grade drugs along the way.

Barring some very unlikely technological leap in European medical facilities regarding internet access, I’ll be offline for a couple days. Use cellphone or carrier pigeon for any matter that cannot wait.

Not that I have anything against French cinema in general, but even I am getting tired of seeing thirty-something couples endlessly strolling through picturesque Parisian streets or sitting at cafés, absorbed in pseudo-intellectual discussions of their latest hormonal release…

And if I hear one more piano piece by Satie or a Bach partita in a film, I shall scream.

Why you should never use Chronopost if you fancy your packages getting delivered on time. or at all.

Thinking of mailing a package or urgent document from France? You might naturally be inclined to pick French transporter Chronopost: after all, they are the official offshoot of the French Postal Services and you can use their service through any French post office. OK, if you have any experience with the latter, and their dysmal record in both regular and special mail delivery, knowing that they officially “recommend” Chronopost wouldn’t be a big boost in their favour, but still, the point is: they are the default, ubiquitous, choice for parcels in France… marginally cheaper than DHL or Fedex and much more conveniently located.

Over the course of those past three years in Paris, I have done my best to avoid Chronopost and the French Post: never ever relied on them for anything critical, whenever I could help it.

And when I couldn’t help it… well they never once fulfilled their promise. I’ve had “Express 48h” delivery brought over to my doorstep, 3 weeks late and half torn-out, relatives to whom I’d send birthday presents abroad would get them a month after their birthday (that’s despite paying $100 for a pocketbook-sized parcel), I’ve had to go pick-up packages at the local delivery point countless times because “Recipient not at home at time of delivery” (never mind the fact I’d have been sitting by the door all morning and had my cellphone number printed on the delivery slip)…

To sum it up, out of about a dozen interactions with Chronopost during my time here, I don’t think they’ve held up their end of the contract more than once, twice at best.

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So this morning, I am sitting in Parc Monceau, perusing Paris’ public-park-wide open wifi, trying to pull the schedule for my afternoon train.

Trying, because despite being on my twentieth online ticket booking for the month, trying to get anything out of French National Railway’s website feels like trying to get freshly squeezed OJ from a stone. I am not sure how exactly the whole “prevent users from getting a ticket online at all cost” fits into their business plan, but I guess if you take in account their laughably bad track record in all areas of service, it is merely brand identity on their part.

Twenty minutes and still no luck trying to get a single schedule for a local train departing 10 times a day from Paris (website timing out or randomly crashing at varying levels of the 50-step process), I had an epiphany and remembered a friend telling me about how it was probably easier booking a French train through Deutsche Bahn, German’s national railway company. At the time, I thought it was a joke.

Well, it’s not.

In approximately 1/100th of the time I spent attempting unsuccessfully to get a schedule for a French local train (from a French city, to a French city) on the official French website, I got the exact same info (available in 4 languages) on a German website.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so lame.