Sunday, 24 November 2013

Bad Road Trip (Part Two)

Where did I leave us? Oh, yeah. Right there.

I'd had just enough credit on my phone to try and go through the long process of saying 'yeah, it's okay, it's me, and I'd run out during the helpful bank listing things I'd paid and cash I'd taken. Incomplete, but I had given passwords on a multiple choice basis. Incomplete, though, so I was concerned when I came off the toll road at Le Mans.

Of course, had a human been involved they might ave though something along the lines of "Oh, look, he booked the Channel Tunnel with the card so he's likely to be in France then, isn't he? No worries." But no. No human involved and the usual mess for software.

Okay, so I'm just off the toll road, just off a roundabout, in an paligano... I mean industrial estate, or whatever you habitually call this kind of area. No gas station in sight, no ATM in sight, but I'm stopped, parked, thinking. It's raining some so it's jacket on and a quick walk about to see without stress what the signs say and try and figure out my next move. Still no gas station and no ATM, both of which I want even though I suspect both will be useless to me. But one thing at a time, right?

I toy with the idea of walking further to investigate but decide, sod it, I'll drive but short exploratory moves. In short, all plans aside, I follow my nose. Back onto what I suspect is a ringroad(ish) kind of thing and then off again by instinct. A little ways through more paligano, then stop, pause think. Hmmm, nothing looks good here, so back the way I came and there's a way under the ringroad. Instinct again, yes. Then a road up to a Restaurant and again, instinct, yes. I'm sure going to have to talk to someone and get directions and this will do nicely.

The guy behind the bar has some English, which is handy as my French is so bad as to be useless. I express my desire for an ATM and gas station in the same place. "Ocean," he says, emphatically. "Shopping centre," or words to that effect. A Mall, in other words. Just the job, I think as I try and interpret his pointing figure. Roughly the way I was going before I came into the Restaurant. Yay. I hope it's not far as I've no idea what fuel is left in the Cherokee (it runs for ages on empty but it already has, so.... who knows?).

I drop back down to the road, follow the way I was going round a corner. More Paligano. A roundabout and I decide I'll go straight on, intuition again. And another one. Same same. And there it is. "Auchen" it says in big bold letters tacked on the side of a Mall. There's a gas station and a big carpark so I nod and sigh to myself and park up.

I'm not leaving here without gas.

No matter what happens. I'm no stuck with what I have available right here. ATM. Gas Station. It aint gunna get any better. Stay put. Solve the problem here.

But I'm cautiously pessimistic (not optimistic, truly) as I wonder into the Mall and look around for an ATM and find one and find... use of this card is suspended.

Ok, good. Now I need a phone. I have five bucks in my pocket in change (no idea why, I just do. I guess I must have bought something other than gas with cash but I have no idea what at this point and sure don't remember now). The phones I find are no cash card only type phones. Perfect.

Sit around and wait for someone to call me and see how things are doing? It is to laugh. That could be days. No cash, no water, no food, no shelter but the Jeep. And boredom boredom boredom ... nope. Not liking that idea.

Well, I have five bucks so maybe I can get some credit on my phone. Nope. I knew that but it was worth a try. Same company but nope, we can't charge a foreign phone here, even if we are the same company (thanks Orange, you're so cool I could drop you in a vodka and be happy). I have a Spanish chip I used a few months ago but... it has no credit on it either. So, more trogging up and down. More thinking. I need credit on my phone, contact with the outside world. What are the alternatives? Abandon the Jeep and start walking? Head for where? Paris, maybe where I can find the Consulate maybe and get repatriated to an airport probably with no cash to call anyone so it would be a long walk from the airport to somewhere useful.... and I don't like this idea. It isn't a solution as I'd have to re-jig money and come get the jeep and continue.

In any case, I'm lucky. I have my laptop and when I spot a small sign saying Free WiFi I know I'm in with a shout. I have a bad battery in the laptop but there just might be time to send one email if I can get into the system fast, into my emails fast and write and send fast. Maybe.


Big sigh. In some parts of the world free wifi all over is taken for granted, but not here. Relief and despondency and swearing are the order of events. Close. Real close. But no cigar. Yet... this is the answer. I need somewhere to plug into power and keep the laptop juiced and send out an SOS

There's a cafe and I wonder in, waving the plug and asking if there's a socket I can use. The guy is cool about it and points one out with a 'hell yes, of course, no worries' air that I like very much. Problem solved, bar the waiting. I sit and send out some SOS's of the 'hey, can someone please put some credit on my phone so I can get this dumb thing sorted?'

I also get into my online banking page, find who to bitch to and bitch away. Phone twice, fraud prevention squad, because you don;t know what's happening on the end of the phone and this is your customer who could be in any situation and you know what the first rule of business is? Don't try and kill your customers. Don't put hem at risk. They don't much like it as a rule. Asshats.

I also think they might get the message (action required section(s) is filed in No.1 "Reactivate my card. NOW!" But what happens first is some credit kindly put on my phone by a well loved family member. Yay. I call the fraud squad. They fix it. Card works. Double yay!

The gas station only takes credit cards (not my sole debit card) and there won;t be anyone to take cash until the next morning, nine hours away. Booo.

But I have cash ... that I dare not spend because I'm doing this on a shoestring budget and I'm still in northern France and unsure I have enough funds available for gas to get there. In fact, I rather doubt it.

Turns out my doubts are justified and I don't, but that's to tell another day. I'll leave it there for now.

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