Little Things

One of the odd things about travel is that the simplest task can become oddly complicated. Part of this has to do with the fact of being on my own, Jane currently in Israel. But there’s more to it than that.

I am fresh from what should be a straightforward transfer of voice recognition software to my laptop. One of those little IT tasks that didn’t get completed at home. I spent two hours on the phone last night going back and forth between different departments of the same software company. No one could find my order.

Until they could. Then they sent me the “latest version” of their speech recognition program. Which showed great promise, except that it kept crashing. So, after a day in London…a quite wonderful lunch at the British Museum and visit with cousins…damned if I wasn’t back on the phone to the USA complaining about the fact that the brand-new software I had downloaded 18 hours before simply did not work.

Oh, someone in Support explained, that’s because you don’t have the latest version. Now here it helps if you simply give yourself over to Franz Kafka. Ours is not to know the reason why. Ours is to follow the corporate rules as though they were delivered by Moses. If one is not inclined to do this, nothing but trouble awaits. That would be me.

Why, I asked, did I download an apparently out-of-date version of your product? The Support guy gave me his version of an answer. Well, because Apple changed its operating system…and so on. Did Apple change its operating system in the last 18 hours? No, he explained, utterly immune to irony, earlier in the year. I kept on in this vein, showing the wild irrationality of his world. But he either didn’t see it or couldn’t see it. But I could see it, the end of life, looming. With my days short, I opted to drop the topic.

Anyway, trips into and out of the West End are sandwiched by hours of this sort of thing. It’s not a bed of roses, if you get my meaning.

I have been devotedly taking bus trips around town, being a fervent supporter of public transportation. Still, my support ran out after lunch. And having made my way from Paddington to Bloomsbury on a combination of #7 and #10 buses, something in my shoulders and lower back was speaking loud. Get in a taxi, it said. This turned out to be a good thing, because my workday would prove to be much longer than anticipated. That’s right, I had to hustle back to my room above Paddington Station so I could get on the phone to Nuance Software and have a soul-draining series of conversations with Support. Tote that barge, lift that bale.

Tomorrow we get the show on the road. “We” refers to cousin Jake, girlfriend Emma and myself. The road is, of course, the railroad. The one rocketing across Kent, under the English Channel, and into Paris…connecting after a long cab ride across town to Montparnasse with that other train, a TGV, which blasts down to Bordeaux in, can it be, two hours. I am looking forward to all this. No, I’m not looking forward to getting up at 5 AM. But I have help. As for France, I feel remarkably unprepared. I mean, there have been days to read up on the Aquitaine. But I must have been doing something else. Little stuff. Lots of it.

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