Digital Detox “À La Française”

“No, I am not addicted to my smartphone”. … I told myself not too long ago, when I did the last update to my iPhone, IOS 120000 and found out about this new app that can tell when you’re driving and automatically stops the sending and receiving functions. I thought this app was useless. To me anyway, as I don’t feel the urge to check or answer my phone when I am driving.

Addiction is a broad spectrum, I guess.

It’s easy to say “ I am not dependent”, when your vice  (or in this case de-vice) is always within arms reach.

My first week in France has brought a bit of a shock in that regard. In a country where an unlimited data cell phone plan costs less per month than a dozen of fresh croissants, who would have thought that I would feel disconnected to the  world and wifi deprived?!

The problem seems to reside in the solution. With everybody and their dog relying on a country-wide cell phone coverage and data plans as cheap as chips, who needs an internet café anymore? Who even needs a good ol’ home internet even?

Upon our arrival, determined to stay connected with friends and family and stay on top of administrative duties associated with putting our Canadian life on hold for six months, I walk straight in a cell service provider store to redeem my ticket to connectivity. “We don’t sell cell phone plans without fixed term here”, I was told. “You need to buy it online”, added the salesman. “Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy your SIM card online and unlocked cell phones too”, he added.

Makes sense. Alright. Now, how do I get an internet connexion to buy my cell phone data plan?

You get the conundrum, right!?

So, here am I, five days later, waiting for that SIM card to arrive in the mail.

Uhhhhhhhhh. Isn’t there a sense of déjà-vu?! Waiting for the mail, the SNAIL mail!! Le courier, that takes days to arrive, especially in this country where strikes and stats holidays are more frequent than months over 30 days. To add to my restlessness, I am awake most hours of the night as I handle jet-lag terribly, AND I CAN’T EVEN BROWSE MY INSTAGRAM FEED to brace myself!!!!

The interesting aspect of my despair, however, has been to have plenty of time on my side to observe my eighty-year-old parents in law and see how they handle life without broadband, smartphone, Apple TV, Netflix, social media. and a large data plan. And you know what? They live just fine! Here is a sneak peek:

To find out what is happening in the world and the local weather forecast, they read the daily newspaper generously delivered by their neighbour everyday. Crazy, eh?!

They receive all their bills in the mail and pay them by mailing a cheque in an envelope in return.

To hire an electrician to do some work in their home, they browse the phone book and call 3 or 4 of them and invite them over so they can write a quote.

My in-laws write a to-do list on a piece of paper and write down appointments on a large paper calendar. Unbelievable!

To find out the bus and the train schedule, they walk to next block to inquire at the station. Magic!

My mother in law doesn’t look up Ricardo’s website when she is looking for inspiration to cook a good meal. She just walks into her butcher shop, sees what’s there and ask the butcher! How about the most tender pork loin today? Or perhaps a prime rib? Avec une sauce à la crème fraiche et aux champignons… Yummmm.

To connect with friends and relatives, they give them a phone call with their very simple pocket telephone, visit them for coffee, or bump into them at the market three mornings a week.

To find out where this or that store or service is located in their city, they pull an old paper map with a street chart, and maybe they even ask a stranger for directions…Tad-aaaa!

Every week they walk over to their bank and withdraw the amount of cash they need at the till until they run out and go back again. They don’t worry about paying their credit card bill on time as they don’t have such a thing!

To purchase the stuff they need, they just walk into a store and buy it, cash! Surprising isn’t it!

This is how we all used to function, not all that long ago. An efficient, simple way of life.  Moreover, without the use of technology, human connections are key. It’s refreshing and reassuring to know that, without technology, we still can.

As I am sitting in my in-laws living room typing up this blog post (that I don’t know when I am going to be able to post, by the way), I am dying to check with emails and get my updates on Facebook messenger. I keep checking on all the wifi networks discovered by my laptop in the building or nearby. Fourteen of them show a full signal. Twelve of them are mobile devices. Can’t wait for that darn SIM card to arrive.

But meanwhile, I am going to make a point to live and function without wifi and create more touch-points with humans, and who knows, perhaps even outsmart my smartphone!

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