This is the scene each evening as we check into a hotel somewhere and try to get connected. NOT on the bedcovers tonight are the two adapters that worked only with English outlets, the "universal adapter" that we accidentally left plugged into a wall someplace, the two telephones that worked in France but not here in Germany, and of course the camera John took this picture with.
The next step is to search for an outlet. It may be behind the bed or in back of the immovable clothes cupboard, but there's pretty sure to be one. We're reminded of a trip to Berlin during the drama of the airlift. We were staying with one of the American pilots flying those round- the- clock deliveries, who told us in a disenchanted tone, "In a German apartment they give you an outlet in every room whether you need one or not."
Tonight the outlet was in plain sight beside the bed, but with no shelf to hold up the adapter and plug which fall out if not supported. John set his suitcase on end, stacked our bathroom kits on top of that and with a tangerine for tomorrow's picnic from the car, we were ready to try to make an Internet connection.
This is done in a creatively different way in each place we've been that offers it (about half the time, as we gravitate to out-of-the-way spots that barely have electricity). "Mais oui, Madame! Of course we have the WiFi!" "Ja, ja, naturlich haben wir WiFi!" The cost varies from no charge to the equivalent of $10 per day for each iPad, and the code (at one stopover it was 14 digits and letters long) may and -- more likely -- may not bring up the little umbrella icon meaning You're On. For every minute we've spent writing emails, I'm sure we've spent five minutes battling the system (and enhancing our vocabulary of expletives).
It's all very new and marvelous and exciting when it works: to be in touch . . . right now!! But we sometimes think back wistfully to the first messages we sent from Europe 65 years ago, when the biggest technical challenge was that the pencil had to be sharpened.