Sunday, February 10, 2002

How I got online in Fredericton

This is the first full weekend that I am spending in Fredericton, and today I had the chance to experience the city a little bit more. I am staying at the Fredericton Inn, which is adjacent to the Regent Mall, which is on Regent Street.

Regent Mall has two big anchor stores - a WalMart, and a Sears. Fredericton is a place where almost everything remains closed on Sundays, with the exception of traffic lights and the pharmacies. Fredericton is the first place in North America that I have seen where the Walmart closes on Sundays, and on the remaining days closes at 10PM. Even in Waukesha (try and locate that place on a map) the Walmart remains open till midnight, every single day. And this nugget is for Indians - I saw a Bata store in Regent Mall!!! The first Bata store in North America I have come across! Can you imagine a more heartachingly lachrymose reminder of India? Bata - where almost everyone of us has bought his/her school shoes, the canvas shoes for sports day, the black shoes for the other days, the socks, the shoe horns, sigh! I wanted to go in the store, hug the store clerks (mostly young and very pretty Canadian girls), fall down on the floor weeping and walk out with a pair of shoes or two in my hand. I wisely desisted from this temptation because firstly I have to be in this town for at least another couple of months, secondly this is one of the few malls in Fredericton and I like malling on weekends, and thirdly I am perhaps the first Indian a lot of Frederictonites have ever seen in their lifetimes (Mowgli doesn't count) and I didn't want to go and ruin any chance there might still be of those people forming a good impression of Indians (Bay area residents think Lakireddy).

I digress. The main reason I was in the mall was to locate the local telephone company's store, where I wanted to sign up for internet access. See, mind-numbingly mystifying as it may seem to most of us in the technology profession, the New Brunswick Telcom company (that is also the largest provider of dial-up internet service here in the province) is helpful enough to provide a list of plans, dial-up numbers, and store locations on their web site, it does not however provide you with the option of signing up online. So I went to this store, and the lady asked me for a contact number, driver's license (don't ask me why, neither did I - word can spread that there is this difficult Indian in town), an address, and a credit card. She then gave me a CD (like the AOL CD) and sent me on my way. Like a puppy who has just received its first bone, I scampered back to the hotel, all awash with excitement and trembling with the anticipation of finally being able to go online at the hotel, started up the computer, inserted the CD, and waited. And waited. Till I realized that the CD software worked with Windows 95, 98, ME, XP - but not Windows 2000, that I have on my computer. This was a major letdown. Big letdown. HUGE letdown. Back to square one. That's where I was. And my detestation of this place had just gone up by a few more notches. I solved the connection problem anyway, the next day. There is another company that provides internet access - Brunnet. This company also has a web site, but again (maybe this is a cultural thing) no dial-up numbers or any other way to sign up online. Just a local number for me to call. Which I did. And the gentleman at the other end of the line asked me for a credit card, a sign up user id, and a password (and what kind of a sick person would I be, to not want to give out my dial up password to this nice gentleman. Huh? What do I have to hide?!!), and he gave me a dial up number to dial. Yup. One number, no more no less. With the promise that this number would work, most of the time. This time I was lucky - setting up a new dial up connection in Windows 2000 took about a minute, setting it up to dial from the hotel took another minute. And I dialed.

And it worked! It worked!!!!!!! And this is how I got online in Canada.
More later, to follow!

© 2002, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved. Posted to this blog June 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Fredericton - 1

(Note: I had written this travelogue in an e-mail to friends and family in 2002 to record my first impressions of the lovely town of Fredericton - the capital of the province of New Brunswick in Canada. Since I wrote it in the days of Hotmail and Yahoo, where users of the free email service got only 2MB of storage quota, and where these email providers deleted all emails from your account if you did not log in frequently enough, the only record I had of this email was a printout I had taken several years ago. Thankfully, I had not thrown away the printout, and while cleaning out paperwork, I stumbled across the printout. I scanned the printout and then used OCR - Optical Character Recognition - software to convert the scanned image into words. After that I pasted the text into this blog post and cleaned out the remaining errors of the OCR process. This is then the email I wrote on the sixth of February 2002, posted to a wider audience for the first time, in June 2013).

Now that I have been in Fredericton for 4 days, here are a few first impressions.

I landed at Fredericton airport on Saturday night, just after 11 PM. Well, at the airport, there are no frills like walkways to the plane - you use good old stairs to climb down from the airplane, and walk to the terminal, which by the way is about 15 feet from the plane. A nice gentleman was busy spraying the ground with salt to prevent the passengers from slipping and falling. On entering the terminal, used to as I am to walking a good distance to get to the baggage claim area, I almost walked out of the airport, before realizing that most of the people had stayed back. The baggage conveyor belt is all of 10 feet long, and runs very closely to a wall right next to the entrance of the terminal. Well, the conveyor belt ran for all of 5 minutes before a guy came along, switched it off and told us that the airline had forgotten to put any of the checked baggage on the plane from Toronto. The next flight from Toronto would get in only at 11 AM the next morning, so now it was off to the baggage claim office, which is another 15 yards away, pardon me, 45 feet away from the baggage belt. See everyone in Canada uses the metric system, like the rest of the world, only after living in the US for 6 years, it just seemed unnatural.

And after this small thing was taken care of I went over to the car rental counters, which are located between the baggage belt (yes, belt, as in the singular, as opposed to the plural, which would imply the existence of more than one belt) and the baggage claim desk, which puts it at about 22.5 feet from either. The lady at the Avis counter was very helpful, and gave me a map of Fredericton to help me find my way around the town. The map is another story.

Getting out of the airport, the feeling was, well, how shall I put it? Like a scene out of Fargo the movie, or something like one would expect from a Stephen King movie, say The Shining ... The airport is small, with a parking lot about one-tenth the size of San Jose's temporary parking lot, which by the way is a small airport. Hardly any lighting outside the airport; actually the airport facade reminded me of Jabalpur railway station, I dunno why. The Avis parking lot contained, what, about 5 cars, the Hertz lot something like 6 cars, and a total of about 10 other cars in the entire parking lot of the airport.

So anyway, I got in my car, started it up, waited for about 5 minutes for it to warm up, because the temperature outside was -10C (14F) and then exited the parking lot. Exit is perhaps too strong a word as it implies a drivable distance from the parking lot to the main road. KMart parking lots take a longer time to exit from. The road I took was NB102 West, which would take me to the city of Fredericton. Under the impression that NB102 is a state (or provincial) highway I expected some sort of a divided highway, which it is not. The road is for the most part a one lane road in either direction where the speed limit varies from mostly 50kph to 90-100kph for about a 100 meters or so before coming down to a more sedate 50kph (that is 30mph mind you). After driving some 15 minutes (I was slowed down because of the snow on the roads, Fredericton had been hit by a snowstorm a day earlier) I entered what I guessed to be Fredericton downtown, which is prime example of urban sprawl, occupying a grotesquely huge area of 4x4 blocks. Driving through the maze of downtown roads (another 3 1/2 minutes spent there) I was out of the town, and into what can best be described as pristine wilderness, marred only by the occasional fish hatchery, and a hydro-electric power plant. I had now driven some 20 km from the airport, and I had gone from outside the eastern city limits of Fredericton to outside the western city limits of Fredericton. The Holiday Inn is just off the highway, no road, and reminded me of the hotel in The Shining that Jack Nicholson goes to for the winters, only on a smaller scale. Very picturesque, and just as deathly quiet. I checked in, and fell asleep some 2 hours later.

More to follow - on Fredericton 'downtown' and the city in general.

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© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.