“I spend most of my year in the South of France,” I tell people when they ask where I live. They swoon. I smile and change the subject. Why? Because of days like today.
I set out to run a few quick errands before starting my work day: Drop off things at the tailor, pick up new yearly calendars at Gilbert Joseph, pay the electric bill at La Poste. Pick up a Coke for Cal on the way home, and Bob’s your uncle.
First stop, the tailor. She’s at the end of our block, and before I get into this tale of woe let me state for the record that she is a very, very nice woman. I brought her three items to fix, and after the usual pleasantries I took the items out of the bag, showed each of them to her, and told her what needed to be done on each of them.
After about 10 minutes of discussion, she says, “OK, this is good, but I cannot work with these, they have dust and cat hair on them.” We have a cat, and while she is delightful she does shed. However, these items were not particularly hairy or dusty. They’ve been in a bag on the front door knob for about a week. “I have allergies, I cannot work with clothes that are like this. Can you please clean them and bring them back? Perhaps you could…” She mimed a lint roller.
“Do you have one here? I could do it right now.”
“No. Merci! A bientot!” And she turned to greet the next customer.
Really, lady? A tailor without a lint roller? OK. See you soon, then.
Next stop, La Poste. They were now closed for lunch. Quel surprise! They were not opening up again for another hour, so I popped into Gilbert Joseph to pick up the calendars. If you’re not familiar with them, Gilbert Joseph is a national chain of bookstores that carry everything from books for home and school to notebooks, pens, DVDs, and stationery supplies. These calendars are large hard cardboard posters with six months on one side and six months on the other, each month in a straight vertical line. They include highlighted holidays and overlapping vertical lines to indicate when school is out in the different regions of France. They cost about two bucks, and we’ve found them to be essential for planning out trips and visitors and other far-off events – as well when to get to the store before a holiday we weren’t aware of shuts the country down for a full day or more.
I’m describing them in such detail because, with the day I am having, no Internet search is bringing up an image of these calendars. I did find one that featured nothing but chickens, though. Anyway, just believe me that they are awesome.
I go to the registers and there they are in a stack, as usual. But this year, they made them using a different design – one that I could barely stand to look at for 12 seconds, let alone 12 months. Electric blue and cherry red, it was hard to focus on the actual information provided. I returned them to the stack and went to the back of the store to look for other calendars. I found two I liked – one hangs on the back of the front door, and one in the back of the house where I work – and paid for them. Eleven euro instead of three, thank you, have a nice day.
Back to La Poste, carrying a large bag of diseased clothing and two calendars the size of catering trays. Still not open, and now there’s a crowd forming outside. Fine, I’ll go back home, get some work done, come back when the initial rush has died down.
I turned around to find a protest, a news crew and cars backing up and rerouting down St. Guilhelm, which is now pedestrian-only, and the sun is in the drivers’ eyes so it looks like one of those car chase scenes where people are diving out of the way, and one of the lowered pylons that let drivers into the restricted area deactivated and was now lifting a small car off the ground, and the old lady inside isn’t sure what’s happening, and people in general are confused and alarmed and yelling to the point where you couldn’t be sure who were the protesters and who was trying to help the old lady stranded in her car two feet off the ground.
Wow. OK, heading home now. I get home, do some work, lint-roll the hell out of the clothes, then head out again at three to drop them off and pay the electric bill.
I get to the tailor – now she’s closed for lunch.
As many services do nowadays, La Poste works on a ticketing system. When you enter you go up to the machine, press the button for the service you want, and a ticket with your number on it pops out. And, that’s exactly what I did. I looked at my ticket: 212. I looked at the display: 170. Sigh.
I grabbed a seat and waited. An hour later, they were at 189. I handed my ticket to the lady beside me and walked out.
Now, you may think I should have just stuck it out at La Poste. And, normally I would; but today it’s quite cold here, which means that the dogs-on-a-string people who hang out in the small park across the street chose this afternoon to warm their bones in the overheated confines of the cramped room of La Poste. So in addition to upwards of 50 cranky people juggling packages and glaring at the customers who were filing out forms at the counter – because no matter what you do at La Poste, there’s a lengthy form for it, and no one thinks to fill it out beforehand – there were about a half-dozen stinky, homeless punks in Pancho Villa shawls drinking beer, yelling anti-Sarkozy chants and encouraging their dogs on strings to fight each other.
The electric bill will be paid another day.
Back down to the tailor, who was now open and greeted me like an old friend. I brought out the hermetically sealed clothing, and she praised me for being a diligent housewife. Ahem. Then she asked me to explain again what I wanted done on each item. When again I came to the part about the zipper that needed to be replaced, she held up her hand.
“I am not sure I have a zipper here.” I was about to ask her if she was sure she was a tailor, but she had already skipped off to grab a hat box filled with zippers. She brought it back over and rifled through a rainbow of zippers, calling out each color. No black zippers. “Could you perhaps go and buy a zipper for the pants, and bring it back to me?”
I looked at her pointedly, grabbed a midnight blue zipper, and said, “This one is fine. No one looks at my zipper.”
My expression told her the matter was closed. We moved over to her enormous, red leather date book, and she seemed surprised to announce that she could have them done at noon on Christmas Eve day. She wrote out in longhand each item, explaining back to be what was to be done, stamped it, and handed it to me.
It’s now coming on 4.30 in the afternoon. I’ve done maybe 15 minutes of work so far. I bought Cal his Coke, thrust it and the electric bill at him, and told him he is welcome to try his luck at La Poste on Monday.