⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

September 18, 2008

Rust | Rouille

I have big problems. A really hard life. For example, I have this problem with my desk.


I really love this desk. We found it at a flea market and it has served me well...until last week when I cleaned it with something strange and the entire surface of the desk rusted. A large fight ensued between Xavier and me. Comme d'habitude.

So this week, I wanted to fix it. I went to the Quincaillerie (hardware store) to search for the solution.

I walked in, said bonjour, and thought to myself, I really have no idea what I'm looking for. Then I told myself I did. I tried to locate the metal cleaning section, which included a range of words that I just do not use or know in French. So, I approached one of the workers in the shop. She was a middle-aged French one in a frock. I said, bonjour and explained that I had a desk.


I stopped because I did not know the word for rust and that was a really important element of what I needed to say.


I looked into her eyes (I always try the unrelenting eye-contact tactic to stir communication) and told her what was happening to my metal - it was turning red. There is only one word in English for that phenomenon. And I was confident the same word existed in French.

It was like playing go fish with her. She just kept telling me to go fish and I could only say the same thing like 5 times before even I was a bit convinced that rust was an occurrence that just does not occur here. Finally, when I seemed adequately exasperated to her, she used the word in her sentence. She slipped it in. Calmly. Like we had been using it the whole time. I pointed in the air - that word! Can you say it again? Empty/blank stare. And then she did it again. The tricky thing was that rouille is in the genre of French words that gets me. The ou i lle is basically a sound that does not exist in my mouth. And I try. I swear. But I really must applaud her performance. Unflappable.

So, after establishing that we were talking about rust, she told me she had nothing. Clucking, she told herself that she had some products to protect against it, but otherwise nothing. My face fell. Pleased, she led me to some "strong water," which, it appeared, would do exactly what I needed. I stopped myself from appearing too satisfied, for fear it would preclude her from helping me further. I scanned the rest of the shelf and saw a product that looked like it might do the same thing, but with a bit more force. I reached for it and she reached out and covered the product with her hand. No.

You cannot take this one, she said to me.

But I just want to have a look, I replied.

Absolutely not. It is not relevant for your problem. No.


She led me away from that section, directing me like a kid away from something she can't touch or play with, to get gloves and steel wool. I kept looking back longingly at the aisle. She kept trying to hold my gaze. I told her I wanted to have another look around and she looked at me distrustfully. Of course I went straight back to get it, took it and held it in my hands, contented. I went to pay.

Daggers. She was heated. In fact, she wouldn't let me purchase the other product. She took it, placed it safely behind the register and kept it there. I wanted to lie and tell her it was for a different (but very similar) problem, but then I just decided to surrender to her will.

Ah well. I went home and I've now cleaned the desk a bit and with a lot of work I think the "strong water" will work. We shall see.


Marc said...

polyeurothane will definitely seal the metal and prevent it from oxidizing more. It gives it a wet look though. oh those frenchies.

emilie said...

ah - my marc! i should have consulted you from the get-go...you with your welding skills and intimate knowledge of metal. silly me.

Julie said...

I love that desk and unfortunately unwittingly contributed to the rust problem for which I apologize, but it sounds like you have plenty of people who are helping solve it. I loved the store description because I coudl just picture that French lady controlling your consumption patterns. You are not allowed to look at what you want to and she will make sure you certainly can not purchase it. We're off to a doula appointment (and by we - I mean Joyce and I. She's my assistant/apprentice).

bdmalouf said...

hahah! cherie!! i can find something for you here. i have gotten things for my sister to get out rust. i will ask her the name and you can place an online order. i am sure it will work! (or, you can marvel at the french ladies surrounding you)

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