Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First day back.
My plane landed and I knew I was definitely back in Paris when three things happened today:
1. I ran into the back of a car on my vélib.' I was not paying much attention, thrilled to be flying on a bike in Paris again, when the car in front of me careened to a stop. I pulled my brakes hard, hard, hard, and only after my tire had already jolted with the bumper of the car. I awkwardly fell off, then picked up my bike and stormed to the front window of the car to deliver my best Parisian "I'm-a-seething-and-unhinged-driver (well-biker, but-still)" speech. The door to the car opened and I began my tirade...did he not see me behind him? Why would he stop like that in the middle of the road? But then something very un-Parisian happened. He interrupted me and asked if I was OK. What? I asked him to repeat it. I was so stunned as I rode away that I was still looking back at the man who had landed in Paris from the moon, when I remembered what I was doing (riding a bike) and panicked because right in front of me was another bumper I was about to hit once again. Swerving heavily, I missed it, but as I rolled past the window, the very-Parisian driver of this car yelled out scoffingly, "deux fois!" (two times!). He was mocking me and I beamed. I felt comforted. Yep, I was back.
2. Then, I went to Le Marais in search of a few things for a little soirée this evening (we were having a baby shower for a beautiful friend Aralena and I was in charge of dessert). A cake from a French pâtisserie. Perfect. I marched up to the pâtisserie I had been bouncing around and then holding in my head on my way and found that it was totally dark, with brown-colored paper lining all the windows. On the door, there hung a discrete sign, Entreprise fermée tout le mois d'aout (Closed for the month of August). The month? And like a plague that hits Paris every August, this little sign hung not not just on this pâtisserie's door, but on the doors of most small shops in Le Marais (and most other neighborhoods in the city). 5-weeks paid-leave. Butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers. They've all got it. Paris, the graveyard of August. Though they do keep enough open for tourists to scuttle through.
3. This next one was self-harm. I asked for it. I went to BHV. Yes. The day I returned to Paris after being gone for almost a month I went to BHV. Cuckoo. The list was short this time. Baby shower necessities: fabric paints and a ball of string (alright, fine, in no world are these things necessities). The paints - in and out - quick. The string, another thing. I walked to the knitting section and found a ball of blue string, picked it up and walked away with it. I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye lurking, staring a little, but assumed it was just your typical French girl in her measuring-you-up pose. I stood in front of the woman at the check-out (who was, fortunately or unfortunately, not Adeline. I did inquire if she was around though). Clucking tongue. Waving finger. Pointing in the direction of the balls of yarn. There is, of course, a "string measurer" to be seen first, who will measure your string and create a ticket. This might have made sense if the ball of yarn wasn't an already packaged thing, bar code staring straight up at me. If it needed to be measured, for instance. Saying nothing, I yielded. A long, string-wait ensued, watching the string girl make little tickets on tiny squares of paper for orders of tiny (already packaged) bundles of string. My turn was up. I handed her my yarn and she said, pleased with the situation, "You'll have to see my yarn colleague." Yarn colleague was, naturally, lurker from earlier (who didn't bother telling me about her job when I walked away with one of her products in my hands. She knew full-well that I would be halted and sent back). She had a little triumphant smile. I had one too. Mine was bigger than hers because this time I was thoroughly amused. It was all too good to be true. I eventually left BHV positively tickled. Seriously grinning. These guys are unbelievable.