The muttering retreats

Before I start complaining, here’s a treat:

M. Starik has put up some great new work from her trip to Rome!  I suggest you check it out, preferrably while sipping a nice cup of coffee this afternoon.

* * *

So it’s starting to look less and less likely that I’ll be able to afford a trip back to the US this summer. I’m still hoping that the cost of flights will go down a bit when the airlines realize that charging people obscene amounts of money is unlikely to be a good strategy for recuperating their volcano-related losses. I’m sad I won’t get to see my parents and friends for a while, and I’m especially sad to be missing the wedding of some people who are exceptionally dear to me. But fifteen hundred dollars for a plane ticket is highway fucking robbery.

Moreover, I’ve been getting a little edgy with Paris for the past few weeks. The brusqueness of the city has been getting to me. I’m tired of being run into on the street or in the market, apologizing like any normal human being, and being stared down like I’m some mal élevé punk. Today at Monoprix a guy swung around suddenly and slammed his shopping basket directly into my babymaker (sorry for that) and I winced slightly. “Pardon!” he barked angrily, as if it was I who had suddenly changed vector and injured someone in the process.

In another tale of Francophone frustration, all of the loose change under my bed amounted large jars of one, two, and five centimes (as well as a handful of pennies and some krone). Like any normal American, B wanted to sort the change, take it to the bank, and exchange it for cash. I laughed aloud and said that there was no way in hell you could do that at a French bank. He scoffed at me, carefully sorted and counted the change, and then left to prove me wrong (hoping to end up thirteen euro or so richer for his trouble). Poor guy. Apparently the people at my bank looked at him like he was raised in a barn when he came through the door with some jars of change. Not only did they refuse to give him any coin sleeves to sort the change, they claimed that they have no cash on the premises (coin or paper). At a bank. Not a 7-11. At a financial institution where people store their money with the idea that they will someday probably want to have access to it. B, daunted but not broken, visited three other banks with similar accounts of their incomprehensible place within the socius. One teller suggested B visit a currency exchange bureau, which still fill the streets of Paris despite the fact that nobody uses traveler’s checks or carries cash anymore as most people rely on ATMs to obtain foreign currency while traveling. B quickly discovered that these places are now just havens for pickpockets, who were blithely unloading wallets filled with diverse currencies on the counter of the bureau. Will a currency exchange bureau happily exchange piles of obviously stolen currency? Yes, yes they will. Will a currency exchange bureau exchange coin for cash, even for a fee? No, no they will not. Do said currency exchange places own change sorting machines? Yes, yes they do. Is France an entirely nonsensical country? You be the judge. B returned to my house two hours later, chagrined. I suggested that since it wasn’t really our money in the first place, we should just give it to a homeless person. Frayed to his last nerve, B said tartly, “Nice.  Now where exactly do you think that homeless guy would take it to turn it into cash?”

* * *

I finally kinda lost it today when we were running errands and decided that it would be nice to pick up a rotisserie chicken for lunch on the way back to my apartment. We walked right by the rotisserie place and the guy was out front with a dozen or so chickens and those yummy potatoes that they make in the drippings. As we had some other errands to run, we decided to swing by when we were done. A mere half hour later when we arrived back at the rotisserie place, we found it shuttered.  At 1:30 p.m. On a weekday. Upon further inspection, we read that the store was closed everyday for lunch from 1-4 p.m. Because of course one needs to take a three hour lunch every day. Of course.

Look, I’m not the person who is going to knock how the French do things. I get it – these are just basic cultural differences. Frankly I don’t always love how nicey-nice Americans are to strangers, or how the ridiculous lengths to which American service industry goes to because “the customer is always right,” or that a lot of people I know in the States take fifteen minute lunches and scarf their sandwiches at their desks. But sometimes being here makes me just feel achingly, frustratingly American.

* * *

Finally, we’ve been rewatching Arrested Development the past few weeks (even better than I remembered, BTW) and the streaming video site we are using has been doing these completely brutal Chipotle banner ads.  By “completely brutal,” I mean that they make me want a Chipotle burrito so bad that I actually hurt with frustration. B shares my despair that the closest we might be to American-style Mexican food of any iteration this summer might be Dolores in Berlin, so we both moan loudly whenever the banner ads come up. We’ve been fantasizing like jackasses about how awesome it would be to go to a generic American suburban shopping center for an afternoon to go to Target and eat at Chipotle.  Seriously, if I went into a Target right now my brain would probably explode from consumer glee.  Perhaps it’s better that I stay away for a while. Go eat some Mexican food for me.  Better yet, send me some refried beans or pickled jalapeños and and I’ll send you something delicious from France.

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2 comments

  1. sami

    Hey, I totally sympathize with the bank debacle. The process i had to go through to get the rest of my money out when i closed my account was more byzantine than Justinian. And the French incomprehension or refusal to even apologize for inconvenience can be frustrating. That said, I’ve been bemoaning how terrible the NYC subway is compared to the Paris metro. Also, the post office is way better there. Basically public services are better there. Private ones better here.
    Hana and I also hit up Chipotle yesterday and took it to Central Park. It was so satisfying.
    I’m sure I’ll be missing baguettes, cheese and rillettes soon enough.

    • lesbonsbonsdesraisons

      Aw, I hope there were black beans and guacamole on that burrito. Between that and your arrival pizza, I’m green with envy. We miss you guys! Paris isn’t the same without you.

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