Somewhere in this blog or its sibling I have gone on at some length about the always unique (meant in its purest French meaning o the word) experience of entering a Paris apartment for the first time. An – I had hoped at the time when I wrote it – entertaining episode in Screen Saver tells the story of the time Mysti and I entered our first Paris apartment for the first time. I think the later discussion in some blog of mine that I am referring to had as its point that one of the many endearing characteristics of my current landlord is that the first time I ever entered the first apartment that I ever rented from him, I was able to get in just as the directions said I would be able to get in with no adventures at all. While that may have been disappointing due to its lack of adventure, it was really pleasant from the standpoint of wear and tear on Noel McKeehan. After all, if each of us at birth has some assigned budget of all things in their kind, I had the feeling that my budget of new apartment entry wear and tear was nearing its maximum; since I wasn’t sure what happens to a person who has reached some budgetary maximum ( implode? explode? just fade into oblivion?) I was pleased to have eluded decrementing mine yet again with that now somewhat in the distant past entry.
I have now – as of this moment, the day after the new apartment first time entry with which I am about to regale my non-existent readership – made first time entries five times in apartments Thierry has rented me. And each was uneventful, with the instructions working flawlessly and the doors opening on first attempt with the key. It should be mentioned that two of the five were repeat rentals, so the fact that, at a date later than that uneventful first first time entry I could repeat the event probably doesn’t count, but I am including them for a reason to which I will get in a moment.
As this story turns out to twist, the apartment that I entered yesterday was that exact first apartment I ever rented from Thierry. Although I didn’t exactly remember its layout, I had a pretty good idea of the method of entry the, the nature of the entry chamber and the kind of stairs. In any event, I had Thierry’s always impeccable instructions, so what could possibly go wrong. In fact, the thought that anything could possibly go wrong, just hadn’t occurred to me.
In the place of worrying about any entry problems I had substituted a mild sense of impending doom which flowed form anticipation of the physical act of the impending move itself: the mechanics of getting two deleteriously stuffed Hartmann roller bags, an equally deleteriously stuffed Hartmann satchel and an amazingly full-of-stuff-with-still-some-room Targus 17 inch size computer back pack from Quai aux Fleurs on Isle de Cité to Rue Guénégaud on the left bank. Three weeks previously I had made the roughly opposite trip from Rue Jacques Callot and it hadn’t been a whole lot of fun. It took three trips. First the smaller of the two rollers with the satchel perched on it as an appendage turned into a much more than expectedly unpleasant traverse; the bag kept wanting to assume a 90 degree attitude from horizontal every time it encountered a cobble stone or irregularity in the travel surface. Paris has an ample supply of those things. Second, the larger of the rollers was a more steady traveller and, not having a fifty percent additional payload perched on its pull handle made it a much easier pull, but the sixty pounds of computer and camera gear in the back pack more than made up for any improvement coming from Hartmann. Actually, however, I was surprised. The back pack was the single best thing to transport. I wouldn’t have thought a 68 year old would have a lot of success walking a mile or so in the mid day crowds of the streets of Paris with that kind of a load on his back, but I did it.
And, at the time being here described, I was about to do it again. And any previous success notwithstanding, I was not looking forward to it. But I am just too cheap to pay for a taxi to do a job that any pack animal ought to be able to accomplish. I will admit that when I had first awakened around 0900 the fact that it was pouring rain gave me a hopeful twinge of doubt about the advisability of eschewing a cab, but, just as the weather report had said, and as I have seen on so many previous occasions, at about 1030 the clouds parted and the sun came out.
And the appointed hour was rapidly approaching and all the bags were packed and ready to go. All that was necessary was to select in which sequence the paired bags would go. Which would be first and which would be second? By default I had assumed that the market bag full of bottles of stuff would be last as it had been on its previous transit. But finally I decided to do that one - which was the one I least wanted to do because it was the most work, and unpleasant work at that. The reasons for that unpleasantness hadn’t been apparent until I had made the transport the first time. After all the market bag was an old friend, having made the trip across the Atlantic and back so many time that I had lost count. And once in Paris it had always been the ultimate transportation tool: light, flexible, copious in carrying capacity; I had never suspected that it had any bad traits. But it does when used in the way I was using it.
For example, the bag is just heavy enough to be a real drag on the whole superstructure of whichever side of my body I chose to carry it, which made it necessary to indulge in stops and starts to shift the pendulum-like thing from one hand to the other. All of this made the endeavor a sort of herky-jerky stumble of a trip with multiple “pardons” as I tried to take advantage (had to accommodate it is a more accurate description) of the additional ground speed that the vector of motion that the forty pound palm leaf woven Paris market bag full of various kinds of bottles of things that I wanted not to have to buy a second time and so which I was transporting to the new location contributed incrementally to my horizontal trajectory. The added speed of that trajectory lead to many nearly unpleasant encounters with people whom I had overtaken in my forward rush – many of those people being of the opinion that the streets of Paris were intended for slow aimless meandering which was totally at odds with my trajectory - hence many “pardons” as I entered the outer reaches each of these aimlessly wandering little communities, wormed my way into, through and by it and looked with dismay into the not distant road ahead where more of the species lurked. But in the end the bag and I both got to our destination with the contents intact.
But that was a description of the trip to Quai aux Fleurs, and background for why I had intended to put off its duplication until the last trip of the day, and why instead, I decided to bite the bullet and put it first. I did put it first, and while the trip resembled its predecessor, it didn’t duplicate it. Almost before I had successfully completely entered the comatose state that I find effective in dealing with physical pain I saw the sign Rue Guénégaud. I was nearly to my new doorway!
And then I was at my new doorway. I entered the code. It worked. And then I was inside the inner sanctum, the dimly lit space between the outside and the real inside. That inner space is always separated from the inner inner space, when an apartment building has adopted this particular type of entry format, by a glass door. Entry is accomplished through that glass door to the inner space with the use of another code. I entered that code. It worked. Then I was really in. I could tell that because it was dark as night. But I knew that what one does then is look for the little glowing spots on the wall. Those little glowing spots activate the lights so one can see to go where one needs to go. They activate the lights, but the spirits that control those little glowing things don’t brook those who would tarry. Of course I know that. Of course I didn’t tarry.
Once up the stairs to the landing and down the hall toward where, I was beginning to remember my apartment was, I attenuated that hall’s total darkness by pushing the little glowing thing that inevitably appeared, as they always do at such times of total darkness, and walked down the hall thanking the spirits of the little glowing thing.
And then I was at my new doorway. All I needed to do was enter the code to the key lock to get the key to the apartment, put that key into the lock, turn that key in the just-so manner and voila! I would be in the apartment. I would have notched another flawless new apartment first time-entry to my belt of Paris apartment entries.
It was at the point of getting the key out of the safe and inserting it in the lock that things took an abrupt turn for the worse.
I just happened, for no apparent reason, to glance to my right, which was back in the direction that I had just come. I noticed something that momentarily didn’t register in the sinister way that it was about to register. I just saw what appeared to be a drip of water, probably from the rain. “But the rain stopped some time ago; I went through a little wetness on the paving and cobbles, but nothing to bring that amount of water in with me, across the marble entry hall, across the marble inner sanctum hall, up the carpeted staircase to the first floor and down the hexagonal brick floor all the way to just back from my new door” I said to myself. In fact, as I looked a little more closely, there was a puddle right in front of the door, right next to, and under and beside the basket.
“Oh shit”, I thought. “Did the olive oil come open?”
I knelt down and put a finger in the liquid. Olive oil it was.
The real story starts here. But this prologue has already gotten long enough to tax even non-existent readers – I know it has taxed me – and, although I said at the outset, that the pain related to the events which I am about to describe faded much more quickly than I had expected, leaving the inevitable and always welcome post-disaster residue of intense humor; right now the telling of this has reminded me more of the pain.
So I am going to defer the rest of the story to another day.