Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ou Est l’Economist?

The other address that I changed was with The Economist.

It was surprisingly easy. I just hit "Manage My Account" and entered the information they wanted and I went right to an account management function that allowed me to, among other things, change the address to which my copy of the magazine (they call it a newspaper, but it looks like a magazine to me; the reference must look back to the time of Bagehot and Macaulay when it may have been in another form than it is in today; even in my short time of subscribing I have seen it go from a black and white only publication to an extensive user – obviously – of Photoshop and blazing color) was to be mailed.

Making that change was a heart rending experience. I actually read a lot of the publication each week. It is the only periodical I subscribe to and it is the only non video form of information that I include in my life. And it makes a great companion for an hour or two in the afternoon at Le Bonaparte, or Depart St Michel, or Brasserie Mazarine or La Palette, along with a demi pichet of some suitable wine. So The Economist is a key part of my personal infrastructure. Sending it off to some address in Paris that I had no faith – as I've already mentioned – I would receive anything at was a daunting action. But I decided, "What the hell."

Actually, if I took the viewpoint that the worst case would be the publication would go off to France never to be seen by me, I was no worse off, assuming that I could change it back to my Seattle address after the Paris sojourn, because if I didn't change the address there would just be a huge pile of unread back issues when I went to the post office to retrieve my hold mail, and as devoted as I might be to the magazine, I am not devoted enough to try to read four months of back issues.

So the real issue was trying to get something that I have already paid for sent to me in Paris rather than having to spend an additional five and a half Euros a week to get it in Paris from a news stand. The address change seemed to be a good thing. It was supposed to take about five or so business days, so by the time I was to move in, it seemed reasonable to think that, assuming my previous no mail in Paris curse didn't once again prevail, I should start getting the magazine by the fourteenth or the fifteenth.

The fifteenth came and the only thing I had received was the pizza ad junk mail. After my amazing success at the post office the day before I considered going back to that post office and looking for the guy that had helped me to get my stamped envelope and see if I could deliver another "Bravo" inducing performance, this time in support of finding out why I wasn't getting any mail. I was pretty sure that there was a conditionally subjunctive verb form that one had to be born French to know how to employ to pursue a line of questioning involving the vagaries of "Why am I not…" so I pretty much abandoned the idea.

The day was really nice. On my way to get bread that morning, as I passed the back side of Notre Dame and its courtyard garden I saw a really interesting sight. There are several trees growing up against the iron fence that encloses the garden and one of them is laden with massive flower heads. Apparently wood pigeons like something that is part of those flower heads because the tree was full of birds actively ripping pieces of something from the midst of the heads. The tree is so close to the sidewalk and the birds were frequently so close to eye level right there from the sidewalk that the situation presented an amazing video opportunity, if only I had brought my camera. Long ago I adopted the maxim that it is invariably a bad idea to walk anywhere in Paris at any time without a camera. The only exception I usually make to that maxim is when I'm carrying a market basket. Market basket or not, the maxim had again proven true.

I considered going back to the apartment for the camera, it wasn't far, but I decided that I would go get my bread, return to the apartment and then come back out with the camera. Perhaps the birds would still be there. They certainly looked committed to their task for the long haul.

So I was walking back up Quai aux Fleurs to Quai L'Archeveque, after dropping off my bread and my basket, to see if the birds were still ripping the flowers asunder at eye level when it happened.

I had just passed a woman who was wheeling a sort of canvas box on legs down the Quai. Before I had passed her, as I was just approaching her, she stopped and keyed the entry code to an entry way, took some things out of the canvas box on wheels and went in. "The mailman" I thought to myself.

She was entering the building. I was just passing by the open door where she had gone in. I had just thought "the mailman".

Suddenly on top of that triune simultaneity a voice literally shouted in my head: "THE MAILMAN? THE MAILMAN? WHAT A WINDFALL!"

I started back to intercept her when she emerged from her delivery in the building to tell her where I lived and… But that conditional subjunctive which I was sure needed to be employed and that had been denied to me by not having been born French reared its ugly head once again. So I turned on my heel and started back to the birds.

But this was too great an opportunity to not attempt some sort of contact and question. But what would it be?

I was about half way to the birds – that's not far from where I live or where the postal lady was working her way down the Quai – when I had an inspiration. If I could point to my mailbox when the mail lady was in front of it, and ask, "Vous avez L'Economist?' Some sort of meaningful dialogue might ensue, not requiring complex conditionals.

So I turned on my heel again – people were beginning to notice and probably wonder if I had some kind of directional disability – and headed back to the lady, who had progressed down one more doorway. That doorway was maybe ten or eleven from mine. So, if I pursued my current plan, I was going to be shadowing her down the key like some kind of stalker. That seemed to me to be a bad idea, so I turned on my heel again. I decided fate was going to have to have some part in the encounter. I calculated that the number of doors she needed to service exceeded the time it would take me to go take pictures of the birds and get back to my doorway. I would pass her not far from my place on my return from the pictures and I would enter my door and wait for her inside.

The obvious flaw in that idea didn't occur to me until I had passed her wheeled box a comforting number of doors from mine on my return from taking pigeon videos – they are posted two down from this post if you want to see them – and had entered my building. The interior is kind of dark, and if I just sat on the stairs and waited for her I decided I was flirting again with stalker-like behavior. So what should I do? I decided to go up a flight and sit there. But the thought of sitting there if one of my fellow tenants came down the stairs seemed to me to be a sub-optimal social action.

So I decided to go back to the entry, look out and see if I could see how close she was, or with any luck, she might just be entering my building. I could handle that. That didn't seem to be something that would look obviously contrived. So I opened the door. Her cart was a couple of doors down and she was in that building delivering the mail.

I decided to go out of my building and cross over to the other side of the Quai, feign looking at the river and wait until she had entered my building and I could cross over and enter and ask about my magazine.

Luckily there was traffic that made my staying on my side the prudent thing to do. Luckily she was moving rapidly toward my door. Just before I would have had to cross over to keep up appearances she started to key the entry code to my building. I waited a moment and then followed her in. I had waited almost too long because she was already on her way out. In desperation I caught her eye said "Madame, sil vous plait" and lunged back in the building with the door open so that she could see the array of mail boxes as I pointed to mine and said – something in French; I have no idea what; I doubt that it had much if anything to do with the mail; but it caught her attention. She said, and I got a couple key words, "oh, you're the new guy?" and she also pointed to my mailbox.

I said "Oui, je suis Noel." And then I said something about the Economist and she asked me to look in my mailbox. And there it was, my first piece of mail in France.

It doesn't take much sometimes to make my day.

No comments:

Post a Comment