Thursday, September 20, 2012

Les Olives et le Mini Four

The first three sentences, starting with ”The reason…”,  are from my response to an email from Mysti. 

It inspired the rest of this post.


The reason I am asking for the ones at the house is that I bought a set of four “100% Coton” dish towels at Bazaar de Hôtel de Ville.  They may be 100% cotton but the weave of them makes them almost impervious to the absorption of water.

I have already had enough “quests”.

For instance: I have bought a toaster oven – un mini four – and put the microwave – le micro onde – in the cellar locker. 

I bought the mini four in French with the front end caveat of “je ne pas parle Francaise” to the nice young woman who had the misfortune of being my sales person.  As I was saying that a look  that seemed to say “why me lord?” passed across her pretty face. 

Given my accent I think she thought that I was Bulgarian, and she was damn sure that she couldn’t understand Bulgarian.

But she didn’t say anything. 

So I just kept talking. 

And, having warned her, I talked in my version of French.

I told her that I wanted to buy one of the mini fours on display.

She said something warmly – in French -  supportive of the idea.

Then she asked me –again  in French – had I measured the space where I wanted to put le four and, correspondingly, had I measured le four to assure congruity with that space? 

For some reason having nothing to do with my ability at understanding French I knew what she was saying and responded “mais oui” and showed her my little quarter fold yellow sheet of paper with all the critical dimensions. 

It also had my grocery list. 

I don’t think she was impressed by my choice of groceries.

Then I took the tape measure that I had bought  a few days before at le Bazaar and showed her that. 

She was highly approving.

When we were finished with the transaction, she said to me in English “your French is fine.” 

It was a fun transaction.

But, I believe, I can report an even more monumental achievement.

The first day I was here I went down to Laurent Dubois Fromagerie on Boulevard St-Germain for fromage blanc etc. 

I also really wanted a couple of empty fromage blanc containers to buy olives with.  My olive man was there because it was samedi and the samedi marché was in full swing. 

And my olive man always shows up for le samedi marché. 

So after asking for and receiving le demi kilo de fromage blanc lisse, du rocamadour et une petite tranche du Roquefort I said something to the nice lady who was serving me. 

She looked at me and said something back. 

I said something else back. 

We went back and forth this way for several iterations. 

I think she was having fun. 

I don’t think she had ever had that long a conversation with someone speaking, or trying to speak, a cobbled up version of her native tongue without one side either understanding the other side, or giving up and walking off in opposite directions muttering curses.

Bur I persisted.  I have no idea why.

The transition came when, finally, by using pantomime and the words “des olives”,  and a grand gesture in the general direction of the olive concession, a light went on in her eyes. 

Those were the eyes of a human being doing her absolute best to figure out what it was that I seemed to want.

Voila, in that instant the light of revelation had gone on.  She had figured it out.

She laughed gaily and said something that I didn’t understand, but that I knew what it was, and she handed me two empty plastic containers and lids.

Then she gave me a little French lesson in how to ask for the fromage blanc in a more expeditious manner than I had employed. 

I was able to repeat to her satisfaction what it was that she was telling me to say.

I even understood what it meant at that moment.

Of course I immediately forgot it as I went out to speak French with a Bulgarian accent at the olive concession.

The nice lady didn’t charge me for the containers.

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