Tuesday, December 10, 2013

La Carte Fidélité


Here is another Screen Saver excerpt.

Grocery shopping in Paris is always an adventure for me.

There was the time when Champion had recently implemented a frequent shopper card.

The checkout clerks always asked if you had a Champion card before they toted up the final tally.  I had been saying "non", because I didn’t have a Champion card.

But I did have two frequent shopper cards from groceries in the United States, so I knew that those cards could save significant money. With every “non” I had thought about asking how to get one because I knew that the card could save a lot of money, if only I had had one. 

But that idea died every time it occurred to me because, although I was sure I would be able to frame the request in French, I was equally sure that I would be unable to understand whatever they might say in reply. I was in that no man’s land where one is able to "say" things but not able to "hear" things. I knew that if I said “non, mais comment peut on?” they would reply to me and I would stand gaping for understanding like some gigantic toad who had mistakenly forsaken the safety of the underside of some rock.

I was also reasonably sure that that there would be subtlety and nuance associated with the request for a card and its related processes that would be beyond my cultural ability to grasp or understand.

So one day I was checking out. I had several bottles of Corbierre. I had bought bottles of the same wine several times previously because the wine was really cheap and really good. I had figured out that there was a discount available off the price at the register if one had a carte Champion. After the ritual “vous avez une carte Champion?” I had said “non, Madame, merci”. She had said something else in response.  I was in the process of formulating something pleasant sounding but indecipherable when I realized that she had asked me if I would like to get “une carte Champion”.  Since something was about to come out of my mouth anyway, the easiest thing to do seemed to be to say “oui, merci”.

Suddenly without thinking I had thrust myself center stage in the checkout line. I had had illusions of being referred to the service desk, which was right behind me. That thought had loomed as disastrous enough of an option, but much to my horror the checkout clerk started telling me about the application form, which she was handing to me to fill out. Meanwhile the shoppers behind me in line would have to wait while I filled out the form.

The young woman immediately behind me had already bumped me purposefully several times with her leather shopping bag, to what purpose I had been unable to conclude, but she was obviously upset about something, perhaps about me, perhaps about something else, one never knew in a Parisian checkout line.

Perhaps she had sensed in that Bush-poisoned era that I was a card carrying American, and felt the Gallic need to comment.

Perhaps she had been experiencing a generally bad day, although it was only about 11:00, and the French don’t get out much before 10:00, except all the entrepreneurs who hit the streets before daylight, opening their shops and stalls and stores.

Perhaps she was an entrepreneur, and had heard that she had been cast into non-existence by Bush’s remark that the French don’t even have a word for entrepreneur.

In that event - if she had thought that I was an American - that might have been the reason for the bumping. No one likes to be characterized as non-existent, especially by an idiot.

I had taken the more optimistic view that I was an old man and just an obstacle in her way, not an additional contributor to her dissatisfaction with the state of the day.

Suddenly that had changed.

With the need to fill out that form in French in France I had achieved in one fel swoop the capability of contributing massively and directly to her unrest.

I would have had trouble completing that form in English in America.

My form filling out would also probably shatter what had been, up to that point in time, the apparent placidity of the other members of the queue. Or so I feared.

I was really rattled.

But I got through the process, and the kind hearted clerk said “pas problem” about the fact that I had put my address in the “pronom” slot and both my first and last names in the “nom” slot and then to fix those problems had put my “pronom” in the address slot, had scratched out my “pronom” from the address slot next to my “nom” and solved the whole disarray with arrows pointing hither and yon, indicating what the actual locations of the various form components should be.

I thought that my printing had been quite good given the circumstances.

And I got my Champion card, which included three little key chain attachable versions, and I got 1.5 Euros off at the register.

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