Friday, July 13, 2007

Ces't la vie

The French are a contradictory bunch. They have genius ideas. For instance: Starting July 15, the city government of Paris is installing these really cool contraptions all around town that allow you to rent a bicycle for the day with your credit card. I think it starts with 1 euro for the first hour, and then it goes up. I will take a picture so you can see how cool. Now, whether they are going to work is a different story.

Bea has been trying to contact someone at the Lost and Found department in Air France for a month. The best we could do yesterday, after personally going to the Air France office facing the Luxembourg gardens (the employee couldn't find the number, had to ask the supervisor, couldn't find a piece of paper where to write down the number, didn't have a pen handy) was to get a number for an answering machine. She told us we can leave a message there describing the lost object and they will get back to us. In mortal fear, but with great courage and conviction, I sit down and write the speech for Bea in French. I believe that addressing them in French will open the floodgates to their hearts.
Je m'appelle bla bla, j'ai perdu mon portable bla bla, si vous plait etc, etc. I dial the number. A recording in French: "We're sorry this phone isn't working right now, we care a lot about you, try your miserable luck again later".
Not ones to be easily defeated, we dial again the following day. Voilá! Another recording: "This is the lost and found office at Air France. In order for us to help you, you have to send us a letter in writing describing with microscopic precision the object that you lost. Write your name, permanent address, home and office telephone numbers and kiss your beloved possessions goodbye because it is entirely possible that we will not find them anyway and if we do, nothing guarantees that we will feel compelled to return them to you with alacrity. If you can sign the letter in blood and have it notarized by Napoleon himself, all the better."
Do these miscreants realize that asking a tourist to compose a missive, find an envelope, go to the poste, get in line, buy a stamp, etc, etc, is absolutely absurd in this day and age? What is this, 18 Brumaire?
And yet, for instance: The Paris Film Festival offers cool guided audiotours. They have absolutely nothing to do with the movies, but who cares? There is one for the Marais and one for Belleville. You can download the Belleville one directly to your iTunes. The Marais one, you go pick up the device and headphones at a movie theater in the Marais, leave your i.d. and voilá, you have a very cool tour of the neighborhood. It's read (I did it in French of course) by a breathy young actress with a sexy purr that would make Les Invalides rise again. For free. No hassle. Delightful. The fun part is that she gives you the code to the building where her mother works, or she tells you to go into a bookstore that otherwise you'd probably ignore and instructs you to go up the stairs where they have these amazing posters. I thought it was real fun.
My logic tells me that when it comes to culture, the French really make it easy. But if you happen to fuck up with your keys or lose something or demand the slightest bureaucratic effort, you will rue the day.

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