Excusez-Moi de Vous Déranger, Mais…
Special note: This week I am in Nice devoting my writing time to writing the memoire about “Viager with a View” and therefore, what you are about to read is a past issue I hope you agree is worth reading again (with a few updated edits). This one was sparked by a conversation this week with Theresa Conroy, once a Daily News Staff Writer who also knew Polly Platt and who wrote her own article about her titled “Know Thy French – Customs, That Is.” Monday the usual current nouvellettres® resume.
EXCUSEZ-MOI DE VOUS DERANGER, MAIS…
(First Published Wednesday, January 7, 2009)
Any American who has ever attempted to live in France has been helped over the cultural crossings by her profound insight into the French psyche and amused by her sharp wit. Her name is Polly Platt.
I have written of her often. She told her humorous stories at numerous conferences and events we have sponsored. She was a colleague, a friend and a guiding light. On December 26th, Polly left the world “after a bad pneumonia in Vienna, surrounded by her family,” as her daughter, Sacha, informed me just a few days ago (January 2009).
Polly Platt was one of the rare Americans on the Paris scene, having lived here more than 40 years, who will stand out as having made serious impact on the American community living here. She taught us how to understand the French, maneuver just about any situation and most importantly, how to enjoy the French and their very unique culture. If it weren’t for Polly, I would never have learned how to say, “Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais…” and get whatever I wanted or needed.
I first met her at a book reading in the late ’90s. She had only written one book then — “French or Foe” — and it had been self-published, but quickly flying off the bookstore bookshelves. It was read it cover to cover, taking it on the bus or Métro and carrying it everywhere like a bible. One instance, a young boy saw me reading it and got very enthused to tell me that Polly was a friend of his mother’s — he felt so special to boast of it! Then, a friend from New York laid claim to having ‘house-sat’ her apartment one summer only to uncover a diamond she has lost from her ring, to which Polly was forever grateful. It was ‘two degrees of separation’ and the connection glued me to her just a bit stronger.
Polly was warm and friendly, completely curious, a bit ‘ditzy’ and marvelously funny. We became fast friends and even though she was a master story-teller and I just a budding writer, she never stopped encouraging me and ‘propping’ up my writer’s ego. We would meet for lunch at a little bistrot I’d recommend (as the ‘official’ restaurant critic and guide writer between the two of us), arriving on her bike in even the most inclement weather, and then beg to hear some of my experiences as a newcomer to France.
One such story ended up being told in her second book, “Savoir-Flair! 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French.” On page 115, Chapter 9 titled, “Enjoying French Customer Service,” Polly relates an experience I had attempting to buy bras with my daughter in the H&M on rue de Rivoli. She said it exemplified everything we (Americans) do ‘wrong’ when expecting the same customer service in France we expect Stateside…not to mention hilariously funny…especially when the bras went flying like torpedoes aimed at the sales clerks!
Once again Polly hit the nails on their proverbial heads with her second book. It wasn’t a surprise — we ate up every word.
Then we didn’t hear from Polly for a while. She stayed more reclusive in her Dordogne home and gave up her Paris apartment on rue de Bellechase. Then she resurfaced with a new book, just launched this past autumn titled “Love à la Française — What happens when Hervé meets Sally?”
It’s Polly’s finest work. For every woman who has ever dreamed of finding love in France with a Frenchman, it IS the bible. Don’t even attempt to “rendez-vous”
with a Frenchman until you have read it!
One Parler Paris reader wrote, “If it weren’t for her books, Pierre and I would not still be writing and talking to each other today (can you believe it?)…I would have given up on trying to understand him if I didn’t have Polly Platt’s books. I never met her, but she is a part of my life because she helped me make room in my heart for…’mon ami très cher Pierre’…her wisdom will live on.” Florence
Losing Polly Platt is every American in Paris’ loss. You can’t see the tears rolling down my cheeks, but they’re there, tasting salty as they hit my lips, from which I utter:
“Polly, excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais…que ton âme repose en paix.”
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t miss the re-airing of Adrian on House Hunters International’s “Snapshot of City Life in Paris, France” Thursday March 24 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. CT. See the full description on our HHI page