Exposing the Deep American Roots
With all the talk about the inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama, my American roots are more exposed than ever. Americans are gathering together in Paris, and I suspect all across the globe, to celebrate an event that the entire world is embracing with enthusiasm. I can’t remember another inauguration which got quite so much media attention, perhaps except John Kennedy’s…but that’s now just a faded memory from childhood.
If you scroll down to the P.S. of today’s newsletter, you’ll find a newly published list of events across France and in Paris in which one can participate.
Part of the American roots which go so deep that it’s doubtful they will ever cross to French soil is the concept of “customer is king” — that because we are the paying customers, the merchant will always do their best to accommodate us. WRONG.
I’ve practiced the French technique of getting good service for years now, with tutelage by Polly Platt and the other cultural experts, not to mention a lot of trial and error on my own. And just when I think it’s been perfected, something happens to stir up those deeply entrenched American roots…like a visit to an Orange/France Telecom boutique to exchange old mal-functioning equipment for the latest model.
I won’t bore you with the details, but imagine a grown woman sitting on the floor in the middle of the boutique on boulevard Saint-Germain at Odéon, papers spread all over the floor, with her coat, hat and other belongings draped on a nearby chair, blocking their copy machine so no one could use it, on her cell phone to a France Telecom customer service representative (oxymoron) after dialing 3900 and a zillion other code numbers which eventually take you to the right person. The person on the phone, now after having spoken to 5 or 6 others, is asking to speak with a sales person in the boutique to settle the matter, who are not only completely ignoring her pleas to come to the phone, but downright refusing to assist! That’s when the American roots exposed themselves…when the yelling started causing a big stir…and then guess what happened? The customer service representative on the phone hung up. TRUE STORY.
Three trips to the boutique and three trips to the apartment later, the issue was settled, but those old American roots found their way to the surface and asked, “will I ever get used to this?”
The annual winter sales are on at their height of frenzy. Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais was closed to traffic Sunday but wall-to-wall with anxious shoppers. You wouldn’t have thought there was an economic crisis given the long lines to the cash re
gisters and the big bags people where toting.
Not many stores in France have the legal right to be open on Sunday. A 1906 law requires most non-food retailers in France to close on the “Lord’s day,” but President Nicolas Sarkozy has been working to change that to encourage business. Le Marais has benefited from its Jewish roots where the shops traditionally closed Saturday to observe the Sabbath, reopening on Sunday, hence the frenzy to catch bargains on what might otherwise be a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I stayed an observer, not wanting to battle for bargains or expose any more of those American roots by expecting good customer service. Guess I’ll have to pay full retail and freshen up on what Polly Platt taught us Americans to say — “Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais…“
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Here are more Presidential inauguration parties in France (as provided by Democrats Abroad):
* In Marseille
In association with Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires PACA and Media Euroméditerranéen des Diversités à Marseille, the cocktail party starts at 5:00 p.m. on La Boate, 35, rue de la Paix, 13001 Marseille, to watch the inauguration ceremony LIVE at 6:00 p.m. on a big screen.
* In Toulouse
A special event being organized by the American Consulate in cooperation with the City of Toulouse and an NGO, le Conseil Representif des Associations Noires (CRAN): Speech by Dominique Nitoumbi, Président of CRAN Midi-Pyrénées and David Brown, U.S. Consul. The festivities will include live television coverage of the inauguration as well as a talk by Fulbright Distinguished Professor Lorenzo Morris of Howard University and the University of Paris. Salle municipale Osète: Immeuble Duranti, 6, rue du Lt-Colonel Pelissier 31000 (Métro Capitole, parking St George).
* In Strasbourg
Starting at 5 p.m. at the Dubliners Pub, rue du Vieux Marché aux Vinx with CNN live streaming on a big screen.
* In Avignon
Starting at 5 p.m. at the “Restaurant 75,” 78, Rue Guillaume Puy — large screen viewing of ceremonies, parade, etc., with champagne. Followed by cocktail dinatoire and dancing with live music.
* In Paris
Tel: 01 53 59 12 60
10, rue du Général Camou, 75007
65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007
OPUS 167 quai de Valmy, 75010
M° Louis Blanc
Tel: 01 40 34 70 00
From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., free entry
* The Highlander
“THE Scottish Pub in Paris”
8 rue Nevers 75006, across from Pont Neuf.
16, rue de Quatre Vents, 75006
Tel: 01 46 33 77 00
17, rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris, France
Métro: Cardinal LeMoine or Jussieu
Tel: 01 43 54 50 28
* Queenie and Queen
5, rue des Berri, 75008
102, Avenue Champs Elysées, 75008
Get the party started at Le Queenie, starting at 8:00 p.m. Then move on to Queen, opening its doors at 10:00 p.m., with the Inauguration playing on the big screen and dancing until dawn. RSVP to mailto:[email protected] so they know how many to expect. This is not a ticketed event, but Queen has a ?15 cover charge after midnight.
1, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001
* Joe Allen
30, Rue Pierre Lescot, 75001
Tel: 01 42 36 70 13
Watch the swearing-in and acceptance speech on CNN on large screens, with television coverage starting at 4.30 p.m.