“Just One of Those “”French”” Days”
It was just one of those days…one of those “French” days. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows what that means. Perhaps, even the French understand that expression.
I had been reading Eckhart Tolle’s “Stillness Speaks.” The last chapter titled “Suffering and the End of Suffering” is about NOT labeling things “good” or “bad.” He writes, “Watch what happens when you don’t name an experience as ‘bad’ and instead bring an inner acceptance, and inner ‘yes’ to it, and so let it be as it is.”
Monday WAS just one of those days. It started out as normal after writing the newsletter having labeled the new too-small bathtub as “bad.” There was a simple task to go to the post office to retrieve a registered letter that had been sent by a local bank addressed as follows:
To William Ballard
c/o Adrian Leeds
Billy Ballard was a long time friend who had lived on and off in the neighborhood, who had his bank statements sent to me while he was back in Florida, and who sadly died last year. I had been in touch with his son to acquire a death certificate so as to close his Barclays bank account and send his son the remaining balance.
After standing in line at the post office a few minutes, the next “guichet” (window) came available and just like always, I greeted the clerk, “Bonjour Madame,” and handed over my U.S. driver’s license as proof of I.D. The small-framed gray-haired gaunt-faced French woman (you’ve seen the type before, right?) literally tossed it back over with a curt response, “Madame, that is not a proper I.D. for ME. I must have your passport.” Funny how it had always been before a “proper” I.D. for all the male clerks!
So, I began to explain that it has always been just fine before, that I carry a COPY of the passport so as not to lose it or have it stolen (at that point I pull it out of my wallet for proof) and of course, I didn’t see how it could be a problem. Now, you understand, this is my local P.O. I’ve been a regular there for more than 10 years. We all know each other’s faces if not our names.
Over the years, even though it’s been a big challenge, it has become easier to “seduce” the French into getting just about anything I wanted, but this time, she held her ground and I held mine. Surprisingly, one of the other clerks, a MAN, quietly told her it was fine — she could accept it, and so with ‘mud on her face’ she asked for the driver’s license and began to hand over the registered lett
er…until she saw to whom it was addressed.
“Madame, this letter is not addressed to you. I can’t give it to you,” she announces proudly. By now the line behind me has grown long and the other people are becoming impatient…and by now, what started out as a “good” day has suddenly turned to “bad.” (But, who’s labeling?)
So, naturally I begin to explain. “But Madame, he is DEAD. ‘Il est mort!’ That’s why the letter is addressed to me, and you can see by the bank statement that it is clearly meant for me to receive.”
Madame “Prune” (my affectionate nickname for this new friend of mine) does not let down her position. There is no way (in hell) she’s letting go of that registered letter to “moi” who has now put her in an embarrassing position with her male counterparts.
That’s when I lost it. In a loud voice, I let everyone in the post office know, “Il est mort! Il est mort! Il est mort!,” grabbing the license and notification slip then storming out with a “Thank you very much [for nothing]!”
The day proceeded to throw road blocks in my path to accomplish much of anything, including having to stop everything to make an emergency trip to my apartment under renovation. There I discovered that the new massive custom-built desk unit currently being installed had been ‘badly’ designed so that the file drawers were too small to actually accommodate files! Imagine the shock! Weren’t desk dimensions virtually universal?
Ranting and raving all day long about all the “bad” experiences hadn’t made any of it any better, but the need to ‘vent’ was so strong. Pathetically everyone around me was suffering from having to bear my suffering.
Then if the day hadn’t gone ‘bad’ enough, the ‘last straw’ was added to the camel’s back. While leaving the apartment with a friend for dinner, with keys in my hand, just like always, it took two seconds to realize, AFTER the door shut behind us, that they weren’t the right keys at all! We were definitely locked out.
It’s a good thing Eckhart Tolle’s words of wisdom struck just at that moment: “If you are in the habit of creating suffering for yourself, you are probably creating suffering for others, too. These unconscious mind patters tend to come to an end simply by making them conscious, by becoming aware of them as they happen. This is the miracle behind every condition, person, or situation that appears ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ lies concealed a deeper good.”
My friend certainly saw it as good…an opportunity for him…perhaps I’d have to spend the night! He reminded me of his big luxurious bathtub, too!
Laughing together, we headed out for the best lamb chops in Paris (at Le Felteu, 15, rue Pecquay, 4th, 01 42 72 14 51) and proceeded to arrange to get another set of keys to the apartment in the morning.
By Tuesday morning, the day hadn’t been neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad,’ but just ‘was’ another memorable day in the City of Light.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris