Paris Story Telling
Saturday, prior to the full onset of “la rhume,” walking across the Pont Saint-Louis with Barbara Navarro, an American artist who has lived in Paris more than 30 years, we agreed that it’s impossible to become bored or ‘jaded’ with so much pleasure surrounding us, in spite of the ‘hurdles’ we endure to overcome the cultural differences and French bureaucracy. She giggles as she tells a few tales that might make the average person’s hair curlier than hers.
Over dinner Sunday evening with friends who all own and rent their apartments here, we shared stories of some of those ‘hurdles’ — the ones involving home ownership. Like letting too many people know about a new great restaurant find, that ultimately ruins the restaurant with too many patrons, we laughed that perhaps we shouldn’t actually be sharing these stories with anyone else — lest they would never want to own an apartment or decide to live here.
However, and we all agree, part of the ‘pleasure’ of living in this particular corner of the world is, in fact, the challenge of surmounting those ‘hurdles,’ and ultimately enriching our lives with so many of these ‘stories’ we will surely survive to tell. Part of the issues we face are cultural, entangled with the mastering of the French language and the bureaucracy to get things done in a reasonable manner.
Just this morning, renters called while I was in the shower to say their gas alarms were all buzzing like mad. I was standing at the phone half naked and dripping wet while recommending they call the “pompiers” (firemen). Luckily, the French emergency systems function beautifully and they were on the scene within moments. It didn’t take long to determine there was a gas leak which seemed to be coming from the hot water tank and a plumber should be called. The “plombier” arrived on the scene, too, within a few minutes and discovered it wasn’t the tank at all, but that the “chaudière” (hot water boiler) hadn’t had a “ramonage” (chimney sweeping) in three years (by law, it must be done annually)! The next step is to have a “ramoneur” (chimney sweep) arrive as soon as possible — as until then, there is no hot water in the apartment! As I write, this is being arranged.
These are normal situations, that any homeowner faces, naturally. Sometimes, it is surprising how quickly and efficiently, particularly in an emergency, that things can be taken care of to everyone’s satisfaction. The emergency services (firemen, police, medical, etc.) are amazingly dependable. Other times, the system can work against you and fuel your level of frustration. No question that once you acclimate to the cultural aspects, you can laugh (almost) at those times that might normally send you over the edge. If you can’t acclimate, then the system wins…you lose.
Everyone who lives here has stories to tell. It’s part of our pastime — to share them with one another, learn from them, and of course, laugh about them. In the meantime, we’re walking across bridges, wallowing in the beauty, attending city-wide free public events, enjoying the cultural arts and pinching ourselves…”do we really live in Paris?”
With the Pompiers…the Handsomest Men in Paris!
|A la prochaine…
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