Here we are in the midst of another fluctuating summer in Paris. One day it is sunny and blazing hot and the next it's hailstorm pelting icy chunks of rain onto the cars, my head, and the sidewalks. When the sun does come out, I really have to force myself out of the house, away from my manuscript to enjoy these slices o' summer. Because before soon it will be la rentrée, and I'll complain, wondering where the summer went.
Two weeks ago, a dreary day had unexpectedly turned into a sunny afternoon, beckoning me to go out to enjoy some of it with a trip to the supermarket. In a large tote, I stuffed a reusable Monoprix nylon sac, my wallet and an umbrella...just in case.
Purposefully I chose the market located 15 minutes away from my house, on the other side of my neighborhood for maximum sunshine and a little low intensity cardio. During this walk, I soaked up the sun admiring how sleepy my area of the 12th gets over the summer, and snapped a few phone photos of the summer flowers blooming on the sides of the prominade plantée.
The streets may have sketched the scenes of a quiet summer in the city, the supermarket, however, did not echo this sentiment (maybe this is where everyone was?).
While doing my shopping, through the windows I caught a glance of what was once that sunny day I had been basking in, had turned suddenly dark and bit threatening. Good thing I had my umbrella, I thought with a shrug before going back to squeezing and smelling mini cantaloupes.
By the time I got to the checkout, the sky had completely opened up and was pouring sheets of rain, drenching any pedestrian that got in the way of its wrath. Knowing that this sort of heavy rain would only laugh at the pocket umbrella I had brought along you know, 'just in case', I had to wait it out. I stood in the supermarket's entrance with my bags and about 10 other customers who like me, weren't willing to brave the sudden extreme weather conditions.
With nothing to read but a circular left on the floor, with joy, I had discovered that market was promoting an all American-themed food festival! For a limited time only, the market would be offering a selection of American 'delicacies' such as cake pops, peanut butter, onion dip, popcorn, hamburger buns and whoopie pies. Images of 1950's housewives, a route 66 sign, fireworks, and dancing cupcakes with little faces supported the promotion, inciting a small chuckle that my country is still sometimes hued with this image of 1950's American idealism. To be fair, if my mom's local market on Lawg Guyland had "French week", I can only imagine what kind of clichés that would welcome.
Ten minutes in the steaming supermarket entranceway: The rain was not letting up. A man had stolen groceries which prompted the alarm to sound. No one chased after him. The room was getting more humid by the customer. The cashiers were overwhelmed by the volume of customers. The customers were complaining that the cashiers weren't moving fast enough (like there was anywhere to go...) And the alarm continued to sound. Fuck this. I had my jellies on. So, I left.
Two seconds out in the rain, I had immediately regretted my decision to flee. I couldn't go back; that would only accept defeat. Like a warrior I continued on my journey with the knowledge that there was a café up the street. I picked up my pace and began to run, with my groceries pounding against my hip, my tee-shirt at that point being obscenely wet, and drops of rain gathering under my umbrella drip dropping on me.
I made it to the café drenched and cold, and chose a window seat and a glass of pinot noir to warm up with, and to wait for the rain to subside. It did. Only about an hour later. I went to pay the check but the 5€ bill I was certain I had was a melange of coins that did not add up to the 3.50 value of the bill.
"By any chance can I pay by card?" I asked, and waited for an exasperated response that they only accept cards à partir de 15€.
I then asked if there was a nearby bank where I could grab some cash. She informed me that there was a bank up the street and around the corner near the Montgallet métro.
"Merci," I said, "I'll be right back."
A look of concern poured down her face and a nod no.
"But you have to pay first." She said, not at all joking.
"Right, but I have to get money first. I only have 2€ in change making me short."
"Hold on, let me ask my manager."
The manager, who was pulled away from her smoke break, repeated that I had to pay my bill before leaving to go to the bank.
"If I could pay my bill I wouldn't need to go to the bank." I think, or at least I hope I effectively communicated in French.
"Can you leave a piece of ID then?"
That seemed a little hardcore for 3.50, I thought before pulling out and handing over my titre de séjour. The manager pulled down her glasses to analyze it before handing it back to me.
"It's expired, Madame."
Judas Priest! It was true. It was expired. The temporary récépissé that I probably should always carry with me before my appointment at La Cité, I had left at home. Can you blame me for not thinking that I was going to need it? She then leaned over the bar, peered into my wallet and saw my California driver's license and a New York Learner's Permit (braces!).
"What about those?" She asked, pointing down to my wallet.
It hadn't even occurred to me to use a piece of American ID. I plucked out my California license, which always reminds me of spending a half day of our honeymoon at the Hollywood DMV and the unexpected expenses it had accrued, and realized that it was worth way more than a glass of pinot noir. While I knew nothing was going to happen to it, I guess I wanted my collateral to be just a little more even. Now it was me who was being the complicated one...
Realizing that I could have gone to the bank two times already, I had come up with a solution! I opened up my bag of groceries pulled out my packet of chicken breasts that were marked at 5.34€ (more expensive than the wine and equally as important to me as them wanting to be paid) and put it on the bar.
"C'est plus cher que le vin. Look," I said pointing to the sticker, "I will be right back. I promise. I'm making chicken parm tonight."
Says the Italian chick from New York...
Ignoring their protests "Madame! Madame! Non!" I left them in what I imagined were their fists pounding in the air and steam coming out of the ears, and took myself to the damn bank.
Six minutes later, I returned clutching my cash, my chicken waiting for me on the bar, and two pissed off servers still complaining about me. I handed her a ten, waited for the change (which I have to say, felt a little reluctance on her part) scooped my chicken off the counter and wished them a bonne journée.
"C'est pas normal," I caught one saying to the other with a gasp as I was exiting. While the other one reduced me to be so américaine.
I wasn't offended by their response, sure, it was bold especially for our quiet little area. The only thing I could not help but wonder, the one thing picking on my mind as I walked home in the cool aftermath of the storm was: Will they will be partaking in the American-themed celebration at the supermarket the following week? Or did it ruin it for them on the day I forgot to give a fuck?
Happy summer from Paris, all!