Archive for September, 2009

what the….???

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

A trip to the grocery store is a guaranteed trip to frustration. Sometimes more so than others. Today is toward the top of the list.

With morning traffic, it takes me about 30 minutes to get to the grocery store I prefer. I filled my cart in 20 minutes. (The store only carries meat, dairy products and produce so there’s no time wasted looking at Ziploc bags or cereals or juice boxes.) Inevitably, I finish my shopping at the same time as everyone else in the store. Generally, there are 4 or 5 out of 10 cash registers open. Today when the whole world finished shopping simultaneously… there were two.

There was a third cashier who was farting around about getting her register open. I don’t know what she was doing, but it took her a good ten minutes to start ringing people up. During that ten minutes, she kept switching from one register to another… and the hopeful people in her line kept rushing their carts from register to register along with her. It was at least entertaining to watch.

I’d chosen a line that had a lot of people in it, but each had a relatively small amount to buy. The line did not move quickly. I toughed it out… comparing my progress to the people in the freshly opened cashier’s line. (She did not actually start checking people out until I was to the point of putting my food on the conveyor belt.) The woman in front of me was paying for her 6 items when a couple pushed their cart past me and the man started handing his items one by one to the cashier. Who took them and rang them up. I have no words to describe how far beyond simply annoying this transaction was. First, I was going to holler “What are you doing!?” Two things stopped me. I likely would not have understood the answer anyway… and the woman was pregnant so I could only assume that was what earned her the right to just cut in front of a line of people that snaked all the way back to the grape section. (There had to be 8 people in the line.) Oh, and one of the people they cut in front of was a more pregnant woman holding two small items to buy. It was annoying enough that they pushed to the front of the line. But then when I was finally being rung up, they didn’t move their stuff out of my way for me to bag. Sometimes it’s probably good I’m not fluent because holding my tongue was seriously getting difficult… so much so I was tempted to just spout off in English just to get it done.

Then, as I was trying to push the man out of my way so I could put my food away, it struck me. If there is some unwritten code that says pregnant women get to cut to the front of the long line in a grocery store… I don’t think it should apply to pregnant women who are not shopping alone. If she was having too much trouble standing up… her husband could have stood in line while she waited in the car. Or sat in the boulangerie next door enjoying a croissant and cafe.

It all got me to thinking. Maybe I need to steal one of those pillows they keep in dressing rooms at maternity stores. The ones to help you see what you’ll look like when you’re more pregnant so you can guess better while buying clothes. That could be my key to making grocery shopping at least go quicker. But I suppose that after a few months of that, the cashiers might start to wonder why it is I don’t have a baby and still am cutting to the front of the line. Still…. something to think about….

but don’t order yet!

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I’m not saying that Kaitlyn watches too much tv. But maybe she should cut back a little.

Today while we were out hiking, she fell and scraped up her leg. After I’d patched it with three Barbie band-aids, she told me that it’s ok if she bleeds on her clothes. Because I can just use Oxyclean to get the stain out.

Boissons du Monde

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Today I dragged Bill (and Kaitlyn) out to a store called Boissons du Monde. That’s drinks of the world.

Here are the places represented (in beers… we did not check out the wine or spirits areas): France (didn’t need a special store for that, thanks), Germany (including a big Octoberfest display), Belgium. There were some places that got just a shelf or two: England (too bad, those are some of my favorites), the Czech Republic, the US. (Bud and Miller. Pitiful.)

I’ll probably go back; it was a far better selection than Carrefour. But Bud and Miller? Please. Makes me wonder about the level of beers from the other countries.

not tickled about Elmo

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Today in the car, Kaitlyn sounded very serious when she said “Mommy, is Elmo real?”

I said that Elmo is a puppet.

Then Kaitlyn got quiet. And admitted that she found this revelation disturbing. I was torn between being thankful for the silence or worrying that my six year old still thinks Elmo is real.

elle est timide

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The same child who last night offered to help translate when the water-heater (non)repair man comes to the house today refused to answer a simple question posed to her by the pharmacist.

We’d gone to fill her pile of prescriptions for her cough and sore throat. (Cough and sore throat = 4 medications.) First, the pharmacist asked her if she is Kaitlyn, and how to pronounce her name (which he got right. He says it better than her teacher at school). She did nod her head to that question. Then he asked her how old she is. I had to whisper “six ans” in her ear, which she then repeated. Then he asked her what she weighs. To that, she just hid behind me and giggled. Oh, yea, she’s gonna make a great translator.

you know your car is dirty when…

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Passed a GMC Pacer today on the road. It looked to be in mint condition. If a Pacer can ever be in “mint” condition. It definitely looked well taken care of. Shiny. Even the chrome sparkled.

This bothers me. Because it looked better than my car.

The owner must never have let a Polly-Pocket-toting, snack-eating, drink-spilling, muddy-shoe-wearing six year old ride in the car. I don’t think that tactic will work for me.

sounds dangerous

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The water heater saga refuses to go away.

Bill read that work order, looked at the heater, and decided that in order to get it to work, the technician managed to disable a safety device on it. A safety device meant to keep it from firing up if the pilot isn’t lit. A device that does sound rather important to me.

Then I started to get defensive. Because I’m the one who is here when the work is done but even if it were done by a native English speaker, I likely would not understand the repair. Because I don’t know (or care) how water heaters work. You turn them on, they heat your water. That’s all I need to know.

I was getting pretty upset. Then Kaitlyn walked up to me, patted my shoulder and offered some advice: stay downstairs while they’re working… watch them… ask them what they’re doing if you don’t understand. I told her that I had asked the guy but I couldn’t follow all his French. So she offered to help me. For the first time… she offered to help me understand the French.

I wish she could.

As for the issue of the safety device… Bill is supposed to have a native-French-speaker-engineer-who-understands-things-like-water-heaters call the break-it (I refuse to call it fix-it) company in the morning. Then I’ve got to figure out how to get a mechanically-inclined French speaker to be here next time one of these bozos comes to the house to mess things up again.

man, do I need a hot shower!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

For the third time this week…. yes, this week… I am sitting here waiting on a repairman to finish with the water heater.

Everything was working fine until Monday. When the first repairman came. That visit was to replace a part deemed in-need-of-replacement during the summer maintenance visit. It isn’t just that I don’t speak French, I don’t speak water-heater. So in any language, if I’m told that some part needs replaced, I figure it’s a good idea to replace it.

Bath time Monday night was when we realized something had gone very wrong with the guy’s so-called fix. I filled the giant tub and as I was calling Kaitlyn to climb in, I put my hand in and realized the water was cold. Naturally, my first thought was to blame Bill. He did the dishes and often when he does the dishes he drains the hot water tank. The mere act of rinsing the dishes is done with scalding hot water. I thought I’d nagged him enough about this, but Monday night I figured the nagging had worn off and needed to be ramped back up. So I accused him of using all the hot water. Eager to defend himself, he rushed downstairs to the water heater where he identified the real culprit. The thing wasn’t running. So he relit the pilot light, Kaitlyn took a late (but warm) bath, and all was well.

That is… until Tuesday afternoon. When I got in the shower. I’d been running around all morning and then after taking Kaitlyn back to school from lunch, I hopped on the treadmill for a long workout to relieve the morning’s stress. It did the trick, until I stepped under the shower spray. To discover there was no hot water. (Admittedly, my first thought, again, was to blame Bill… thinking he’d for some reason changed the temperature setting on the shower faucet but that wasn’t the case. Why do I keep blaming Bill?) I waited for Bill to come home to re-start the pilot light again. And all was well.

Till Wednesday morning. When Bill woke me up as he was leaving to say that I needed to call the water heater repair people. I think I now know why I kept blaming Bill. Because that is far easier to deal with than the woman who answers the phone at the water heater repair place. She is simply not nice. (Unless she calls you to ask you to change an appointment you’ve had for weeks… then she’s sweet as pie. Or, I suppose, tart.) Anyway, I called and said I needed to make an appointment because my heater isn’t working and that it was working fine until her dude came to the house Monday. She said they wouldn’t come the same day… it’s 20 degrees outside, Madame, no need for heat. So I said I’d very much like to bathe. Then she got huffy that it isn’t my heater that’s broken but my water heater. (It’s the same thing in this house.) I’m a far too regular client, she could have been looking at some computer form that said what kind of heater I have and what had recently been done to it. I know she was looking at something with my address after I gave her my name. Anyway, she rattled off some big long question I didn’t understand. I just paused for a while then realized she couldn’t see my puzzled look so I said “je ne comprends pas.” (I don’t understand) So she just laughed (yes – laughed!) and said something else just as fast. So I repeated “je ne comprends pas.” I finally determined that she wanted me to push the red button on the heater. That is always her solution. But just like one figures out to turn the computer off and back on before calling IT, we have figured out to push the red button before calling this mean woman. I told her my husband had done that and yes, that made it work, but it didn’t stay on. She insisted I do it anyway. So I did. She wanted to know what color the light turned. It was flashing, but I don’t know how to say that. So I just said “jaune, jaune, jaune, jaune, jaune…. ah…. rouge.” (yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow yellow… ah… red) She finally gave in and said someone would be out the same day.

That someone called me twice to ask for directions. I took this immediately as a bad sign. Then while he was here working, he wanted to know if he could go in and out of the house a different way. Why? So I wouldn’t see him carrying shit out of my basement? Just walk the way I showed you; the floor is already dirty so don’t pretend you’re worried about footprints.

Right after he left, I went to check the water heater. Because he seemed fishy. He was obviously a sub-contractor because his truck had a different company name on it. And he didn’t want to look me in the eye to say goodbye. And there was no paperwork for me to sign. So I went to check the water heater which, guess what, wasn’t running.

I called Bill and said that after the lunch two hour is over, he’d have to get a native French speaker to call these idiots and explain to them that this is so not ok. (I’m altering the language to make this family-friendly.) First, Bill had ME go push the damn red button. I fiddled with it and the on/off switch and somehow lit the pilot light. Then smoke started pouring out of the hole where the flame was; I panicked, screamed, frantically scrambled down the ladder and pushed the on/off button so hard I’m surprised I didn’t knock the heater over. At that point, I was scared the entire thing would blow up or something. I was done trying to push the button ourselves. So, after lunch, Bill’s co-worker Pierre called. They told him that a fuel something-er-other had been broken by the fuel delivery people. When Bill sent me that information by text, I nearly lost it. I checked my calendar… the fuel delivery happened 9 days before the initial “maintenance” check… which happened three months ago. Everything worked fine until the visit Monday. The only finger pointing that should be going on here is in the mirror of the water heater company. Finally, they called Pierre back and said they’d be out today. Fine.

Last night, Bill made Kaitlyn take a fast, cold shower. This morning, he enjoyed the same brisk start to his day. I hadn’t even gotten out of my pj’s when the doorbell rang this morning. The repairman spent about an hour here. He came up and looked at the thermostat on the wall, but otherwise I didn’t see him. He didn’t ask for any funny routes through the house or need any tools (they often come then ask me for a ladder, flashlight, one guy asked me for oven cleaner once). When he said he was done I asked him “ca marche?” (it’s working?) He said “oui, ca marche.” Then I stupidly asked him what the problem was. So he told me. I kept nodding my head but I don’t know what he said. Something about something blocking the pilot light so it couldn’t stay lit. Which was the obvious problem but he’d already done better than the others by identifying the problem. And he had paperwork for me to sign. What he did is scribbled on the bottom… Google translates it as this: “Removal of electrode’s son behind the cell. (son should be wire, it’s the same word) (a word I can’t read the scribble) permanently red. (must be the light) Manufacturer must replace. (unreadable scribbles) Always put on another aquastat.” Well, that’s clear as mud. Ok, so I still don’t know what he did but he at least did something. After he left but before he’d pulled out of the driveway, I ran to the basement to check the water heater. He’d done something no repairman sent to the house has done in a year: he put the top back on the thing. So I couldn’t see the infamous red light/button or the pilot. So I put my ear to it and thought I heard the hissing of a flaming pilot light.

It’s been nearly 30 minutes since he left… dare I go turn on the water to see what comes out? YES! WE HAVE HOT WATER!

how do you say… ouch?

Friday, September 11th, 2009

There’s nothing that can quite remind me of how little French I really know like a situation in which I really need it.

This afternoon after picking Kaitlyn up from school, we were sitting in the car and a woman hit us from behind. Fairly hard. Honestly, my first thought was that she was simply a typical but brutal French driver. They all park by braille… bumping into the car ahead and/or behind until they’re snugly in their spot.

But instead of parking her car and going about her business (which is exactly what I expected), she left her car touching mine and got out to talk to me. She explained that as she was pulling in her brake failed and it just wasn’t her first thought to pull her parking brake to stop the car. No, no, she used my car to stop her car.

I got out and looked and I didn’t see anything resembling a dent. Then she insisted I get in my car and move it forward so we could see the damage. I did as instructed and looked. There is a mark on my bumper. In my mind, it has simply joined the other marks on my bumper. To her, this was horrible.

She called her neighbor, who is a town police officer. He came down to the parking lot to have a look. His advice was not to fill out an incident report and certainly not to get insurance involved. The woman insisted that I take the car to a garage and send her the bill. I tried to convince her that for that mark I’m not going to go to the garage. Even if language wasn’t an issue, it doesn’t look worth the hassle. I finally agreed to take her name and number but told her that it really isn’t that serious. The police officer suggested using a polish to buff out the mark. I said that sounded like a good project for my husband.

I finally got her to stop apologizing and I got in the car and drove home. Now that I’m here, I keep thinking “does my neck hurt?” I’m so American. A glass of wine, a quiet evening… all will be fine.

what’s my line?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I am very glad to see tax Euros being so wisely spent here.

They’ve painted lines on our road. White dashes that mark the “middle” and, I suppose, help people to stay on their side of the road. Which would make sense if our road was even wide enough for two cars to easily pass. Most places on our road if you pass someone, one or both of you is slightly off the road, in the dirt, scraping along bushes. Mind you, up at the top of our road at our house, there are no lines. Marking the road up here would have essentially turned it into a two-way bike path. Even where the lanes are, uh, marked… I noticed that it’s impossible to keep one’s car in one lane.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that people will still be on the entirely wrong side of the road as they maneuver the blind corner. And that on the small straight sections, they’ll use the line to know where to put the center of their cars.

The lines are a lovely idea. But I’d prefer that if a road crew comes up this way… it would be to smooth out the road. Maybe fill in potholes for real instead of just slopping some loose asphalt into them. As long as they still come up here in the winter and clear off the snow I don’t care what they’ve painted on the road.