Just when Paris has beaten me down to my lowest, it picks me back up again, showers me with kisses and apologies, and promises to never do it again. And I fall for it every single time.
Parisians are tough cookies. Interacting with them often feels like a, "Who can make the other person cry first" competition. And I'm losing bigtime. I'm a weakling out there! Must get in touch with my inner badass in a very concrete way if I'm going to win any respect around here.
For example, in Seattle (ahhhh...sweet little Seattle.....), if you're at a crosswalk and someone in their car stops to let you cross, you give them the courtesy wave. And they wave back. That's how we do it in our friendly, passive-aggressive city. So here, when it looks like someone is slowing down to let me cross, it's automatic -- I throw my hand up in a wave. I usually receive a rather large scowl in return. Some people squint hard at me, like, "Do I know that woman?" and upon deciding they don't, sit there looking unhappy and confused.
Perhaps they're unhappy because I, as the pedestrian, won the age-old battle between Parisian pedestrian and Parisian car and managed to cross in front of them. Perhaps they take my wave as a kind of in-your-face "HA! Take THAT! I am the victor and I spit on your ridiculously tiny yet environmentally friendly car!"
The competition here between pedestrian and car is so fierce, so aggressive, so you-will-not-beat-me-you-bastard, it's intimidating for a courtesy-wave kind of gal such as myself. Sometimes I stand at a crosswalk for a large number of minutes, cautiously sticking my toe out into the street only to snatch it back when I lose my nerve. Real Parisians just dive in front of the cars, charge across the street, ignoring honks and swear words. I so admire their method but wow -- that's just dumb at the same time, right?
The "movers" who delivered our air shipment were ridiculous in an entirely different way. They just chucked it all in the door and asked me to sign for it. There's not much in our air shipment, but still -- I kindly pointed out that no, no, no, we were told you unpack everything and take all the packing material away, to which they shrugged, said, "Nope, sign here," and then gave me pointers on how to walk all the packing stuff down the stairs to the garbage cans. (OH, you COLLAPSE the cardboard boxes first. You're a real lifesaver -- I was going to keep them entirely cubical and balance them on top of each other like an oversized Jenga game).
And yet again, I lacked the language to fight. They knew they had the upper hand so in the end, after I inflicted them with many minutes of what I hope was mean glowering (fingers crossed it wasn't just comical but that's a real possibility), they left empty-handed. After unwrapping every article of clothing and every shoe, we now have a mountain of packing material in the corner of our living room. French garbage cans are cute and teeny tiny so it's possible we'll be living with it for the next two years. Perhaps I can incorporate it into the avante garde lung x-ray art.
I took a pavement-pounding walk around the neighborhood after the movers left (this was also after the phone company telephone call that sent me crying into the corner with Stevie Nicks). I walked as fast as I could, trying to burn off the frustration and righteous indignation. And then here comes Paris, swopping in again to tell me it loves me --
Perhaps they wrote something about me in the Frenchie newspaper, something about the crazy American who's barely hanging on and is most likely seconds away from pulling out the uzi, and that perhaps now would be a great time for good ambassadorship on the part of the Parisian people, because there they all were! Friendly, smiling, "Bonjour," and "Ca va?" Happy Frenchies spilling into the streets all around me.
Nothing wins my heart faster than people who are genuinely kind and loving to my child. And the Parisians, while they wouldn't think twice about running my son over with their cars, are so affectionate with him walking down the street. So many people we passed gave him a huge smile, winked, made funny faces at him, told me he was cute. One guy did a little dancing with him. A few others stopped and bent over to say a few words to him; some patted his head. They walked away chuckling and smiling. I mean, it was ridiculous! -- the love was everywhere.
They have a tough exterior, and perhaps that's just part of big city life, but there are a lot of good people here and they love, respect and honor children. And that just can't be a bad place. So even though I've had a few moments here (mainly dog poo and interaction related) where I was moments away from clawing my way to the airport and hanging off an airplane wing for a ride back home, I'm staying. I'm no quitter (actually I've quit lots of stuff....so....umm....whoo, that's awkward!)
Paris is the love of my life! Don't roll your eyes at me! I think it really means it's sorry this time!
Night-night, mon chou,