Please stand by: technical difficulties

20Nov11
To my friends, family, and faithful readers: I apologize that my posts have been a bit … um … “sputtery.” I’ve been spending my evenings with Esteban, rather than with my computer. Also, our Internet connection is as pouty and unpredictable as a French ‘demoiselle. But rest assured that all is well—and that I’ll continue to post my adventures as I’m able.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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No matter how well I may try to prepare for my travels, there are some things one can learn only from experience. Like how to use the local appliances, for instance.

Today was Esteban’s anniversaire. We had big plans for a big evening out, so we decided to take it easy during the day. This meant doing a bit of grocery shopping, some laundry, and washing the dishes from a couple of days’ meals.

Let me say this first: Esteban and I are incredibly lucky to be in an apartment that has a washer/dryer and a dishwasher. These “mod cons” are still fairly rare in even the nicer flats, so we’re grateful to enjoy such convenience.

But convenience often comes at a price.

Take the washing machine, for instance. I won’t whine that we’re in France, and yet the instructions and buttons are in Italian. I figured out the difference between Lavaggio Classe A, Extra Asciutto and Partenza Differita without too much trouble. What I *couldn’t* figure out was precisely in which order you’re supposed to push the buttons. And there are a lot of buttons.

My first attempt at unlocking The DaVinci Washer Code accidentally launched a satellite, I think. My second garnered no response whatsoever. But with my third attempt the formerly indifferent Italian machine lurched to life with the violence of a gladiator.

Then, just as abruptly, it stopped. “Blocco Porta,” blinked the ominous red light. Was something wrong with the door? I started poking buttons again in a futile attempt to open the machine and diagnose the problem. Suddenly, the lurching resumed.

This continued for over three hours: Stop. Lurch, churn, swish. Lurch churn. Stop. Swish. SPIN!! Stop. Lurch. Churn, swish, stop. I was grateful when the noise finally stopped for good. The gladiator was dead. But my clothes were clean!

Now it was Esteban’s turn. He’s a big guy, so he managed to fill the tiny washer with just one pair of pants, two shirts, some socks and a sweater. In hindsight, I wish I’d translated the general meaning of the various buttons and knobs: His pants, shirts and socks emerged just fine. But neither of us has any idea what the hell happened to his sweater.

Esteban sweater 1030560 BLOG

The dishwasher instructions — mercifully — were at least in French, and there were far fewer buttons. But that didn’t exonerate me from having to make some tough choices. Did my dishes merit just the “Normal” treatment? Or did they call for “Intensif”? I opted for normal, poked the “Départ” button, and wandered off to get ready for dinner.

Esteban chose the location of his birthday dinner out of the DK guide he’d found in our apartment. La Baracane — at 38, rue des Tournelles — was literally 200 feet from our flat’s front door, but the food was out of this world. We dined French-style by lingering over our meal for almost two hours.

Esteban had also chosen his birthday gift out of a newspaper he’d found in our apartment: On Friday we’d walked to Bercy to buy two tickets to see Jamiroquai.

The show was supposed to start at 10 p.m., which is precisely when we left the restaurant. We didn’t much care about hearing the warm-up act, so we thought we’d time it about right if we arrived at the stadium at 11. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

As we approached the Stade de Bercy on foot, a steady stream of people was pouring out of the stadium. “They’re probably all coming out for a smoking break,” Esteban said.

I handed our tickets to the docent at the door but he held up his hand in the universal gesture for Stop. “Non, madame. C’est fini,” he said. I asked for an explanation, but he just shrugged. Only an hour after it had started, the show was over. And we’d missed it!

But neither of us was terribly disappointed. We held hands as we walked the entire distance from the stadium to our flat. We enjoyed the increasing solitude as the night drew long. We talked about our experiences in Paris so far, and about our hopes for the year ahead.

And when we got home, hours later, the dishwasher was still running. Only in Paris would a six-hour cycle be “normal.”

Anyway … happy 50th birthday, my love. Here’s to 50 more.



9 Responses to “Please stand by: technical difficulties”

  1. Aw, that’s quite sweet that you guys were able to shrug off missing the concert by holding hands and taking a stroll.

    I’ve noticed that almost nothing starts on time in France, except for their trains which conversely seem to have pinpoint schedule accuracy. I guess we can now add concert appearances to this short list as well? At any rate, sorry about the mishap and Happy birthday Esteban!

    Love the line about launching a satellite, haha. I too remember thinking “dang our washing machine is taking its sweet ass time” when we first got it — I guess that’s just how it goes here. But bright side: somewhere there’s a lucky toddler who just got a killer donated gray sweater.

    • 2 hmunro

      Esteban and I really are dorky, aren’t we? But we figured there was no reason to get upset: After all, we’re on vacation. And please let me know if you know of any toddlers who would look good in gray. Ha.

  2. 3 XpatScot

    I hear you. The machines are taking over the world and their sophistication is a conspiracy to shame us humans into subordination. I remember a few years ago trying to buy my mother a CD player that just played CDs. Impossible! The simplest model looked like the flightdeck of the Starship Enterprise. But a nice stroll along the Seine from the Stade de Bercy to the Marais sounds like something I could appreciate. Hang in there.

  3. I have just included your blog in my nomination list for The Versatile Blogger Award. Because you might have been nominated for this one or more times before, I included the following in my announcement:

    “Some of the following bloggers may have been nominated for this award in the past and might not feel they have anything more to share, but my list would not be complete without them.”

    See the details at http://thedailygraff.com/2011/11/25/the-versatile-blogger-award/

    Keep up those great posts! –John

  4. 6 dancingbeastie

    A delightful riff on French life and European machinery that made me laugh – which I needed today. Thanks so much. I think you’d better get Esteban a new sweater for his birthday! 🙂 Many happy returns to the birthday boy.

    • 7 hmunro

      It made my day to know that somewhere in Scotland my friend DB is laughing. 🙂 I hope it will make you laugh even more to know that I had another row with the washer yesterday: I was trying to get it to dry my pants but instead accidentally selected the 9-hour washing cycle. WHO WOULD EVER WANT TO TAKE 9 HOURS TO WASH THEIR CLOTHES??! The French must be the most patient people on Earth.

  5. I was chuckling as I read the part about the washing machine. Reminded me of my experience with one in Cape Town. Did a wash but the clothes didn’t look clean. Loaded them in the dryer and left for a morning of shopping. It was still running when we returned and the clothes were still wet.

    • 9 hmunro

      Thanks for the birthday wishes! And I guess I should be grateful that at least our clothes sis *look* clean after their long sojourn in that machine, eh?


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