Well, I heavy exaggerate, not all of Paris is under construction, but my quartier certainly is and has been since last Friday. We don’t have any gas, natural gas, at all which in France equates to about 3000 people without utilisation of their stove and ovens, without hot water, without heating. Paris is not known for its harsh winters, like say where my Mom lives near Toronto, Canada, but the weather is beginning to turn off nippy. The skies are grey, the sun is on vacation for a few months and we’re cold, feeling unclean even though we are bathing like they did during the World Wars with buckets of boiled water (using the new invention of the electric water boiler) poured over our trembling, nude bodies. My husband’s mom, who was a young adolescent during the Second World War, considers this a fabulous learning experience for my generation. She believes that the young in France, and by France she means the western world, are spoiled with riches of convenience and ease.
I didn’t mind the restrictions for the first few days, even the first week wasn’t so bad. But now after 10 days, I find myself dreaming of a warm shower with enough hot water to make the bathroom mirror fog up and keep me from shivering while I turn of the water to lather in the shampoo (see Green Chic post).
The French are known for their grèves, strikes. And they are known for their Mediterranean work ethic and laissez-faire way of life. They don’t seem to be in hurry for anything except getting to their destinations, especially if it’s a vacation destinations. What all this boils down to as a resident of this wonderful part of the world is: even in emergency situations (non life-threatening), workers don’t work on Sundays or very much overtime; even with 3000 plus people out of heating, hot meals and hot water, they take their extended lunch breaks and les pauses. When the frustration mounts, you just have to laugh and remind yourself that you chose to live here.
Of course, I still hold a little grudge against the French for their strikes. They almost ruined my wedding. The French unions decided to hold one of their most extensive transportation strikes (planes/trains/buses) on the very weekend. The result was that one of my oldest and best friends was stuck in London on his way over from Toronto. He was supposed to stand beside my sister and I as one of my temoins (in France there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen. The people standing at your side are your witnesses and are of your choosing regardless of gender). But alas, the French had other plans for him.
The gas company, GrDF, has been generous with us. They gave us a dual-burner electric stove (featured in our upcoming guacamole video) and an electric baseboard heater. At least we can make pasta and fry some lardon now. I’ve eaten enough sandwiches and salads these past ten days to satisfy me for a long while.
At the general meeting with the Mayor and the President of the gas company, my husband raised his hand and casually mentioned that we could have the entire installation of a new electric water heater, stove and heating system in our apartment by the electricity company in less time than is planned for this gas reparation. The men in suits on the stage were not pleased, the insinuation of efficiency and effectiveness being a very American point of view. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at their unease with such foreign concepts.
The sweet little Frenchman (my husband was less enchanted by his French charm) who came to install our electric donations from the gas company asked why we haven’t eaten out more. I told him that I prefer to cook at home unless it is a special occasion. Truth. But it’s equally true that we are a young couple living in one of world’s capitals. Life in Paris is expensive, especially eating out, and I no longer make a North American attorney’s salary.
The entire village of Auteuil is under construction. You can see it before all the side walks were torn up in our video A Walkabout in Auteuil. I suspect it is going to remain a disaster for a while. The construction guys work very much in the French way. A single man with a jack hammer vibrates away with nothing but two knee-high green barriers around him and a pair of protective goggles. The French don’t seem to mind if pedestrians walk practically right over their construction sites. It’s strange for us overzealous Americans.
The work, so they tell us now, should be completed by mid-November. We shall see. We were first told it would take the weekend, then just till Wednesday which inevitably turned into Friday and now mid-November.
I wonder if I’ll forget what a real shower feels like by then?