Sundays in France are a “day of rest,” which means that everything is calm and pleasant. And closed. Thus, my blessed new friend Kristen and I decided that it as the perfect day to get involved with nature. I left late that morning (after a late night of fondue the night before. Fondue parties in France…wild stuff) to pick her up at the house of the family that she works for as an au pair. Deciding that I should make a good impression, I parked on their winding, icy driveway and went inside to meet them. A pleasant introduction occurred, and we set off.
We settled into the little Nissan I had borrowed for the day, roared up the engine, and started out. Started out right into the fucking mailbox, that is. You see, in my “How to Drive in the Snow” lesson with Patrick, he had instructed that I give a little more gas in the snow, so that you don’t just make the wheels spin. Well, apparently this doesn’t apply to icy, curving driveways, because “giving it a little more gas” in this case sent me flying backwards into a big green mailbox.
I gasped and hopped out of the car to survey the wreckage. Kristen burst out laughing, as she counted how many letters were strewn across the snow. At that point, I almost laughed as well, until I realized that my bumper was hanging off the car, the left side sitting miserably in the snow. I believe several American profanities bounced off the French Alps, causing some shutters nearby to open, faces peering out. I hope the family didn’t see….no dice. I looked up to see two little faces in the window, along with several onlookers outside the neighboring houses.
“…Bonjour, Madame!” I figured I should at least send out the proper salutation to the elderly lady across the way. She shouted something back in French that neither of us understood, causing Kristen to reply “americainne!” which usually does the trick. Kristen’s family father rushed out, not so much to see that we were okay, but to check on his electrical box, which I had barely missed.
“Oh!” He rushed over to pick up his demolished mailbox and carefully picked up the damp letters. He then looked back at my car, and concluded that this was no big deal.
“FUCK.” Times like this, I really don’t mind being crass. “Goddamnit, I swear I’m not a bad driver. This is actually my first accident…” Okay, so I suppose it really wasn’t all so bad, but the fact that I’d been in this country for two weeks, and had already managed to rip off their little car’s bumper kind of gave an improperly bad impression of me. Not to mention that I had just met this family, and within minutes had destroyed some (apparently beloved) piece of property.
“Well, I can just send you the bill for the mailbox.” Mr. French Father said. Oh, the bill. Right. I felt a bit numb, thinking about how much the French would charge to repair a bumper. Thus, Kristen, myself, and Mr. French tried somewhat pathetically to push the bumper back on, wistfully thinking that it would hold without the bolts, that were at that point speckling the snow like little chocolate chips. Mr. French even suggested that we just rip the bumper off the rest of the way and get it over with. Considering how it was still half on, we thought ripping off the rest of the bolts wasn’t exactly the best solution.
So I’m standing there in the snow, black mascara, now mixed with grease, spread across my cheeks, trying to figure out what the hell to tell Patrick. I like how my first thought was Maybe I should just tell him later….Yet, responsible ol Kristen suggested that while I call, she could fetch some rope or somesuch, to make an attempt at holding the bumper on until I got home. Although at that point, I contemplated making a short drive to the airport, bumper flying in the wind, with a note left on the car: “Patrick Deconfin. Sorry” with a little sad face, and perhaps a picture of an airplane taking flight, so he’d get the idea.
The phone call actually went smoother than I had thought (tears tend to soften a man’s heart). I started out, for some reason, not with “Hello, bonjour,” but with “Um…I crushed, like I crashed your car a little and, I think it is ok.” Yea, that’ll do.
“What. So my car, is it okay?” All it took was that tiny fleck of irritation to bring back my pathetic, snotty tears.
“Yea, I’m really sorry. Its ok, we put it back on for now and it is like, it is just hanging off a little.” This was actually before we’d found a glorious role of duct tape in the family’s garage, of which we used about a dozen long pieces, to keep the bumper in rather firmly in place.
To make a somewhat long and tedious story shorter, we ended up in the (only) bar in the centre ville of Ferney-Voltaire, throwin back a couple of brewskies. Our odds of getting hit on were pretty high, as we were the only two females in a bar full of men betting on the horse races. In fact, one scruf gentlemen asked for the number to our hotel room in exchange for free pizza. As tempting as his offer was, we decided to take his friend’s offer instead: Pringles, no strings attached.
We spent the rest of the day roaming around a somewhat deserted Geneva, where we paid 12 Suisse Franc for crap sandwiches and espressos. At the end of the evening, as I backed out of a parking spot, Kristen shouts “Holy crap! Aahahahaha!” while she pointed to the most ridiculous moment of the day: The car was equipped with a high-tech video device, so that when put into reverse, a screen on the dash lights up with a monitor of everything behind you. Great for avoiding pedestrians, cars…mailboxes. The French think of everything.