Sunday, January 4, 2009

What a Bon Anee

In France, “one o’clock” usually means “two or four o’clock,” so you better not try to plan your day all too much. It’s charming, really, but at times-and days like today-it can make things somewhat disagreeable. My friend left me in Geneva around nine o’clock this morning, so I figured it was the perfect time to replace some of the belongings that Lufthansa had so graciously lost for me in transit from Munich to Divonne. I filled up on complementary yogurt and bread at the auberge, then hit the streets. It was quiet out, but I figured that shops just hadn’t started to open yet. Incorrect. New Year’s Day, idiot. Shit Fuck. Of course; the first of the year is the most idiotic day to visit a city, because everything is closed, other than the occasional Bar-Tabac.

Well, I’ll just call Patrick and get picked up. Incorrect. The family I was living with was on a New Year’s trip of their own, and wouldn’t be getting around to picking me up until “around one o’clock.” Perfect. So, wrapped in a long down coat and a wool cap, I started a slow, somewhat depressing stroll through the streets of Geneva. After slipping several times on the ice-covered streets, I found a dry little bench in the middle of the town square on which I could mull over the situation. Essentially, I had four to seven hours to tour a cold, empty city by foot, most of which I’d seen the day before. I’m sure I sound somewhat ungrateful for this God-given free time, but allow me to explain. Sleep deprivation, for one, is never the right way to start your city tour. Mix that with post-beer gas, extreme pessimism, and a rising feeling of homesickness, and you’ve got yourself a hell of a day.

Before I moved to France, I told myself that smoking (other than the occasional puff) would not be acceptable. Yet four days into my residency, I decided to fuck that plan and find a cigarette machine. Amongst the various brands were Marlbolo, Virginia Slims, Camel; I decided on a pack I’d never heard of. Luckily, the button was wired to a different brand, and out popped a little pack of Pall Malls. Cripes, we have this shit in the States. Whatever, they were smooth as silk, let me tell you. Nothing will soothe the nerves like some stanky American smokes to put some stinch into your borrowed jacket.

Let’s be honest: the first two hours were rather nice. I photographed the beautiful snow-covered mountains surrounding Geneva, people-watched like you wouldn’t believe, and played with a little dog named Fifi, who was undoubtedly French. As the third and fourth hour passed, however, I began to feel somewhat anxious. Luckily, my borrowed cell phone wasn’t charged, so who knew if they’d reach me before it died. It was a funny situation, really.

If I walked around, I was warm and occupied enough, but it proved somewhat exhausting after a few hours. Yet, if I sat down for more than ten minutes on a semi-frozen bench, I was sure to shiver out any energy I had. Thus, a cycle of sitting and walking began. I sat-walked my way down Le Rue de Brugues, a lovely street filled with little Fifis and folks in fur caps. At some point, I turned on a little side street and came upon an open café. Bon.

Coffee is one thing I can’t mess up ordering. The interaction is a rather simple one: “Bonjour Madame. Un café, sil vous pl’ait.” Voila, a steamy little espresso appears moments later, no embarrassment involved. Anytime further questioning is involved, however, I am sure to fumble. Such inquiries as “How has your day been thus far?” or “I love your cap. Where did you purchase it?” throw me into stupide americaine mode, and I blow my cover. Somehow, as soon as I attempt to respond, or God forbid ask if they’ll repeat themselves, they know where I’m really from. Clever, these French people.

I sat in that smoky café for over an hour, impressive seeing as how I didn’t have my journal or books with me, and an espresso takes but two minutes to drink. It was all somewhat of a blur. Well, a lesson well-learned: never leave the house without a book. Who knows how long you’ll be waiting in any particular location. Well, I was feeling that my welcome had been worn, and could not longer tolerate the clever old Frenchmen making eyes at me in the mirror, so I hit the streets once again.

As my dear friends are well aware, I’m quite the talker on most occasions; not having spoken more than twelve words in a day was quite the feat. So as not to break my new habit, I found a sunny staircase to sit on, planted myself in the middle of it, and went ahead and set the world record for zoning out. Holy mother God. It was now 14:30, which means two things: that I just sat-walked and no-talked for over five hours, and that the family was over an hour late. Bon.

At some point after having finished my longest sit yet, I decided to get up and find another café. Voila! Two blocks up I see a Starbucks, God bless it. Not that I was even in the mood for a coffee, but it sounded better than sitting around on a cold brick staircase. I angrily splurged and bought an Americano and a bagel, for the darling price of 10.70 Swiss Francs. That’s about ten bucks for shit coffee and an old, strangely moist bagel. So I sit down, literally took one bite of the damn-blasted bagel and my awaited phone call arrives. I had planned on killing at least 90 minutes in there, for the fee I’d paid. I threw half of that stupid coffee-water away, took the ol bagel to go, and headed for the le gare center to catch a train. From there, I somehow found my way back to Nyon Station, where Patrick picked me up and whisked me away to my little French room, where I hide away and fell into a long, guilty slumber until dinner.


hannah said...

i'm excited you are blogging! i still need to energize myself enough to email ya. but it's nice to hear that you are loving your time thus far.

Kiki said...

meshell, i'm looking forward to your coming blogs. i think you'll appreciate having this to look back on when you're back from france, would make a wonderful book of memoirs. you are so talented with your writing...your personality comes out so well! it makes me miss you so much and motivates me to save my money to come see you (hopefully!) this summer. i love you and cant wait for more blogs :)

Meeshell said...

Merci beaucoup!