As far as I can tell, the French do many things very well. Small specialty markets are among the prime examples of the French at their best. Need cheese? Go to the cheese shop with over 15o kinds of cheese and get not only advice on cheese, but when to eat it and with what other food. Meat? Same thing. Fish? Yes, there’s another store just for fish (and advice to go with it). However, the thing that makes me smile every time is the French department store, Monoprix. We live in a fairly small town, so the scale of things is very small, but there is a (small) French department store in our town that I absolutely love. However, the main reasons I love it are a bit twisted.
In the small cheese/meat/fish shops you can’t help but have maximum interaction with the sales clerk. In my normal life this would be great, and I would love nothing more than to chat up the shop owner, but, in case you were wondering, my life is not normal. Given my emerging level of French, these simple conversations can be the most painful (because they are so fast and often filled with slang and specialty words). That’s why I love Monoprix – you can walk into the store and not be approached by anyone helpful. The people that work there are more than happy to leave you alone – forever. In fact, they often act put out when you decide to buy something and bring it up to the cash register. They often look like they would rather die than have a simple conversation with ANYONE. Learning the French sigh and eyeroll seem to part of the training program to get a job here. Now, that’s my kind of service!
The other thing that I love about Monoprix is the random assortment of goods sold and their random placement in the store. It is like a random thinker’s paradise. No linear thinker could have a satisfactory shopping experience in this store. Need to buy pens? They’re next to the ladies’ underwear. Need chocolate? You’ll find that next to the beach toys. Cookware? Over next to the pads of paper. I LOVE IT!
But here’s the best part – there is a full grocery store on the second floor of the Monoprix which makes things even more interesting. I often wonder, do I browse downstairs, pay for my purchases by the exit of the store and they go back through the store to buy some food upstairs? Or do walk through the store to buy some groceries upstairs and then browse in the department store with a load of groceries? Ah, the challenges of every day living!
A few weeks ago when I was shopping there, I could have sworn I heard a dentist’s drill at the back of the store. My first thought was, “That makes sense. There is a dentist’s office at the back of the Monoprix.” My next thought was, “HOLY CRAP, AM I GOING TO HAVE TO GET MY TEETH DRILLED IN THE BACK OF THE MONOPRIX?!?!?!?!” Luckily for me (and after investigation), I found out it wasn’t a dentists office at all, but rather a locksmith. Of course, the keys are being made next to the men’s underwear section. Three cheers for Monoprix!