I’d been walking by this certain shop for weeks and each time I walked by I was drawn in by the eclectic mix of items in the window. Among the kitchen gadgets, and assorted glass jars, there were boxes of Borax and rat poison. Have I mentioned before that the stranger the thing, the more I am drawn to it? I can safely say that because I know that Tim doesn’t read this blog.
Anyway, right in the middle of the strange mix of things was the object of my desire – the Bialetti Moka Express. This was no fake Ikea version of the moka pot, it was the real deal and the one I’ve been wanting. I just needed to get up the courage to enter this odd and tiny shop, because unlike my beloved Monoprix, there was no way I was getting out of this shop without some sort of conversation in French.
After passing this store every day for over 2 months, I started calling it, “my favorite shop that I’ve never been in.” Then Tim started asking me, “So, have you been in to your favorite shop that you’ve never been in yet?” I also found myself recommending the store to people, despite the fact that I’d never been in there. My conversations went something like this:
My friend: I really need to have a giant French key made for my house and they don’t have the kind of key I need at Monoprix.
Me: You should go over to my new favorite shop on Rue Grande. I bet they would have what you’re looking for.
My friend: Oh, do they make keys there?
Me: I don’t know. I’ve never been inside, but it seems like they would make keys. I mean, they sell rat poison and coffee makers.
My friend: Hmmmmm…………………..but I thought you said it was your favorite shop?
Me: Well, it’s actually my favorite shop that I’ve never been into, but it seems like the kind of place that would have keys.
My friend: Okay…………………………………………………<very long silence>
I needed courage fast because the Bialetti was calling my name. And I was starting to seem crazy in a community of people I don’t know very well.
One day, as I was passing the shop, my feet just carried me inside without much forethought. The inside of the shop was like a wonderland of strange things. It kind of reminded me of the Island of Misfit Toys from the Christmas tv special. Except this was the French Island of Misfit Plungers and Old Rusty Chandeliers – some old and some new – and everything had a very thick layer of dust on it. Just my kind of strange store.
A very nice old man approached me (the only customer) and started asking me all sorts of questions in French. I managed to croak out “Bialetti” as I reached up to take it off the shelf. As soon as I had it in my hot hands, he said something about it making the best cup of coffee in the world and he quickly took it out of my hands and wrapped it in bubble wrap.
Once I had gotten the point across (apparently) that I wanted to buy the Bialetti, I decided to take a minute to look around the shop, rather than rush out. I glanced over and spied a very nice Peugeot brand salt mill. As I reached up to put my hand on it to have a closer look, I muttered something related to sel and the old man said in French, “Peugeot, the best salt mill in the world.” As he was speaking, he quickly took the salt mill off the shelf before I could get to it – and he wrapped it up in bubble wrap and put it with the Bialetti. Since I’m not yet so quick with the responsive French, I decided that I needed to cut my losses and get out of the shop, as it appeared I was buying not just the Bialetti, but also the salt mill.
To insert further chaos into the situation, I realized that I forgot my wallet, but I did however have a check on hand (checkbooks are still alive and well in France – they are used at least once a week, if not more). I wrote out the check under duress (do you have any idea how hard it is to remember how to spell the numbers in French, when you’re being watched?) and handed it to him. He took one look at it and asked where Vermont was and why was it on my check. I had totally forgotten that my checks still had my Vermont address on them. Ah, the joy (and pain) of simple conversations! My next trip to my favorite shop (that I’ve finally been in to) will be with my hands behind my back and cash in my wallet.
And guess what? He DOES cut strange French house keys in his shop. Now, who’s crazy?!?