I awoke today, underneath two large apple trees, near a field of clovers, between two farms.
I also slept next to a million pricker bushes, but we paint the pictures we paint to create a certain mood and what you paint with is as varied as the life around you.
I had the oppourtunity to visit another hypermarche today. The closest American counterpart is a Russ Meyers. These are probably a little smaller, but serve the same purpose. They seem so un-French and the stores themselves seem to reflect that, as they’re built out of non-permanent materials and are located WAY outside the center of town. Outside of a mall-like area, or a very large city, these are it for your consumer goods purchasing place. And you really can get most anything, from clothes to electronics, to “camping” (french style) supplies, even food.
The French flair does seem to start at the food part. There’s a bakery, sure and it’s better than in the states. Not as good as a true boulangerie, sure, but not, *bad*. The meat selection is incredible, not that I’ve bought any, but the cut selection is unrivaled and the cuts are incredibly lean. The seafood selection, at least here, in a piece of rock 100km wide, jutting into the Atlantic is pretty impressive, with beautiful fish on display to be gobbled up. Live lobsters and crab, smaller shellfish like shrimp looking, well, appetizing to me.
Along with the excellent selection of food is some crap stuff for filling, surely.
Checking out is interesting, as there’s no bags available to you. You must bring your own bags, which I think is a great move. The US is just catching on to this and we only do it, since it’s somewhat fashionable to do so. We’re slow and vain, I guess. This does pose a problem to me, as I never have a bag. I usually just steal one from the produce department. When I get yelled at by the French, it’s in these super and hypermarche checkout lines. Either, I didn’t bag and tag my produce correctly, or I don’t have change, or I’ve exited without buying something, or a myriad of things.
My worst, “I pissed off the French” story is a simple one about getting some water. I… didn’t know how to ask – I actually, still don’t. It’s very hard to make a complex statement like, “Can you fill up my bottles with water, please?”, when you don’t know the exact grammar for, “Can you fill up” – the closest I’ve gotten to the entire statement is,
Pardon madame, pouvez-vous remplir de eau, S.V.P.?
Which I think translates to, “Excuse me, Ms. Can you fill with water, please?” If so, it’s nothing short of a miracle I’ve strung that many words together.
The French like you to do things their way – like the bag thing. I tried once just to keep the small hand cart thingy with me in line. I got yelled at. I tried entering in an exit. Got yelled at.
I tried once, to sneak into the back of the store – where the bakery was and where I knew there was a water faucet and just, you know, fill up my own water bottles.
I got yelled at. By the manager. He gave me a stern look that could wilt flowers and to make me feel more embarrassed, got one of the bakers to stop his work and fill my bottles for me. A lot of, “pardons” for that one.
And then I exited and the same cashier that yelled at me for not having my oranges marked correctly, that yelled at me for entered at her exit, now yelled at me for… I think… coming in without purchasing anything, and going a very long way around the store to do so. I think she thought I was stealing something.
So, the manager hears all this, comes over and they have a nice chat about me. She tells him my shenanigans and he does the same. A lot of head nodding. Then they both look at me and cringe.
I feel two thinks. I feel like crap, since I did something stupid, and I don’t know enough language to explain myself. And I also feel like I should kill these two for getting in my way, and that made me feel worse, since I realized I *expected* to be able to do these things and also, to get away with them, since – well, since I’m American and that’s what we can do. We do it. And then we do other things. And the hell with you, or your ways at your stupid supermarche and… and… and somehow I’m superior to you. I have pieces of paper on my walls… and… and.. I run my own business and you and your supermarche can stick it.
And what a horrible thing to feel.
So I tried to learn how to ask for water.
And the next store – the same company, in fact, I trampled over the French language and asked for water from the meat girl. She looked at me very strange, as if to say, “Yeah, OK – but gonna buy some… meat?”. I made the dumb decision to do my shopping and then come back in for the water. She thought I wanted something for nothing.
The next time I wanted water, I brought my bottles into a boulangerie,and they asked ME if I wanted my bottles filled. The boulangerie is very mother-like, you know.
So, slowly but surely, I’m trying to be a better visitor here. I know these are silly stories, but this is France for me. It’s not these charming little towns with their little shops – or perhaps it is – or it’s both those little town centers and these HUGE suburban-type things. I’m interested in how they related and the role each play and how they work together. It’s not like no one goes to the hyper marche. A lot of people go. And then they go to McDonalds. They must find the convenience worthwhile.
I do wonder how much of the old way of doing things is simply dazzle, with smoke and mirrors – something heavily subsidized by the French government to make France a tourist and vacation destination and not have France turn into… well, into what most of the United States is. The number of Cafes are dwindled and the amount of families with televisions is rising. I can’t find a McDonald’s in the middle of town, but I can find a video game store next to the town’s 500 year old cathedral. French people’s cars are smaller on average, but they’re getting larger and driving schools are everywhere. The people I see on bikes are older people.
I don’t truly know. Just another half-formed thesis statement. I’m not really worried about filling in the gaps. If I do, cheers to that.