Friday, March 19, 2010

Miracle On Taitbout Street

Miracle On Taitbout Street
OK, so...Remember how I told you all about the big bad French post office? Well...

I had a fun little experience courtesy of my young Irish friend who worked at a horrid Paris restaurant called Indiana Cafe this summer. It's a terrible place, so don't go there when you visit Paris. Of course, if you're in Paris, you want to go where the Parisians go, not to some fake-ass supposedly American-style eatery. Right? RIGHT? OK, now that we have that sorted out...

It's an easy place for the Irish girls to get jobs for the summer, since Indiana evidently only hires girls for waitress jobs and only hires boys for management jobs. Another reason to hate it. But the girls need their spending money to buy 1.20E wine bottles and .75E baguettes and go sit on the steps of Sacre Couer at 3AM and celebrate their Irishness. I'm all for this kind of behavior, even though I go to sleep at 9PM and can only dream of being Irish.

At the end of each summer, the girls went back to Ireland, undoubtedly without their virginity intact, and one of them asked me to go over to Indiana and pick up their last paycheck BECAUSE ALL THOSE SMART MANAGER MEN CAN'T FUCKING FIGURE OUT HOW TO PUT A CHECK IN A FUCKING ENVELOPE AND PUT A FUCKING STAMP ON IT AND MAIL IT TO FUCKING IRELAND.

Well, neither can I. And I'm afraid of the post office, also too.

So, I put it off. And the penniless Irish girl had to sustain herself on a diet of Guinness (that's ok, it's like drinking bread) while she waited for me to gather my courage, find the restaurant on my map, figure out the Metro trip, walk completely around Place Clichy looking for the damn place, walk in and ask, in French, for the check. And then, of course, I had to PUT THE FUCKING CHECK IN AN ENVELOPE AND BUY A FUCKING STAMP AND MAIL IT TO IRELAND. In other words, go to the dreaded post office.

My poor little Irish girl was growing faint from months of Guinness and pleaded with me to go get the check. I enlisted the help of my friendly ex-pat G, asking her to go with me on this trek into the wilderness. She said, "We better call them first." This is why we all have friends. She called the "manager." He said, "We have no record of any person named Lisa Wines being given permission by said former girl employee to pick up said check." G had the temerity to ask the "manager" why he couldn't just PUT THE FUCKING CHECK IN AN ENVELOPE AND MAIL IT TO IRELAND." He said, "I know. It isn't me, it's my boss." Weasel. So, I had to ask my Irish girl to write a letter - the manager actually said he would accept a print-out of an email from her to me - giving me permission to pick up the check.

Then I had to print the mother fucker. I don't have a printer. So I went down to G's place and her printer wasn't working. It took me two days to get a printer, plus I had to go enlist the aid of my friend from Kazakhstan, who has a van. Twice. Luckily, she needed a printer, also too. But she doesn't drive. So she got her French pal to drive us to the store. Twice. This is because Madame Kazak called the store before we went, to make sure the printer was in stock. (If you're starting to see a theme here, of always calling first before making the trek, you would be right.) And after cursing our way, in French, English and Russian (OK, don't ask me why Madame Kazak curses in Russian. It's a long story), through Armistice Day holiday traffic, jumping out of the van with horns a honkin' and sending Mr. Van Driver off to park, we found out that there were no printers in stock.

It took our pal longer to park the van than for us to find out there wasn't a printer to be had.

We did get the cashier at the store to make sure there were two printers at their other store waaaaaaaaaaaay across town, but it was too late to make our way over there. So we reconnoitered the next day and bought our printers.

Now I had my printed letter and my passport in hand, because they also told us that I had to show them my ID. SHOW THEM my ID. OK? Just show them. I arrived at the restaurant and walked into the glory of orange plastic booths that instantly brought me back to 1965 and all the Pennsylvania Turnpike roadside Howard Johnson's we stopped at on the way to my grandmother's farm in Canada. Except this time, I didn't have to pee and I wasn't in the mood for fried clams or one of their 28 flavors of ice cream. Just gimmee the freakin' check, K?

"Je suis ici pour la cheque de la Irish Girl." (Fab French, n'est-ce pas?)

I hand the boy manager my passport and the printed letter. He says, "I have to have a COPY of your passport." #@! and furthermore, &*^??!!! He says, "I know. It's not me, it's my manager." Well son, you suck, and so does he. (I didn't have time to look that up in my handy dandy iPhone French translator which I haven't downloaded yet God knows why.)

I walked around the corner and made a copy of my passport and returned with my jowls wobbling angrily about my frownie mouth. This always scares people. I'm not sure why.

So, Lisa, you might be saying, what about the post office? Ahh.

After addressing the envelope with a typical Irish address...

Miss Irish Girl
Just down te rowd, past the big tree and after the leprechaun, up the wee creak and across the mill bridge
Old Cotton Mill, County Doohickey, Ireland

...I was late for work so I shoved the envelope in my purse and ran to the Metro. After work, I realized that there was a post office right down the street from work. So, with trepidation (because I had to BUY A STAMP! OMG!), I walked in the door.

There were no lines. The place was huge and sunny and clean and shiny. A very nice middle-aged man smiled brightly at me and started babbling happily in French. I just stared at him because he was wearing postal employee garb and he was actually OUT FROM BEHIND THE DESK and like, smiling and shit. My mouth was open as I pushed my envelope into his hands. His eyes lit up. "Ah! l'Irlande!" Wow, I thought. He's a Frenchman and he knows where Ireland is even though it's closer than New York is to Philly? Amazing. And then this nice man walked me over to the little machine and put my letter on the little scale and dialed up the postage for Ireland and pointed to the coin slot and smiled at me so I'd put my money in there.

Freaking amazing. I felt so loved and welcome, that I didn't want to leave. For a second, I even thought I'd ask him if I could close my post office bank account and get my 6.95E. But I figured that would be pushing it. I waved goodbye to my new best friend and walked back to the Metro in a daze.

Last week, I had a friend in the states ask me to go buy something (I can't say what. He might kill me.) and ship it to him as fast as possible. I started to gag at the thought of this great feat, until I thought of my nice man at the post office near work. I actually got excited about going back. But my natural pessimism won out and I figured that he was so cheerful that they'd already fired his ass.

I walked in with my package and I had no idea how to send anything big internationally and quickly. I stood in the middle of the huge place and scanned the room. There were all these pretty mailing boxes of different sizes and in pretty colors. A very nice young girl came up to me, "Bonjour Madame!" Then she said something that looked like she wanted to know if she could help me, so I told her, "Je voudrais envoyer ceci aux Etats-Unis." I looked it up ahead of time and repeated it 87.6 times on the way there. I even knew how to say that I wanted it to get there fast, but not cost me too much. She pointed to one of the boxes and its reasonable price, then took me to the desk where the nice man from the other day was standing and helping a lady. I waved goodbye to her and stood waiting. Until a really nice middle-aged woman came up to me smiling and asked if she could help me TOO.

They all got into the act. The women stood on either side of me while I filled out the shipping form, with the guy behind the desk chatting away. They corrected my spelling on my contents description. They had typical French side conversations about whether or not I should get additional insurance or just take the normal 30E. It's like they do in restaurants when they argue about the perfect wine for each course. It can take an hour before they decide, but the right wine is always worth it.

As the man was ringing up my purchase, the other woman showed me these cool gift cards that the post office is selling for the holidays. She showed me all the participating stores and how much money my lucky friends could save using the card. I ohhh'd and ahh'd and said I'd think about it. And she smiled and said, "Certainement!"

So, this wasn't a dream. Because I've been there twice, and both times, everybody was nice as pie. Warm, buttery, apple tartish kind of pie. Here's the address, in case any of my Paris compatriots want to behold the miracle: 78 Rue Taitbout, 75009 Paris

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