Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Friday 5 November 2010

Les pompiers!

I talk to les pompiers -- the firefighters -- every second day here in France. This is mostly because the emergency number to call them is "18" and sometimes I forget to dial the "00" when I'm trying to get a 1-800 number in Canada. I try for my bank, I get les pompiers. I try for a Canadian government office, I get les pompiers. So, I sort of live in fear that I've been black listed by the pompiers, that they wouldn't come to my rescue if I left the stove on, or that they just generally find all Canadians with 1-800 numbers irritating.

Not true! (The black list, at least)

Les pompiers just came to the door of the apartment selling calendars. Five euros or more if I wanted one -- and they seemed to have no idea who I was!

Last year, I was afraid they were selling nude calendars (as we have to raise money in Canada ... and these are, after all, the French) so I couldn't possibly buy one and just said, "Pardon, mais je ne comprends pas," with bright red cheeks. And just now, after a year of accidentally prank calling and harassing them, I couldn't stop blushing until I was sure that my identity was still hidden! I mean, I blushed so much that I could barely speak and then I just said no -- but it was still better than last year. Of course, I should have just said, "Yes! I love your calendars! Please excuse my lack of 00s!"

(Note: I am not in love with les pompiers, as a friend has suggested. This is not why I've been calling them or why I'm afraid to look at them naked. I've been told that they aren't naked, anyway -- so there.)

So in the end, Les pompiers have moved on and I'm back to only knowing the date when I look at my laptop.

But, I'm happy, I've made progress.

I was suddenly able to see how much my French had improved since I first arrived here in Nice at the beginning of my leap. Last year, the calendar sellers could barely understand my refusal and the conversation was needlessly long. This year, it was only my craziness that interfered and made me incomprehensible.

That said, 2012 calendar sellers watch out! By then, after two years in France, I might actually have the ability to buy one!

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