It seemed like an easy enough task. Call Eric Vidal and order some firewood to be delivered. But first we had to anticipate what questions M. Vidal might ask: how much do you want, what length, what kind of wood, where do you want it delivered and when, etc. Not to mention that we needed to negotiate a price. All in French. We wrote out a script and Doug made the call. I don't know whether he was more relieved or anxious that all he got was an answering machine. In his best French he identified himself as an American with a little French, in need of firewood, and please call me at the following number....
The gentleman on the phone that evening was saying something about firewood and did I call that morning. Oui, oui! I would like to buy firewood. I am an American and only speak a little French I respond in my limited francais. He queries me about something and I ask him to repeat and speak more slowly for me. The second time round I pick up that he is asking me where I live. Leran I proudly reply and I can tell he not only understood but knows where it is. Hey, I'm thinking, I just might pull this off. But then the hard questions started. And I faltered.
I look to Doug who is trying to talk to me at the same time that M. Vidal is talking to me at the same time that my brain is shutting down. On the phone there none of the usual crutches available, no pantomimes, no writing. It's either there or not.
Doug suggests that we call back later with a French speaker. Brilliant. I suggest this to M. Vidal who must also think this is brilliant, but when? I suggest demain nuit, tomorrow night, but I can tell that won't work, so I ask how about this evening. That gets a positive reaction, so I want to tell him that we will call him back at at 6:30 pm. I totally forgot the 24 hour clock and couldn't quite remember how to include the half-past part, but I was hoping he'd get the gist. There was a long pause, and I realize I just told him we'd call at "six noon". On to Plan B. Tell him I'll call back in 30 minutes! Piece of cake. Another long pause, then finally, Oui.
Off we go to John and LeeAnne's to beg mercy. She made the call, arranged for delivery, he knows Leran well since his parents live here. Our firewood will be here Saturday before lunch. After the call, over drinks with John and LeeAnne, I recounted my conversation with M. Vidal and pieced together some of the things said. M. Vidal was wise to pause at the phone arrangements I was making. I apparently had told him that I would call him back "in 30 midnights" rather than 30 minutes. Better put that on the calendar, as I'm sure he'll be waiting.