Friday, February 9, 2007

Thirty Midnights From Now None of This Will Matter

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to call Mr. Vidal back after those 30 midnights! I think we should write a movie script or maybe create a "sit com" so you could afford to "rehab to your heart's content" and I could afford to fly over and visit you. Believe me, your adventures are funnier and more charming than most of the comedies that have been produced lately! And LUKE is never wrong about movies and TV!

sarah alexander said...

You had me laughing so hard I almost peed in my pants! I had a similar experience in Avignon when the window in our rental car wouldn't roll back up. The mechanic had to call his sister-in-law, who spoke English, to translate for us!

Nancy said...

Ask and ye shall receive: a comment received via email to begin unraveling one of the bumper stickers. Thanks, Alan. And here I thought it had something to do with the good old USA.

"USAP stands for University Sports Association of Perpignan (or something like that) and is the name that the Perpignan rugby team respond to. If you're in the crowd at a Perpignan game you often hear U-SAP U-SAP (phonetically oo-sap) chanted on the terraces."

Noah said...

When I was in Italy cooking for Pams workshop, I had the Italian for 50 and 500 mixed up. Everytime I tried to buy sausage or something I would look away absent mindedly and then look back to see a growing mountain of meat. The thing that always struck me was that they never seemed to react to the fact that I was asking for food for 500 people...

nancy said...

sarah and noah and leslie:
Thank god we can all laugh about those moments later on, because when they're happening I'm sure feeling different, aren't you?

d said...

i am reminded of the sage advice of robin williams as mrs. doubtfire "i am job"

oh yeah, then there was the time i was in a mexican bar with my project team and our mexican clients. one of my team excused himself to use the restroom and returned with a wide-eyed expression and arms thrown open. in his best spanish he loudly declared to the table and surrounding patrons that he had seen "a giant vagina in the bathroom" (spider and vagina are similar words) ... all was silent as he took his seat. i leaned in and translated what he had said. at this point he turned red and announced to the clients that he was "so pregnant" because of his mistake (pregnant and embarassed are also close...)it took him about 30 midnights to live down that evening...

Nancy said...

Aye, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, eh? It coulda been me! You wouldn't be pulling my leg, would you tho? I'd check a Spanish dictionary, but one extra language is enough on my plate today.

I met a young lady in Moab awhile back who was telling me about her travels in France, staying with a family. One morning over petite dejourner she asked for someone to pass the preserves. It wasn't silence that met her request, but hysterical laughter. When they all calmed down, they finally told her that what she had asked for was not the jelly (or preserves) she wanted but "condoms" (preservatif en francais). Think about it.....