It's funny how settled in I feel in a way. I'm totally accustomed to the French phone lady on voicemail, and not at all traumatized any more about going into stores and asking questions. It helps that I've learned to stop trying to masquerade as French -- that will never work, because it ain't so. So I just try to be a civilized americaine, ya know do my bit to make French people think that Americans are halfway intelligent and francophone (and even funny).
Sometimes I get the impression that French people don’t expect foreigners to have anything amusant to share with them. No fun light banter with shopkeepers in stores, for example. Usually it's pretty serious interaction. I was in a boutique on rue Tronchet trying on pants, and said jokingly to the lady, "The pants are great; it's the body that needs help!" and she frowned and said "Mais non, " and went on a little mini-tirade about how you must respect and love the body you have. Oh well, it was just my way of trying to engage in lighthearted banter... So I tend to do that less and less, because they just don't seem to get that level of levity.
On the other hand, I have learned how to engage in conversation with cab drivers, and so far can charm just about any of them. I called one to come pick me up and he said "I can't -- there is a manif in your neighborhood and the traffic is blocked." (His taxi stand is around the corner, so he knew what the real situation was, but he was apparently acting on official traffic reports from la prefecture de police). I said, "Monsieur, I have the best view of the Madeleine of anyone, and can tell you in fact that the traffic has cleared up. In fact, feel free to call me any time if you want a really good traffic report!" He said, "Okay, I'll be there in 2 minutes."
Another day I was bringing to the apartment two antique wooden chairs I bought at a brocante, and although I called the number for extra-large taxis, a regular size taxi showed up. The driver snarled, "You are moving furniture. Do I look like a moving man?" "No," I replied sweetly, "you look like a very kind chauffeur de taxi." He melted like butter. Even helped me move the chairs into the foyer when we arrived.
Then -- enfin! -- a little foray into Polly-humor that kind of worked:
Yesterday I got a bad blister on the palm of my hand from trying to assemble an IKEA table with a too-small screwdriver. I immediately dropped everything and went straight to the beloved pharmacie at the corner for help. I told the mademoiselle about spending the morning shopping at IKEA, and showed her the horrible, painful result of the afternoon's assembling efforts. She found all the right pansements to miraculously cure my blister, and a nettoyant for cleaning my hand. As we approached the caisse, I noticed a homeopathic product in promotion called "Memo-Boost pour aider le memoire." I said, "Ah, I will take this so I will remember not to go back to IKEA!"
She actually got a good chuckle out of it, before then saying, "Quand meme, il y a des choses tres interessantes chez IKEA."
Of course I’m absolutely passionate for IKEA; unfortunately, I don't think there is a French phrase for "just kidding". Maybe "c'etait pour rigoler"? I dunno. But I got her to laugh!