Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Post(wo)man Only Rang Once

Out of the blue the doorbell rang tonight. Since no one had buzzed me from the intercom in the lobby, I was wary, figuring that it was either an itinerant bogeyman or else one of the city workers selling their holiday calendars. 'Tis the season. I cracked the door open, security latch attached, and two uniformed women were on the landing. "We're selling the Calendrier de la Poste," they announced.

Sure enough, I recognized both female mail carriers -- les factrices -- from the neighborhood. They sported their habitual bluish satchels slung over their shoulders and wielded a huge stack of calendars. Most weekdays I spot them chatting with the gardiennes of the various apartment buildings on the street as they make their appointed rounds.

So I opened the door, and of course happily agreed to buy one of their calendars. These ladies were chummy and funny, and we had a good long chat. "Yes, I'm so glad you found me now," I said. "I'm leaving en permanence to move back to the US next week." They peeked at the overflowing boxes in the furnitureless living room and exclaimed, "Wow. You are en plein déménagement!" [really in the middle of a move].

Much discussion ensued. The sadness factor. How had I enjoyed my time here? Would I return? Lots of gossip about the neighborhood and the building. "Tiens," said our building's factrice. "Did you know that another American now lives in this building? Let's see, where is he from? ...Boston."

They gave me not only his name and apartment number, but also told me where he works, and suggested, "You should invite him over some time -- he's only been here a very short while. But he's young and speaks incredibly good French." (I hope they weren't implying that I'm not so young and don't speak great French; but I let that one slide.) In this apartment building it was rare to have even one American, we agreed. But two? Both from Boston? We laughed at the demographics, the impossibility of it all.

I gladly forked over a 10€ donation for an Almanach du Facteur. It's filled with helpful information that I won't use much in the US: a map of French départements, the school calendar for 2009, a list of communities in the Ile de France, Saints' Days, a street map of Paris, etc. All 100% French, except the cover photo, inexplicably of a beach in the Philippines.

I would have wanted to offer them a token holiday bonus in any case. Really, how could I have refused? Look at the banner of my blog. Look at the old banner. Am I not a letter-and-stamp aficionado?

Besides, the mailmen and mailwomen have the coolest bikes.

I've loved the French letter-carriers' bikes ever since I saw the Tati film L'Ecole des Facteurs.

L'Ecole Des Facteurs (Tati)


DiaryofWhy said...

Hmmm...if you happen to croise this young, French-speaking Bostonian in the hallway before your departure...let me know if he's cute, would you? :) Though I am not technically "from" Boston, it's what I tell everyone here, because I spent the last 5 years there, and no one here has ever heard of Maryland. Perhaps this young man and I might have some things in common? :)

Starman said...

That is one of the most delightful films I've ever seen. Thank you.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I don't have much time left in the building, but if I do run across a rakishly handsome anglophone in the lobby I'll send him your way.

(I craned my neck to look across the courtyard to see where his apartment is, but no sign of activity. I'll let you know!)

I love this film too. Besides showing Tati's usual comic brilliance, it's a complete film in 14 minutes. So easy to watch repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see these Jacques Tati movies I always wonder where they were filmed & what it looks like now.


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