I suppose I should feel like I've really made it - arrived - as they say, now that I've moved to the snooty 16th arrondissement. But I don't. Yet.
I wouldn't have bothered moving if it hadn't been a real necessity. But with the wall holding in my shower about to collapse, and the landlords refusing to fix it, I had no choice.
I really liked my old building. I had gotten to know my downstairs neighbor, a 90-year old lady who travelled the world as a governess and who shared her stories while we nibbled chocolates together. She gave me nice hand-me-down clothes, including my first piece of couture: a black Balenciaga dress and matching bolero jacket. I had also met Emmanuelle, Claire, Marie, Erika and Sophie : all young professional women who live in the building and who all have a healthy appreciation for a nice cocktail after work.
I had even gotten to know the shopkeepers in the neighborhood : the video rental guy - who while nice, was very confused by me and just dying to ask me what planet I came from; the sweet cashier at the Shopi on the corner, his Coca-Cola bottle thick glasses magnifying his tender blue eyes by three; the pessimistic lady at the dry cleaner's who delighted in telling me there was no hope, nothing to do, too late now, but she'd try anyway to get that stain out, if only I had brought it to her sooner.
I am particularly going to miss the restaurant downstairs, called "L'Entredgeu." If you are ever in Paris, I highly recommend it. It's a tiny little place with no more than 15 tables, if that, a 28 euro fixed-price three-course menu that changes with the seasons and the whims of the chef. I had only been in the apartment for a few days, when I was waiting for some friends to come over and knew we would need a place to have dinner, so I thought I might as well try the place downstairs. I walked in and asked the girl at the counter,
"Would you have a table for three tonight around 8:30?"
"We can fit you in around 9. Under what name?" she replied.
"Penelope," I said.
She stopped writing and looked at me pointedly. "Excuse me?" She looked like she was waiting to unmask me and the trick I might be trying to pull.
"Penelope," I repeated, sure I had pronounced it correctly.
"Because your name is Penelope?" she asked.
At this point, I was getting a little annoyed. "Yes," I said firmly.
"Mine too!" she said, breaking into a smile.
"Well, look at that!" I marvelled, "two Penelope's on the same block in Paris. Who would have thought!"
Every time I went there to eat afterwards, we got a kick out of looking at each other with little smirks and saying,
"Bonsoir, Penelope!" to which one of us would reply,
All of this to say, I really wasn't looking forward to leaving the neighborhood. Plus, for those who don't already know, I hate packing. And unpacking. With a passion. I put it off as long as possible - it was the holidays, I told myself - and then finally gave in. I got so nervous I wouldn't finish in time, I tore cuticles apart. Which really helped with the packing, lemme tell ya.
But it got done. Movers came, made friends with Max, and moved all my stuff into the new place. There were some adjustments that needed to be made, so an electrician came, made friends with Max, labeled all my fuses, and spent a good three hours re-wiring some antique lamps. The plumbers came, made friends with Max, and tried to figure out why the electric toilet was giving off strange stagnant water odors. Then, after not having a phone signal for a whole week and a half, the phone company came, made friends with Max, and re-intstalled the phone cable that had been ripped out and never replaced when the place had been renovated. Now I just have to get the electric company to come, make friends with Max, and up my amperage. That new electric stove uses a heck of a lot of watts.
I really can't complain. There is even another restaurant downstairs. The apartment is a bigger, sunnier, nicer place with a real separate kitchen. I have a cute little fireplace (which I'm apparently not supposed to use) in the bedroom, and a bathtub I have reveled in since the very first night.
But people, the toilet is fucking electric. Who thought that was a good idea? And, um, I can't get it to work until I try fifteen times. I push the button, nothing happens. The electrician pushes the button, it works. I push the button, total silence. The plumber pushes the button, flush-a-thon. Decidedly, I do not have the French touch. I have gotten so sick of staring at my business while trying to get the button to notice my existence that this morning as I felt the call of nature, I thought, "Oh fuck that, I'll wait til I get to work."
Something tells me I'm going to save money on my water bill.