My First official "assignment" out on the French economy was to get a small piece of equipment for one of the luxury apartments from the French cable company. I enthusiastically accepted the assignment, as I took the necessary French documents and contracts from my boss.
"Call me only if you are successful. " were her last words to me. Later, I interpret that as, Don't call if you can't do the job!
I step off the metro near the center of one of the largest commercial squares. She told me exactly where the office was located, but all the "rue de la du's " and French names are mixed up in my head now. Was it left on rue de la Folie Mericourt or was it rue de la Pierre Levee, no, maybe it was rue du Faubourg? du Temple? ahead to Place de la Republique, past Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire to...."Why do the French use de la, du, des? Why?" I wondered. Luckily one look over to the left and I see the cable company name in big neon lights. I look up, but this time not at the architecture, but to thank the heavens above.
As I walk in the front door, there are about 6 people sitting in chairs around one half of the lobby, with technicians sitting at tall bistro height tables working on flat screen monitors, on the other side. I wonder, why is everyone looking at me, including the technicians who are obviously supposed to be helping the individuals sitting in front of them at the tall tables?
Ah, the little round ticket number holder almost immediately in front of me and the red neon number counter on the wall above are familiar. I take a ticket. Number 27. The neon sign broadcasting 23, tells me to sit and wait, this won't take long. I prefer to stand against the wall.
24, 25, the neon numbers change. I decide to take a seat after all, because 26 has a long delay . A technician stands and speaks loudly in French, I hear him, but didn't understand. At the same time he pushes the button next to the little round ticket number holder, the sign changes, 27. Oh, that's me! Uh what do I say? how do I respond to his words? Nothing comes from my mouth. I'd better hurry and get up before he moves on to number 28, and then it all happens in slow motion; my thoughts and my actions.
I rush to stand, at the moment my purse strap, my silk blouse and bra strap somehow all decide to entwine themselves with each other. While my purse contents and shopping bags decide simultaneously to head for the floor. I watch everything fall, including my blouse falling from one shoulder, while also noticing the technician is looking at me, but he's not actually looking at me. His eyes are watching my now completely exposed on the left side bra. "@#%$! silk blouse, I'll never wear a slippery silk blouse again!", I think to myself as I slide it back over my shoulder, pick up my bags and purse while meeting the eyes of the technician who must know by now that I am #27.
Everyone is looking at me once again and I don't ask why as I feel like I've just dressed myself in front of them all.
Arriving at the technician's table, he glances at me then scans my body with his eyes as if looking for another silk blouse performance. "Show's over." I think, as I wait for him to acknowledge me. He smiles, and says something in French. I say Bonjour, (a greeting the French always seem to appreciate before getting directly to the point.) I explain in French, first that I only understand a little French, then continue to explain that the electronic equipment was delivered to the apartment but missing a small item.
He looks at me as if he might understand as I handed him the French contract and documents. Is it suddenly very hot in here I wonder? He types in the computer, "Ah Adrian Leeds?", he asks. "Yes, but that's not me..." I reply in French. "What's the problem?", he asks in French. Adrian wrote a small cheat note for my first assignment. I didn't want to use it, but decided I could probably get out of there faster if I used it. The note simply explained that the piece of equipment was missing. I gave him the note and immediately felt like a 3rd grade student handing a note from mommy to the teacher.
He read it, scanned my body once more with his eyes and asked in plain English, "Where is the missing equipment?" "I don't know." I replied in French, "I looked for it but...." I tried to explain in broken French, it was never delivered. He stared, raised one eyebrow and said, "Very well, just a minute. " as he left to go behind a closed door.
I felt hot and embarrassed, standing there alone. While a few people watched as if waiting to see what I was going to do next. Within 5 minutes he came back with the small missing item, handed it to me along with the papers, smiled again and said "Have a nice day."
I successfully picked up my bags and left the office out into the cool air. My first French mission accomplished. I called the boss.