Dear Madame France

thermometer.jpg
“Did you see how hot it was? It was so sticky-icky!”

Dear Madame France:

Thank you so much for allowing me to live in your wonderful country. I love tasting everything I can, learning more about your rich history and curious customs, and even though I can’t conjugate the verbs in the plus-que-parfait-de l’indicative (come to think of it, all those verbs are so darn hard!), I’m trying my best, really, and hope to be able to do them all someday so as not to disappoint you.

I also want to thank you for loosening up the rules around here and allowing me to wear shorts and flip-flops, which was especially important during the recent heatwave. To show my gratitude, I promise to keep my feet in top-top shape…I promise!

But that heatwave we just got over was a killer, wasn’t it?
Just putting on clothes was a challenge and I guess that most of my neighbors had the same problem wearing clothes too, which I could see from my window night and day (especially at night). You probably already know this, but in case anyone else is reading this, there is this widespread perception that all French people are slim and in good shape. But from what I could see (especially at night), the people who live in the apartments surrounding my place are getting kinda flabby and certainly not the image of the trim, well-kept Parisian that people think of.
(Especially those people just across the courtyard from me! I think they’ve eaten way too many of your yummy croissants!!)

But seriously, there is something else that I’d like to talk to you about:
How to deal with future heatwaves.

Although I’m told this is a relatively new phenomenon, it seems like since I’ve been here, we’ve had two; the last one killed 15,000 of your citizens. That’s a lot of people, don’t you think? Kinda sad.
I find it odd that a country where the summer temperatures now normally reach over 100 degrees (38 degrees C), very few places have any sort of ventilation or fans. I’ve heard from lots of your people that fans are bad for your health (and expensive, although mine was less than 30€, which I don’t think is expensive…do you?) but I’ve been using fans all my life and I’m fine. Really. And so has the rest of the world outside of this big hexagon that we live in.

I heard that the Tour de France riders from other countries almost passed out when dining and during their off-hours, since they couldn’t get anyone to open windows or turn on a fan, and were becoming severely short-of-breath. Please, Madame France, help your people see the error of their ways, lead them from the Middle Ages. I hate to see your people, as well as those of us who love and care for you, needlessly suffer year after year after year.

(Well, come to think of it, there’s a few people that I don’t mind seeing suffering, mostly that nasty woman at my bank who works at the desk and will never help me. She’s not very nice and your city would be a better place without her. Is there any way you ask her to leave? She doesn’t seem very happy here.)

France is a modern country and I really love it here. Really. You’re extremely technologically advanced and you’ve had so many breakthroughs in various scientific and medical fields that have changed the world. Yet I don’t understand why there are no ceiling fans anywhere. They’re perhaps the simplest and most environmentally-friendly method of cooling down interior spaces I can think of and I’m not a rocket-scientist like those brainy folks in Toulouse. Could you ask some of the restaurants and other public spaces to put them in? They’re really not that expensive.
Pretty please?
: )

(And tell the places that have air-conditioning that if they want it to work, they need to close the windows and keep them closed. It makes the machines work far more effectively, and they’ll waste less power so you won’t have to build so many nuclear power plants.)

I know sometimes you just say, c’est la vie and folks blame the government, but people here are exceptionally adept at taking to the streets for getting whatever they want (the government, the big bunch of sillies, always gives in…how cool is that?), and I’m surprised there hasn’t been some sort of an uprising. Maybe if you offered cold beer, people might go. Just a thought.

While at La Poste the other day, I almost passed out waiting in line from a combination of the heat, and from the bo of the woman in front of me who was furiously waving a fan, blowing the smell in my direction. I was tempted to back away from her, but I’ve learning living here that if you leave the slightest bit of space between you and the person in front of you, that seems to be an open invitation for someone else to step right in there. But it was really unpleasant…to say the least!

So here’s an idea that you should really, really think about:
Why not install some ceiling fans between now and the next lethal heatwave? I’ve visited extremely impoverished, totally destitute third-world countries, and most public and private buildings have them. Why not put them in Paris? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Maybe you could also replace the bus windows so that they could be opened in hot weather as well. Seriously, it wouldn’t cost that much, would it? I know you’re a little short on cash lately, so maybe just raise fares (oops…I see you’ve already done that this month.)

Gros bisous!

David Lebovitz
Paris, France

PS: While you’re at it, could you also please ask the Parisians to stop walking right into me as if I wasn’t there?

Thanks again! You’re the best!!!

Categories:

Whining

Tags:

27 comments

  • Are you sure you’re not a comedy writer? I hope she listens, but don’t count on it!

  • Ahahahah my poor David! It is funny to read your post. I have “just” been writing about it for one of my next posts! You and I live in opposed worlds. I used to complain about AC annd also fans here in the US (des courants d’air or it is winter in the middle of summer when you are in an office all day) and now I am so so converted. My husband P actually just told me last night he should not have waited for 8 years until I accept AC. It was insane. And now, when I call my parents, I am shocked to hear that they hardly have a super super mini mini fan. Isn’t it a weird thing? You should know by now that it is hard for the French to change anchored habits! Good luck!

  • David, this entry placed me in the position of snorting my iced coffee as I read! I especially liked the part about La Poste. Are you ever tempted to give out sample toiletries to people? I have to say though, the same thing exists here in NYC. I do love my air conditioning. Thanks for another great read!

  • Too cute… way too cute!!!

  • I was desperate enough to take the metro to BHV Rivoli to get my sobertiere last Wed, the hottest day in Paris… and almost passed out in the metro from the combi of heat and BO from everyone else! When I related this to a colleague with French in-laws, she told me that French people don’t take showers every day, not even in the summer. Urmmm… Ils se lavent au lavabo avec les gants de toilette. ie they clean themselves with the little square cloth gloves over the bathroom sink. Some may use l’eau de cologne naturelle and others dowse with perfumes. It’s their French idea of not removing natural oils from their skins and not wasting a precious resource. Maybe we can start bringing a bottle of brumisateur or spray around?

  • When did you say your vacation starts…………not soon enough, I’d say. You are taking one, aren’t you?

  • Oh you are always so good for a laugh–even when you are dying of heat. (And I hear you there!) Regarding fans: I (as you know) live very near the Middle Of Nowhere, right next to the Backwoods. Nothing high tech, high class, highly sophisticated around here. And yet we have–at this very moment–TEN fans (of various sizes, speeds, styles, etc.) going nonstop, 24 hours a day. There may even be one I’m forgetting. There are even two in the sheep barn. I’d definitely be dead without fans! : )

  • What a laugh! You’re such a good writer.
    As for the friendship between french people and fans, i’ve never understood. I have to go to my british boyfriend’s house (i mean the one in france) to finally find relief – fans, air conditionning…

  • You get funnier and funnier, David.

  • Mr L. you and your “compatriotes” are so American!
    how can you imagine us “taking to the streets” in zat sort ov weazer……
    it would mean having a shower instead of washing with our beloved “gants de toilette”, using “déodorant” and living in “courants d’air” when we come back to our homes (?)
    how “décadent”!……

  • i’m with the french on this. fans are for whiny babies (yourself excepted, of course) who don’t understand the process of acclimation. (i’m especially annoyed by those idiots that have to carry around little portable fans to blow into their faces.) Mind over matter!

  • hilarious!

  • David, David, in your copious spare time you obviously peruse many blogs and your current post, I daresay was “inspired” by another expat’s unhappy experience in a European country…the UK this time.
    The author wrote hers on 22.11.05 (yes, 2005).

    You claim to live such a sweet life. I wonder where you will have a life-saving operation, if and when your turn for such comes. Oh yes, the US is so very,very, very bad. Once France becomes all muslim, I bet your “lifestyle” choice will be nothing but embraced heartily by the French muslims. Where, oh where, will you turn to then?
    Will you be running back to the US to save you?

    Stay cool. Get yourself A/C. That’s all.

    Ron

  • Ah yes. Her posting can be found at:

    here.

  • David, even if they find you one day, liquified from the heatstroke or asphyxiated by the perfume of some Parisian’s “natural skin oils”, be happy with the knowledge that you will live on in your fabulous recipes, for example the dulce de leche brownies which I just tried today and were so fantastic all the boys were swooning at me. Also, you can join all the other great wits (Dorothy Parker, Wilde) who become more famous after death anyway. See? Optimism!

    PS: Isn’t the Levi’s store air-conditioned?

  • You evidently have not been to the Levi store lately or you’d be in far finer spirits. I think another visit may be in order.

  • After this week, you deserve a trip to the Medi. Hop on the TGV or whatever it’s called and head to Marseille. 3 hours in First Class, with your laptop, inspired by the lovely French countryside, and you’ll be basking in the ocean breezes in no time. I think it’s time you write a book for your fans on the gastronomie of Provence as seen through the eyes of an expat pastry chef. It’ll be a sacrifice, sure, to leave your beautiful rooftop terrace, but if not you, then who?

    I’m yearning to live vicariously thru you, dear.

    Jeff

  • Oh man, do I hear you! Spending a month in France each year has seemed like a dream to others but oh the reality of it. My blessed F-I-L with his A/C for the room is wonderous as is the restaurant we visited the other week with A/C (they actually do have all the doors and windows closed!). They are the exceptions though. Thank God the heat seems to have backed off for now. I actually danced in the rain when it hit the other week. It felt so good.

  • S’il vous plait, M’sieur! You are very ignorant of La Belle France: you should have addressed your “letter” to Marianne – the epitome of everything French – Marianne is present everywhere in France and holds a place of honour in town halls and law courts. She symbolises the “Triumph of the Republic”, a bronze sculpture overlooking Place de la Nation in Paris. Her profile stands out on the official seal of the country. It is engraved on coins and drawn on stamps and banknotes. Marianne is considered as the most prominent depiction of the French Republic. So, enjoy my country if you please and stop complaining – or go home.

  • Dear Marianne:
    I guess this is your first time reading my blog. But if you scroll around my other entries, you’ll find 96.3% of the time I’m talking about the fabulous markets, the extraordinary chocolatiers I know, the gorgeous hand-harvested salts from Brittany, the sensational cheeses that are the best in the world, and the beautiful, freshly-baked breads found at the boulangeries around Paris.

    Like any country, France has its flaws, and if you don’t think there are any, I suggest you don’t read this blog anymore since in the future I might be talking about some of them, like the lack of unscented laundry detergent, those filthy serpillières, Parisians that walk right into you and expect you to apologize, and that charming woman at my bank who told me they don’t know the exchange rate on my bank wire transfer.

    (Now that’s a new one. A bank not knowing their own exchange rate on a wire transfer? Can Marianne explain that, please?)

    I might even mention at some point the dog doody on the streets…just to give you a heads-up.

    And besides, if I moved back to America, I wouldn’t have anything to complain about, since America is the picture-perfect place without any problems whatsoever.

  • David, you are truly too funny and this posting is great, entertaining and wonderful!

    I’m sorry there are no fans.

    Wait, there’s Alphonse, he’s a fan, no?

  • My biggest fear of traveling in a foreign country is the possiblity of rampant, mutant B.O. It brings me to my knees, and I know my traveling experience would just be ruined.

    We had French exchange students who stayed with us when I was in high school. Most of them bathed once or twice in 8 weeks, and several of them didn’t bathe AT ALL. Deoderant was out of the question. It scarred me for a long time, to say the least.

  • David,

    I found your blog looking up info about France as I will be there in a few weeks on vacation. You are too funny. Keep up the spirits, hold your nose and keep writing.

  • Matt is right, I am a fan of D. Lebovitz – although he ignores my offers of refuge and bliss on my blue Aegean island (Mykonos in the Cyclades). However, I see some pompous “frog of the flowers” has dragged in the (in)famous helmeted Marianne. Ah! well, do not be thin-skinned David, you know the frogs cannot bear to hear or read any criticism of la belle France, its peoples or its institutions; rise above it and ignore it! Meanwhile, go on kicking against the pricks, as the good book says. We luv ya!

  • That was totally hilarious.
    For a former New Englander, you are now a Francophile and living the life of one. When I come in the cold in January, I shall bring you some American products you can inconspicously pull out of a carry bag and spritz around–vous connaisez Febreeze, etc.? Don’t forget French history–their great king never bathed for years and hence the need for parfums. You might need to head to the flower markets after these encounters. Maybe they could learn to run through the beautiful fountains like Americans do here in Boston.
    But it’s hot here too and your former home of SF, even in July has been bad. It won’t last long, it never does.
    Au revoir mon cousin!! A bientot!!

  • I don’t know where this idea that modern French people don’t bathe comes from (or came from) but I’ve come across stinky people ’round the world (the worst was this dude who came to work with us in a restaurant a few years back-in the good ‘ole US of A. Luckily he quit, perhaps because one day in the owner came in, and in his absolutele loudest voice, boomed across the kitchen, Pee-Eww…someone stinks in here!”)
    I just happened to be behind someone stinky at La Poste during that fateful heatwave. Maybe I’m hanging out with the right crowd or something, but everyone I know here is clean-as-a-whistle.

    Although there was this one guy at my yoga class who I was next to once…

  • yeah, yeah, great post as always. But ya gotta tell me where you got that fabulous thermometer!