there goes the neighorhood.

Here we are in the midst of another fluctuating summer in Paris. One day it is sunny and blazing hot and the next it's hailstorm pelting icy chunks of rain onto the cars, my head, and the sidewalks. When the sun does come out, I really have to force myself out of the house, away from my manuscript to enjoy these slices o' summer. Because before soon it will be la rentrée, and I'll complain, wondering where the summer went. 

Two weeks ago, a dreary day had unexpectedly turned into a sunny afternoon, beckoning me to go out to enjoy some of it with a trip to the supermarket. In a large tote, I stuffed a reusable Monoprix nylon sac, my wallet and an umbrella...just in case. 

Purposefully I chose the market located 15 minutes away from my house, on the other side of my neighborhood for maximum sunshine and a little low intensity cardio. During this walk, I soaked up the sun admiring how sleepy my area of the 12th gets over the summer, and snapped a few phone photos of the summer flowers blooming on the sides of the prominade plantée

The streets may have sketched the scenes of a quiet summer in the city, the supermarket, however, did not echo this sentiment (maybe this is where everyone was?). 

While doing my shopping, through the windows I caught a glance of what was once that sunny day I had been basking in, had turned suddenly dark and bit threatening. Good thing I had my umbrella, I thought with a shrug before going back to squeezing and smelling mini cantaloupes.

By the time I got to the checkout, the sky had completely opened up and was pouring sheets of rain, drenching any pedestrian that got in the way of its wrath. Knowing that this sort of heavy rain would only laugh at the pocket umbrella I had brought along you know, 'just in case', I had to wait it out. I stood in the supermarket's entrance with my bags and about 10 other customers who like me, weren't willing to brave the sudden extreme weather conditions. 

With nothing to read but a circular left on the floor, with joy, I had discovered that market was promoting an all American-themed food festival! For a limited time only, the market would be offering a selection of American 'delicacies' such as cake pops, peanut butter, onion dip, popcorn, hamburger buns and whoopie pies. Images of 1950's housewives, a route 66 sign, fireworks, and dancing cupcakes with little faces supported the promotion, inciting a small chuckle that my country is still sometimes hued with this image of 1950's American idealism. To be fair, if my mom's local market on Lawg Guyland had "French week", I can only imagine what kind of clichés that would welcome.

Ten minutes in the steaming supermarket entranceway: The rain was not letting up. A man had stolen groceries which prompted the alarm to sound. No one chased after him. The room was getting more humid by the customer. The cashiers were overwhelmed by the volume of customers. The customers were complaining that the cashiers weren't moving fast enough (like there was anywhere to go...) And the alarm continued to sound. Fuck this. I had my jellies on. So, I left.

Two seconds out in the rain, I had immediately regretted my decision to flee. I couldn't go back; that would only accept defeat. Like a warrior I continued on my journey with the knowledge that there was a café up the street. I picked up my pace and began to run, with my groceries pounding against my hip, my tee-shirt at that point being obscenely wet, and drops of rain gathering under my umbrella drip dropping on me.

I made it to the café drenched and cold, and chose a window seat and a glass of pinot noir to warm up with, and to wait for the rain to subside. It did. Only about an hour later. I went to pay the check but the 5€ bill I was certain I had was a melange of coins that did not add up to the 3.50 value of the bill. 

"By any chance can I pay by card?" I asked, and waited for an exasperated response that they only accept cards à partir de 15€.

It came.

I then asked if there was a nearby bank where I could grab some cash. She informed me that there was a bank up the street and around the corner near the Montgallet métro. 


"Merci," I said, "I'll be right back."

A look of concern poured down her face and a nod no.

"But you have to pay first." She said, not at all joking.

"Right, but I have to get money first. I only have 2€ in change making me short."

"Hold on, let me ask my manager."


The manager, who was pulled away from her smoke break, repeated that I had to pay my bill before leaving to go to the bank. 

"If I could pay my bill I wouldn't need to go to the bank." I think, or at least I hope I effectively communicated in French.

"Can you leave a piece of ID then?"

That seemed a little hardcore for 3.50, I thought before pulling out and handing over my titre de séjour. The manager pulled down her glasses to analyze it before handing it back to me.

"It's expired, Madame."

Judas Priest! It was true. It was expired. The temporary récépissé that I probably should always carry with me before my appointment at La Cité, I had left at home. Can you blame me for not thinking that I was going to need it? She then leaned over the bar, peered into my wallet and saw my California driver's license and a New York Learner's Permit (braces!).

"What about those?" She asked, pointing down to my wallet.

It hadn't even occurred to me to use a piece of American ID. I plucked out my California license, which always reminds me of spending a half day of our honeymoon at the Hollywood DMV and the unexpected expenses it had accrued, and realized that it was worth way more than a glass of pinot noir. While I knew nothing was going to happen to it, I guess I wanted my collateral to be just a little more even. Now it was me who was being the complicated one...

Realizing that I could have gone to the bank two times already, I had come up with a solution! I opened up my bag of groceries pulled out my packet of chicken breasts that were marked at 5.34€ (more expensive than the wine and equally as important to me as them wanting to be paid) and put it on the bar.

"C'est plus cher que le vin. Look," I said pointing to the sticker, "I will be right back. I promise. I'm making chicken parm tonight."

Says the Italian chick from New York...

Ignoring their protests "Madame! Madame! Non!" I left them in what I imagined were their fists pounding in the air and steam coming out of the ears, and took myself to the damn bank. 

Six minutes later, I returned clutching my cash, my chicken waiting for me on the bar, and two pissed off servers still complaining about me. I handed her a ten, waited for the change (which I have to say, felt a little reluctance on her part) scooped my chicken off the counter and wished them a bonne journée

"C'est pas normal," I caught one saying to the other with a gasp as I was exiting. While the other one reduced me to be so américaine.

I wasn't offended by their response, sure, it was bold especially for our quiet little area. The only thing I could not help but wonder, the one thing picking on my mind as I walked home in the cool aftermath of the storm was: Will they will be partaking in the American-themed celebration at the supermarket the following week? Or did it ruin it for them on the day I forgot to give a fuck?

Happy summer from Paris, all!


  1. Mr Chicky saved the day!:)))

    Much ado about 3.50 euro, methinks. Couldn't they charge you 15 euro on the card and give you back some change from the till? Oh wait. This is Paris, not the land of customer service (foolish me!;))

    Weather a bit dodgy in my neck of the woods as well, but it actually suits me with all I still have to do:) Wonder if you guys will get a belated summer in early September or if fall will kick in on Labour Day? There's really no telling, is there?

    1. The chicky certainly did!

      Yeah, them charging me 15 euro and getting cash back doesn't seem like it would have been possible. That would be way too creative!

      The one thing I have learned about the weather forecast here is that it is never accurate. It was supposed to rain all this week and it's been sunny and warm. Perfect because my mom just got in for vacation!

      Enjoy the rest of your summer in the UK. Make the most of it before heading back! : )

  2. AnonymousJuly 23, 2014

    Ha ha ha! A little uptight, weren't they. Good for you for making it into a funny story.

    1. I know, right? They were seriously stressing this 3.50!

  3. I love this story, even though I'm sure it was horrible while it was actually happening.

    I can totally see myself getting into the same situation (minus the fact that I do not live in Paris) but not having the ingenuity to use chicken as collateral. Bravo all around!

    1. Hi Mica! No, it really wasn't that bad. I would describe it more as quirky, you know? They weren't being mean, they were just being them, I suppose!

  4. A beautifully-told story! Good on you (and your chicken!) for facing down the wait staff.

    1. Hello Flora! Thank you so much! It was just one of those days when I was just not in the mood. Being soaking wet may have had something to do with it. Thanks for posting a comment!

  5. This experience is truly one of my greatest fears even 3 years later. I'm petrified that I would be in this situation and not really know how to get myself out of it. I love that you whipped out the chicken to them. So so funny. Like how is that American? What were you supposed to do? And that they wouldn't accept your expired residence permit? Oy. It was 3.50 !!!

    1. I know. I remember your story from last year about the server who wouldn't accept 5 centime coins (or was it 50? Something strange, I remember...) Paris never tires from awkward encounters between customers and servers! I swear..

  6. Oh, you! That's ridic. I would prob have cried or something!

    PS omg onion dip, you've given me the craves :(

    1. No you wouldn't have! You could have taken these two broads. They weren't tough at all, just kind of annoying. ; )

      I went to the "American fest" and bough these fried crispy onion thingies to sprinkle of baked potatoes n' such. Yum!

      Ps - my mom is here and she says hello! She adores you. : )

    2. Hello to your mom! I loved the photo of you two on twitter (must not be this time, right, since your hair is long - or has it grown already!?!) Mutual adoration xx

    3. It was a "throwback Thursday" pic! That was taken over 5 years ago in the Bahamas. My hair grows fast but not that fast!

  7. I loved the " C'est pas normal". I can hear them saying that.

    1. Hahahaha can't you just hear it? Writing my memoir on my first two years in Paris (content not on the blog), I am realizing just how many times I have been called abnormal here in Paris! I'm starting to wonder about myself...

  8. Well, I admire you. Being the wimp I am, I would have ordered something else so the bill came to 15E!

    By contrast, I was given a free drink (equal in price to your wine) at Starbucks last week simply because no one was at the register for about a minute went I walked up to order. No complaining from me. It was just offered!

    1. A few years ago, I probably would have done the same, and ordered something to eat. But now, I finally feel comfortable to handle these situations...also, I am capable of expressing myself! My first month here I was given the wrong change (I gave her a 20 and she gave me change as if I gave her a 10). It was a nightmare. I couldn't properly express myself but was also desperate as it was all the money I had for the next couple of days, so I had to fight it out. Somehow some WAY she ended up giving me the proper change, but it took about 10 minutes of me babbling incoherently.

      Ah, American customer service. Amazing. Free Starbucks! Now that's a treat. I hope you enjoyed it, as well as your summer, Madeleine!

    2. Ha, that reminds me of my very first visit to Paris, before I moved here. I somehow got lost trying to get into a metro station and ended up back outside (duh), so I had to try to explain to the ticket guy "I go, I turn left, I turn left, here I am!" Or something like that. He just let me back through the barriers cos it was easier than listening to me I think.

  9. Ok ,only you.

    What I am shocked at is you got a 10 from the bank machine or did you actually have to go in the bank?

    1. Some machines offer a withdrawal as low as 10. It's great. In this case, I wanted 20 and got two tens back. Also great!

      I hope you are having a lovely summer, Deb!

  10. Oh, you've lost your pink! Or did it all run in the rain...?

    Anyway, love the story, and wonder if they'd have cooked the chicken if you never came back...