Well, after nearly 2 months of depending on the kindness of others and living out of suitcases, Cynthia and I finally get to sleep in our own bed. We moved into our new home two days ago and at breakfast this morning I noticed among some other things, our 3/4 empty French phrase-a-day calendar. Leafing through some of the useful phrases, like "Pourriez-vous entrouvrir une fenêtre?" (Could you crack open a window?) and "Elle a installé la télévision à écran plat elle-même."(She installed the flat screen television herself) I realized that what would have been more helpful was something that included French holidays, especially those that fell on a Thursday. That way you can avoid scheduling your furniture delivery for a Friday when the average French worker is likely to be pissed off about having to work.
In case you'd forgotten (I know I had), November 1st is All-Saints Day. In a country where you can't swing a cat without hitting a cathedral, you could have figured a day or two important only to Catholics might be national holidays. Toussaint is one of those and this year it fell on a Thursday so the whole country was looking forward to Friday as le pont, the bridge, and a four-day weekend. So anyone having to work that day here is about as happy as someone in the States who couldn't call in sick the day after Thanksgiving. But everything seemed okay when the van showed up as promised at 9 a.m. on November 2nd.
Our contract provided for the people at both ends to pretty much do it all. The movers here were obligated to unpack and put everything together that needed it, then cart off all the empty boxes and paper. So we took it as a bad sign when there were only two people and when Cynthia asked to borrow a knife, neither had one. Then, when everything had come off the truck (with my help since a couple of the pieces were way too heavy for two) our guys waved goodbye and told us to have a nice life. Neither one spoke a word of English so I was useless as Cynthia did her best to tell them what our contract called for, which was news to them. I was at least able to call our agent in Marseilles, fortunately an expat American. She apparently read our guys' boss the French Riot Act and they were not happy but at least I understood when one said, "Le chef est nul" (which in this case could be translated as "Our boss sucks.") they weren't going to hold us responsible.
From this point on there was a mad dash to get our shit out of the boxes and set up so they could salvage a piece of le pont. And since it was explained to us they would not be unpacking any clothes or books, Cynthia and I began frantically ripping through those boxes so we wouldn't have to figure out how to get rid of all the empty cartons and paper.
No matter how congenial they might finally seem, guys in a hurry are not the ones you want putting your bed together. Today, Sunday, I finally finished reassembling everything Pepe and Doudou (I didn't catch their actual names) had borrowed my tools to set up. And we still have a lot of empty boxes and paper that, while it has to be recycled, nobody will come to get so we have to figure our how to take it to the recycling center. I've looking around the neighborhood for a construction site with a half-empty dumpster but so far no luck.
In spite of everything, at least we're now settling in to our new place in France. For anybody whose stuck with us this far, I'll probably be able to quit bitching and start telling you about the city we still find it hard to believe is our home. And I'm also hoping that it won't be too long before I can tell you about my first gig.