Sunday, July 13, 2003

Why the little shops survive

My first weekend staying in Paris since my arrival last week and I'm working in the office all day. I must be crazy. Just down the corridor from my office, an invisible door has opened in the wall and lies slightly ajar. Inside, a maintenance man is apparently working on a vast piece of machinery which I can glimpse as I walk by. Every so often I hear the clank of a dropped spanner and an exclamation of 'merde' floats down the corridor.

Later I go to get some shopping at the large supermarket Auchan in the Quatre Temps shopping centre. I only want an exercise book to write in and a bit of food, but it takes me hours. I had to scour the shop for the exercise book and literally had to pounce on the last one since it seems that now all the children have finished school there is no demand and all the shelves are being cleared. Then I had to stand for ages in the check out. It seems the french haven't yet grasped the concept that the more people you get through the cash till, the more money you make. Queues of grumpy people like this don't seem to exist much in Britain any more. In France they are everywhere.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the small shops selling meat, bread or fruit and vegetables still survive. Here the concept of queueing doesn't exist due to 'boulangerie etiquette' which insists that you must have made up your mind what you want before you come into the shop. A delay of more than five seconds to cast your eyes over the twenty different types of baguette available is greeted with angry clicks and tuts from the assisant.

I went back to the apartments and ate some goat's cheese, bread, olives and tomatoes while watching the making of a Christina Aguilera video. "This is the real me" she kept saying as she gyrated in the shower or flounced around the boxing ring surrounded by sweaty weight-lifters. "I hated that bubblegum image they tried to force on me..."

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