A Parisian Screwing: Part 3

Ahh Paris.  It really is a lovely city.  I fell in love with it immediately.  But it was becoming painfully obvious that I was enchanted with Paris much more than Paris was enchanted with me (refer to A Parisian Screwing: Parts 1 and 2).

So BR and I decided it might be nice to venture outside the city and spend a few days in the countryside.  We would take in the scenery and visit a few local vineyards.  We drove out to the region of Champagne and BR surprised me with a few nights in an absolutely breathtaking chateau.  I mean this place was stunning.  It was a beautiful castle surrounded by manicured gardens like I had never seen.  I almost cried when we pulled up.

We arrived just in time for dinner.  We were shown to our lovely suite and decided to freshen up and change before heading down to the fancy restaurant.

But just as we were heading out the door BR got a business call.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally he told me to go ahead without him so we wouldn’t miss the last seating.  I was reluctant to go by myself but I went anyway.

Now, I don’t usually enjoy sitting in restaurants alone.  Especially very fancy, Michelin-starred restaurants in a castle.  I get a nervous and start to feel a bit self conscious.  Then I start to think about all the embarrassing things I’ve done in restaurants: I’ve tripped in my heels, fallen into waiters, fallen down stairs, accidentally set my sleeve on fire with the candle, choked on my drink, knocked multiple drinks over, accidentally gotten a straw stuck up my nose because I somehow missed my mouth… the list goes on.

But it’s always easier to endure these social mishaps when you have someone else with you.  At least they can laugh with you afterwards.  When you’re alone, it’s mortifying.

So I went down to the fancy restaurant sans BR.  I waited for a couple of minutes until a waiter approached me and said something to me in French.

I stared at him blankly.

He cleared his throat, repeated himself, and then clasped his hands behind his back as he waited for me to respond.

Me: Ummm… pour deux?

He smirked a little.

Waiter: I see.  Right zhis way please.

He took me to my table which was set far more elaborately than I was used to and asked me if I would care for a glass of champagne.

Now ordinarily I would have said yes – since we were in the region of Champagne and I assumed it was proper etiquette to consume the local beverage – but there was no price list.  This place was super fancy and I didn’t feel comfortable ordering without BR.  So instead I said something which I would soon regret.

Me: Actually, can I please see a wine list?

He smirked again.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… but of course.  Un moment s’il vous plait.

He returned not with a wine list but rather a wine encyclopedia.  It was an enormous book.  It probably listed – oh, I don’t know – a million wines.  And it was surprisingly heavy.  So heavy, in fact, that when he placed it in my hands I immediately dropped it onto a side plate and some cutlery which made a big clank and in my nervous rush to pick it up I knocked over a wine glass and a bunch of other cutlery onto the floor.

The restaurant was small, so that little episode caught the attention of all the other patrons, most of whom happened to be elegant Frenchmen in perfectly tailored suits.  They were frowning.  Awesome.  But I couldn’t just give the wine list back after requesting it. No, no, I had to somehow carefully place it back onto the table and then actually attempt to look through it with the self assurance of a seasoned connoisseur.

The waiter raised his eyebrow, smirked again, and very condescendingly said, “take your time.”

OMG, where the F was BR.

So I sheepishly went through the motions of pretending to peruse all one million wines until the waiter eventually came back.

Waiter: Madame, have you made a decision?

Me: Ummm… actually I think I’ll have that glass of champagne after all.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… of course you will.

I wanted to chug that glass of champagne.  Actually, I wanted to chug the whole bottle.

Finally BR came and sat down with me.  But before I had a chance to tell him what happened the waiter returned and presented us with a couple of fancy menus.

Now, with the exception of bread, cheese, wine and pastries… and fries… I am not a huge fan of French food.  My unsophisticated North American palate, not to mention my ultra-sensitive GI tract can’t really handle it.  It’s a bit too fussy.  So I was searching the menu for something that I could, A) swallow without gagging, and B) digest.

BR: What are you going to have?

Me: I think I’ll start with scallops and then I’ll have the lobster.

BR: Are you sure you don’t want the chicken?  That looks good.

Me: No, it’s too fussy and full of garlic.  The lobster looks pretty safe, I’ll just have that.

BR: I really think you should have the chicken.

Me: But I don’t want the chicken.  I want the lobster.

BR: Blondie, just order the chicken.

Me: What’s wrong with you.  Why are you being so bossy?

BR: Why are you being such a Diva!

Me: What are you talking about?  I don’t want the chicken because it’s full of garlic and I’m going to get cramps!

BR: So you decide to choose the two most expensive things on the menu?  What, do you think just because you’re in a castle you can order scallops and lobster all willy-nilly?  Ooooh, look at me, I’m in a castle!  Lobsters for everyone!

Me: What do you mean “most expensive?”

BR: What do you mean “what do I mean?”  I’m looking right here on the menu!

Me: Where?  I don’t see any prices!

BR grabbed my menu.  At first he looked a bit confused.  Then he looked irritated.

I guess at super fancy restaurants it’s customary to give the gentleman the menu with prices and the lady the menu without.  Hence the misunderstanding.

Me: Look, I would gladly order the chicken, but the lobster is the only thing on this menu that’s not going to rip my stomach to shreds.  Is it really that expensive?

BR: If it’s a diamond-encrusted lobster then no, it’s not expensive.  Just tell the waiter you want the chicken without the garlic.

Me: I can’t tell him that!  I already embarrassed myself with the stupid wine list and I knocked a bunch of stuff off the table!  He already hates me!

BR let out a long, agonizing sigh.

Me: And besides, I didn’t Know the lobster was more expensive because I don’t have any prices.  I just figured it was all-inclusive or something.

BR: All-inclusive?  All-inclusive?  Where do you think we are, fucking Mexico?!   No.  We’re in a castle.  In France.  In a Michelin-starred restaurant!

Me: Oh.  Right.

BR let out another long, agonizing sigh.

BR: Alright Blondie, you win.  Order the lobster.  But you will not be eating again for the rest of this vacation.

So the waiter came back and I ordered the scallops, then the lobster.  And another martini for BR so he wouldn’t be so cranky.  BR ordered the chicken.

Then my scallops came but there was a slight problem.

Me: Oh no.  I don’t think I can eat these.  They’re raw.

BR: Blondie, I don’t care if those scallops are crying out on the plate and pleading for their lives.  You’re eating them.

Me:  I can’t, I’ll gag!  Please don’t make me eat them.

BR: Blondie!  Those scallops cost more than your mortgage payment!  You’re eating them.  I don’t care if you barf them back up, but you are putting them in your mouth and swallowing them.

Me: BR, please!  I’m begging you, I can’t eat a plate of raw scallops.  Why don’t you eat them, you like sushi!

BR:  Blondie, I’m a Jew.  I don’t eat shellfish because it’s not kosher.  I’m not a selfish Christian like you.  You are eating them.  Now chop-chop.  Down the hatch.

So I took a big swig of champagne and reluctantly put one in my mouth.  I reluctantly began to chew.  Oh my god, oh my god, oh my godsooo grosssooo slimyoh my god I’m gagging…

My eyes were watering and I began chewing as fast as I could while trying not to breath.  I was also grimacing which I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do in a Michelin-starred restaurant.  It’s kind of like sticking your tongue out at a Picasso.  But finally I swallowed it.  Thank god.  Only several more to go.

And the rest of the dinner went pretty much like that.  What was supposed to be a romantic dinner in the French countryside very quickly turned into the dinner from Hell.  BR was drinking heavily to try and numb the pain of spending a small fortune on a meal that I could barely eat.  I was drinking heavily to try and keep myself from barfing up a plate of raw scallops.  The waiter hated us.  And I’m pretty sure every other patron in the restaurant did as well.

And although we did truly enjoy our trip to Pairs, nearly three weeks there proved to be a bit much for us.  By the end we were exhausted.  We got into one of our first big fights.  I honestly don’t remember what the fight was about, but I do remember that for a good year afterwards BR would refer to Paris as “the city of hate.”

I’m still trying to convince him to take me back there again.

Oh well.  C’est la vie.

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A Parisian Screwing: Part 2

Now don’t get me wrong – I adore Paris.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  But our first trip together there was proving to be a bit… challenging.  We had already been laughed out of Hermes (refer to a Parisian Screwing: Part 1) and the jet lag was starting to catch up with us.  So we decided to go to an absynthe bar around the corner from our fancy hotel.

That was our next mistake.

Since I don’t remember much about the actual bar, let’s just fast-forward a few hours… to utter delirium.

Now when BR gets really drunk, two things happen: he gets really hungry and he likes to wrestle.  I don’t like to wrestle, so the only way to keep him at bay is to stand several feet away and throw pizza or beef jerky at him.  Since I didn’t have either of those things, I immediately called room service when we got back to our room and ordered him up a club sandwich.

We wrestled for a bit until the sandwich came.  BR scarfed down half of it before passing out cold on the bed.  I undressed and climbed into bed beside him but the smell of the half-eaten sandwich was bothering me.  So I threw on a towel and decided to put the tray outside the door.

Now I’m not exactly sure how this happened – oh wait, I was drunk – but as I was clumsily trying to slide the tray outside the door with one hand, while holding a towel around myself with the other, I heard a “click”… and turned around to find that the door had shut behind me.  I was locked out.  In a towel.  At three in the morning.  In a fancy hotel.  Drunk on absynthe.

Plus my hair was really messy from the wrestling and my makeup was smudged all over my face.  I looked like a cross between a cheap hooker and a scary clown.

SHIT!

So I knocked on the door.

Nothing.

I knocked louder.

Still nothing.

Me: BR!  (knock knock knock)  BR!!  Open the door!  I’m locked out!

BR was obviously out cold and wasn’t waking up.  So I started to pound on the door.

Me: BR!  BR!!!

BR still didn’t wake up but a very angry Frenchman across the hall did.  He swung his door open and glared at me.

Angry Frenchman:  HEY!  SHUT UUUUUUPPP!!!

Me: Oh, sorry.  I’m locked out of my room.

Angry Frenchman: Stupide woman!  (SLAM!)

So that was a bit harsh.  Not wanting to get a another severe scolding, I realized I had no choice but to go down to the front desk.  Unfortunately the hotel was really old and the lobby was waaaaaay at the other side of the building.   So I took the elevator downstairs, staggered past the bar, then the restaurant, then down a couple of very long hallways, past a few perplexed guests, in a towel… until I finally got to the front desk.

Now some things get lost in translation, but other things do not.  Like the look on the young man’s face that said, “who the hell is this hot mess staggering through my lobby.”

I explained that I had been locked out of my room and asked if he could please give me a new key.

Maybe it was because I couldn’t remember my room number, or because I was slurring, or because I wasn’t wearing any clothes, or because I looked like a scary hooker-clown, but I could tell that he didn’t “believe” I was an actual guest.  Finally he agreed to help me.

But this was an old hotel and they didn’t have any spare keys.  Or so he said.  He would have to escort me back up to my room and let me in himself.  Excellent.

My head was pounding.  All I wanted to do was go to bed.  I looked like a hot mess in a towel.  And I had no choice but to do the unbelievably long walk of shame back to my room with a strange young man who seemed somewhat amused, but mostly appalled.

The walk itself was awkward enough – but then we had to somehow get into the absurdly tiny elevator together.  It was one of those really old European elevators, about the size of a small refrigerator.  There wasn’t even enough room for us to stand side-by-side, so we had to turn and face each other.  Awesome.

Could I look him in the eyes?  I could not.  Was he laughing at me?  I think so.  Was it the longest elevator ride of my life?  It was.

Finally we got to the room.  He opened the door, stuck his head in and did a very slow, deliberate scan of the room – probably to make sure it wasn’t littered with bags of cocaine and dead hookers.  Fair enough.

I crawled into bed and tried to wake up BR to tell him what happened.  But he was in no condition to comprehend what I was saying.  He just kept slurring, “shhhh… isss ok.”  He was trying to pat me on the head but he ended up knocking me over and shoving my face into the pillow.

Me: BR, you’re suffocating me.

BR: Shhhhh… isss ok.

Me: It’s not really ok… I can’t breath!

BR: Shhhhhhh… isss oh-khaay.

In the morning we felt terrible, but we had a good laugh about everything.  We figured it might be best to check out and spend a few days in the country.

Because what could possibly go wrong in the country…

A Parisian Screwing: Part 1

I won’t lie… I love shopping.  I am a girl after all.  But before meeting BR, I had never experienced high-end shopping.  I just did what every other middle class girl did – I shopped at the mall in places that I could afford.

But much to my surprise there was a whole other world of retail out there.  A fancy world.  An expensive world.  A world where if you look even remotely out of place, you likely won’t be helped.  Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman where those awful women in the fancy clothing store refused to serve Julia Roberts?  Trust me, that’s nothing.

When you go to these fancy establishments, you almost always get what I like to refer to as the “three-point check.”  They check your shoes, they check your bag, and they check your jewelry.

If you have three out of three – designer shoes, a designer bag and a giant rock on your hand, you can expect excellent service.  Wave a black card around and they will literally bend over and kiss your ass. Two out of three and you’ll get good service.  One out of three and you’ll get a polite smile and possibly a hello.  Zero out of three and you’ll get a sneer or be totally, blatantly ignored.  Or worse.

Me: Oh, excuse me, I was wondering if you could help me?

Snarky Sales Clerk: Are you lost?

Now I’ve gone into such establishments with anywhere from zero to three of the things mentioned above, so I can usually predict the level of service I’m going to get.  And as much as I sometimes resent having to dress up to go shopping, I’m also not super jazzed about the likelihood of getting treated like crap by some snarky sales clerk.  So I usually dress up a little.

But if you let your ego get in the way, you can really screw yourself over.  When a sales clerk gives you the brush-off, your initial reaction is to think, “oh really asshole?  I’ll show you how poor I’m not!”  And then you end up spending a jillion dollars on a bunch of crap you don’t need, just to prove a point.

It’s a brilliant sales tactic.

Like the time Lance (BR’s business partner and longtime BFF) spent a small fortune on the giant 3-storey display dragon in FAO Schwarz, because it “wasn’t for sale.”  Oh yes it was.  But then he was stuck with an absurdly enormous stuffed dragon.  And he had to figure out where to put it.

It was so big, in fact, that it took a team of people to figure out how to ship it to his house in Palm Beach.  Unfortunately they realized the only way to get it into the house was to remove the roof and lower it in by crane.  This was not ideal, so he decided to have it shipped to his summer house instead, which was in the process of being built.  They ended up having to ship it by sea in it’s own special crate – costing Lance yet another small fortune.  He hadn’t anticipated having a giant stuffed dragon in that house either, and was very disappointed to find out that it wouldn’t fit into any of the rooms.  Not wanting to add an extension onto the house for the sole purpose of housing a 3-storey stuffed dragon perched on a rock, he decided to donate it to a museum… and have it shipped half-way across the United States for the second time.  However, he ended up taking it back from the museum (and shipping it across the US to his summer house once again) when he realized it would fit in his indoor tennis court which has a 37-foot ceiling.  It is now living there happily ever after.  Apparently it’s getting quite good at tennis.

Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up.  Lance said that even the shipping guy was overheard saying, “this guy obviously has more money than brains.”  For the record, Lance has lots of brains.  But this is what can happen when you let your ego do the shopping.

BR, however, doesn’t fall for that.  If you’re rude he’ll just walk out and vow to never come back.  And he doesn’t.

So about three years ago BR took me to Paris.  I had never been and I was very excited.  But before we left, an acquaintance of ours asked us if we could do her a “small” favour.  She had lost the hang-tag off her very expensive Birkin bag and Hermes wouldn’t send her a new one.  They said she would have to go to Paris to get a replacement.

That should have been our first hint.

Now for those of you who are unfamiliar, the Birkin is a ridiculously expensive purse made by Hermes that retails for several thousand dollars.  The hang-tag is just a small leather tag that hangs off the handle.  But according to Hermes it is a signature part of the bag, one that they won’t just ship out all “willy-nilly” to some random person who “claims” to own a Birkin.  So this acquaintance had to send them the bag’s serial number, a copy of the receipt, photo ID, and probably her finger prints along with a sample of her DNA, in order for them to send her a letter that said she could come to Paris to pick up a replacement tag.

If Hermes doesn’t excel in making exquisite leather goods, they certainly excel in excellent customer service.

So she gave us a copy of the letter, and asked if we wouldn’t mind stopping by Hermes to pick up her hang-tag.  Of course we could do that.  What could possibly go wrong?

At this point BR and I had only been living together for about a year, so I was still adjusting to this new lifestyle.  I wasn’t really aware of the “three-point check” because we hadn’t been to too many fancy stores, and I felt generally out of place in them anyway.  So after a day of strolling through Pairs we decided to stop by Hermes to pick up the infamous hang-tag.

And as usual, I looked like a relatively poor tourist.  Actually, we both did.  BR was wearing jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap and I had zero out of three on the “three-point check.”

As we approached the store, two tall, slim sales associates wearing slim-fitting Euro-suits and matching Hermes ties opened the doors for us.  We said thank you and they looked us up and down for what seamed like a painfully long time.  The store was enormous, stunningly beautiful, and very, very busy.  So BR asked them where we should go to pick up the hang-tag.

They smirked.  Then in their snarkiest of French accents, they responded.

Clerk 1: I’m sorry, I do not know what you are talking about.  Do you know what he is talking about?

Clerk 2: No.  I also do not know what he is talking about.  Sir, what are you talking about.

So BR briefly explained the situation.

They smirked again.

Clerk 1: Sir, I believe you have to pick zhat up in zhe lezher department.

BR: The leather department?

Clerk 1: Yes.  Zhe lezher department.

BR: Where is that exactly?

Clerk 1: I do not know.  Perhaps you can ask someone else.

Oh.  Well that’s a bit weird… but ok.  So we set off to find someone else who could tell us where, in this enormous, glittering store packed full of super-rich tourists, we could find the leather department.

We were blatantly ignored by the first three women we approached.  They knew we were there.  We stood at three different counters, said excuse me multiple times (very politely by the way), and none of them would address us.  One lady just stood there cleaning a bag.  Eventually she rolled her eyes, turned around to face the wall, and just kept cleaning it until we sheepishly walked away.

This was proving to be far more difficult than we expected.  We just wanted to pick up a stupid hang-tag and we had now been trying to get someone’s attention for 30 minutes.  I don’t do well in crowds and I was starting to get hot.  And frustrated.  Finally we cornered a woman on the floor and asked her where the leather department was.  She looked annoyed, dismissed us with a wave of her hand, and said it was probably upstairs on the second floor.

So up we went.  When we were finally able to get someone’s attention, BR once again asked where we could find the leather department.  The sales clerk started laughing.

Clerk 3: Zhe what?

BR: The leather department.  We need to pick up a hang-tag for a Birkin and we were told to go to the leather department.

Clerk 3: HAHAHAHA!  Zhere is no lezher department here!  HAHAHAHA!

Umm… pardonne moi?  And as we turned to one another, obviously confused, we noticed those two snarky little sales clerks who opened the doors for us, standing in the corner, snickering and pointing.  Those little douchebags in their stupid matching ties were screwing with us.  They had watched the whole thing.

HOW EMBARRASSING.

I was mortified.  BR was mad.  But we had made a promise and he was determined not to leave without this stupid fucking hang-tag.  So back downstairs we went.  We found another counter with yet a another sales clerk standing behind it, so we walked up.  This time politeness was not on BR’s priority list.  He got straight to the point.

BR: We’re here to pick up a hang-tag for a Birkin.

Clerk 4: Excuse me?

BR:  A HANG-TAG.  FOR A BIRKIN.

She looked us up and down.

Clerk 4: Is it for you?

BR: No.  It’s for a friend of ours.  Here’s a copy of the letter she received.

Clerk 4:  Well, uh Sir, I cannot just accept zhis copy of zhis letter and just give you zhe tag.

BR:  Why not?  It says right here that we can come to Paris to pick up the tag.

Clerk 4:  Hah-hah-hah… NO.  It says zhat she can come to Paris to pick up zhe tag.  Not you.

BR:  Are you kidding me?

Clerk 4:  No, I am not kidding wizh you.  Zhis piece of paper means nozhing wizhout some type of identification.  Do you have a copy of her passport?

BR: Uh no, I have a copy of the letter.

Clerk 4: Well, zhen zhere is nozhing I can do for you.

And she abruptly walked away.

At this point I think it would have been easier to purchase a handgun.  In Canada.  We had been jerked around for almost an hour and it was painfully obvious that they were not going to give us this small piece of leather that retails for a mere 50 Euros.  So we basically had two choices: buy ten Birkins to “teach them a lesson” or hang our heads in defeat and do the slow walk of shame out of the store.  We chose the latter.

And who was there waiting to open the doors for us?  The same two little jerks who initiated this Parisian screwing-of-a-lifetime in the first place.

Clerk 1:  Au revior!

Clerk 2:  Have a good evening!  HAHAHAHAHA!

I was so mortified I thought I was going to barf on the sidewalk.  BR was furious.  But being a man who is true to his word, he actually felt bad about not getting the tag.

BR: Do you think we should ask her to send us a copy of her passport?  Then maybe we’ll still be able to get the tag for her.

Me: Are you kidding me?  NO!  I’m never going back in there again, that was horrible!

BR: You’re right.  What a bunch of assholes!  From now on I am boycotting this store!  I AM NEVER SHOPPING HERE AGAIN!  I’ll show those douchebags what they can do with their Birkins!  Now at least I don’t ever have to get you one of those stupid bags!

Me:  BR, those bags are thousands of dollars.  I’m pretty sure you would never get me one anyway.

But I didn’t care.  In fact I totally agreed with him.  And to this day I will never wear or purchase anything from Hermes.  In fact whenever I see a Birkin I have a mild urge to grab it and fling it across the room.  And stomp on it.  And then set it on fire.

But the sad part is, Hermes probably doesn’t care.  In fact they’re probably still laughing at us.  But at least we didn’t end up with ten Birkins.  Or a 3-storey dragon.