31 October 2005

Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs...

We're back on line at home again! At the moment, it's just a dial-up connection, but we're happy to have it. We should have our high-speed connection next week, once the company gets our payment information. Too bad we have to do all of this by mail - it would be faster do this in person.

Anyway, I have been taking pictures of some of the more mundane, yet unusual parts of life in Paris that I can now freely upload. Here are some of the everyday things that have caught my attention.

First, I give you the button to enter the bank, as pictured to the left. This is actually at Rachel's bank, but all banks do the same thing. You come up to the door on the street, and you basically have to ring the doorbell and be given permission to enter. In this picture, you press the yellow "Ici" button, which turns on the red Attendez (Wait) light. When the gatekeeper gives you permission to enter, the green Passez (Enter) light turns on. Rachel's bank is twice as goofy as ours because there are two sets of doors that you have to get permission to go through, and they are right next to each other. So, you get into a holding pen of sorts, and hope that door number two goes as smoothly as door number one did.

My main question here is simply this: How do they decide who gets in? You don't show any ID. They don't talk to you or ask any questions through a little speaker. You don't give a code word or type in a PIN number. They just buzz you in. Do you suppose that the lady pushing the button has any guidelines? Does she have a little card that says, "If the person is wearing a ski mask, do not let him or her in."?

On to the next sign. The one pictured at the right says "Barbeque Forbidden." If you know Colin, you know exactly what his reaction to this sign is: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" My initial reaction was, "Hey, that's downright un-American," and then I remembered, "Hey, we're not in America!" By the way, we did find a barbeque sauce here. It's buried on the bottom shelf at the supermarket underneath 20 different varieties of dijon mustard. (Also, there is no yellow mustard in France.)

Another important issue is the use of English in everyday situations. Many people actually speak better English than some Americans do, but as you can probably guess, there are some who need a little bit of work. (For example, the guy at the flea market today who yelled out, "Hello! I like you!" and poked me in the shoulder with a tension rod. Sorry, dude, American women aren't quite THAT easy.) I also liked the wording on this wrapper from an extension cord that I bought at a bazar, pictured at left. Hey, who needs condoms when you have "children protection" built in to your French Type Extension Cord?

By the way, if the misuse of English by non-native speakers amuses you, I recommend www.engrish.com.

Last, but perhaps the most troubling, are the options available inside the elevator for my building. I know that the picture is lousy, so allow me to interpret what the guidelines say. The first button says, "En cas d'incident, appuyer ici" (In case of an incident, push here). By itself, that button is not a problem. After all, you want to have a button that you can push if there is a problem, such as the elevator getting stuck between floors, hence trapping you in a space the size of a legal pad of notebook paper.

The second button says, "En cas de non reponse, appuyer ici" (In case of no response, push here). This is where we start to go awry. What do they mean by "no response"? Does that mean that if I push button number one and nothing happens, I have to go with button number two? What does button number one do, then? Who does it call? Should I just go straight for button number two, since it appears that someone is more likely to answer there?

Alternatively, maybe button number one is what you push if something happens in the elevator, i.e. you go into labor or you realize that you forgot to put on clothing before getting in. Then, button number two would be pushed if the elevator didn't respond, right? Well, what if you make the wrong choice, i.e. you are naked and/or in labor but you accidentally push button number two? Do they check a monitor, see that your elevator is working fine, and leave you there to freeze and/or give birth?

Ah, but that's where button number three comes in handy: "En cas de fausse manoeuvre, appuyer ici" (In case of a false move, push here). So, in the scenario just described, I could then hit button number three, and subsequently select the appropriate button for my exact emergency. Unless ... maybe this button means that the elevator has made a false move, and I need to hit that button to get a different team of experts to rescue me. How would I know if the elevator has made a false move instead of just not responding? Or, what if the elevator made a false move, and as a direct result was no longer responding? Should I hit multiple buttons?

If I get trapped in the elevator, which is roughly the size of a coffin anyway, I'll just consider it a creative burial and resign myself to my fate.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


At 1/11/05 04:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Amy!

Loved your ponderance of the elevator. Perhaps the use of 'Mexico, MO Logic' could help you out here. Please allow me to share the best phone entry around:
"City of Mexico General Offices, 581-2100; Public Safety Dept. (Emergencies Only/Gen. Info.), 581-2100; If no answer to above numbers dial....
Could this be why there's no one to answer elevator button number one???



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