One of my friends once asked me: “How come such stories only happen to you?”. She was referring to a slightly amusing situation that I had found myself in, when the sandwich shop owner was giving me stuff for free, in the memory of his long lost armenian girlfriend! I actually don’t think that it is specially to me that those things happen, otherwise I would be worried for myself!
But I must say that I have a collection of funny stories about my encounters with people in the service sector: plumbers, painters, shopkeepers, cleaners, you name it. My plumber for example, lives in the same building as me with his extravagant artist wife. Whenever I call him, I say: “Monsieur X, there is a disaster in my house”. He shows up with his well adjusted pony tail and tells me to clam down: “There are never disasters, only solutions”. Then he fixes the problem and leaves. I love him for making the problems go away and for giving me food for thought. Is it really true that for every problem, there is a solution? Maybe so, as far as leaks and joints go.
In the contrary to my zen plumber, my painter seems to be functioning on high voltage. My first interaction with him started when I had a wall soaked in water in my kitchen and the insurance gave me his number. I called him to discuss the issue, when he said: “My god, you have such a strong accent, it is unbelievable!”. I guess many people would have been annoyed by his comment, but I was quite amused. The funny thing was every time I was calling him, I knew he would say the same thing. Finally, I made a joke out of it and he left me alone.
He started his job in my apartment last summer. The damaged wall was finally dry and he could start his painting. He arrived the first morning, and out of the blue asked me to go out with him to take a cup of coffee. I didn’t know whether this was part of the job or it was a kind of a date! Of course, very awkwardly I refused and proposed to make the coffee at my place. He drank the coffee and said that he doesn’t like it. My precious Neapolitan coffee!
In the following days, I found out that he was getting divorced, that his ailing sister was about to die but the timing was not right: “It is stupid, she will go soon but still we have to share the money that is left from my father”. So I asked him if he would prefer that she dies soon, expecting to get some emotions. He replied: “I hope she doesn’t die now, because I really want to go to my vacation to St. Raphael. If she dies, I have to stay in Paris and do all the paperwork”! I was speechless.
He was a character to say the least. He gave me career advice: “What are you waiting for, send your CVs to some big-shot companies, I have a friend who works for Sanofi-Avantis, he earns a lot of money”. Then after one week of talking with me and on his cell phone, singing, and occasionally working, he packed his bags and left.
The most unusual of all was my house cleaner, Xavier. I get cleaning women through an agency. Last summer, the director called me to say that all the girls are in vacation and if I agree, she will send me a “guy”. She assured me that he is very nice and pleasant. The day arrived and I open the door to a smiley-face African guy with braids. He comes in and tells me that he is here for the summer, he lives in New York and he is a professional boxer!
I was not expecting this. A Boxer from New York cleaning my apartment?! I asked him why was he doing this job. He said: “I love cleaning, I am so clean that my landlord has given me a reduction on my rent. I wanted to be a professional cleaner to see how it was”. Alright, some people are bizarre. Then he started cleaning one window for one hour, and proudly called me to show how good he had cleaned it. I smiled, I couldn’t discourage him.
Once he found out that I had been living in US, he started talking to me in English, telling me that I was too calm for being a Parisian and that he could guess that I was not from here. “Parisians are all the time in a hurry and very nervous”, he said. “I want to buy an apartment like yours and live in New York”. I wished him luck.
After Xavier, now I have my little Romanian who has so much energy that she can move mountains. One day, she came all happy to tell me that she has a suggestion for me but I should not tell it to her boss, otherwise she would kill her. I looked at her dubiously. Then she continued: ” I am working for this very nice young man, he is clean, he cooks, he cleans, he is perfect for you”. I laughed. The situation was absurd: me standing in the kitchen listening to my cleaning woman doing a match making. Then she continued: “Well, you are not going to stay alone all your life, are you? Let me introduce you to him, you guys will be perfect together. He works in a bank”. That alone was a turn off, even though I was curious to know who this guy was.
Recently, she has given up on finding me guys but she doesn’t stop telling me about her adventures. One guy turned out to be gay, the other one was a jerk, the third one drinks too much, etc. She has decided to get her high school diploma and become and accountant. I am sure she will one day, she is very bright.
Since then, I am happy to have her twice a month with me to remind me how excellent it is to be young, energetic and full of hope. She has had a hard life, and her life has made her a mature and wise young woman. I am glad to witness her progression.