Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Customs of the French
I seem to be on a kick of remembering commuting to work, wherever work was. I told about driving through the gypsy camp in France. I didn’t mention arriving at the plant. I went down a side street, almost an alley, to a small parking lot across from the main gate to the plant. We had assigned parking spots and once I had locked the car, I rushed into our building and up the stairs to my third floor office. I went directly to the window to watch a typically French custom. The parking lot was made with crushed blue stone, the same material used in the driveways of American suburbia back in the thirties and forties. Just inside the main gate was a tiny one story cottage with flower boxes always abloom. From the cottage would emerge two little men with long white jackets such as worn by doctors or serious scientists seeking recognition. The little men hurried across the street to the parking lot carrying large, metal leaf rakes. They would quickly and carefully erase all evidence of car tracks I had made in the blue stone on my arrival. Made me feel like a nobody until I noticed that everyone in that lot got the same treatment.
The arrival of the President of the company was a different story. His limo would stop in front of the cottage and FOUR white-coated fellows would line beside the limo. His chauffeur would come around and open the door. His Honor would step out and very formally shake hands, including a stiff little bow, to each in line. Then he was off to his office shaking hands with any workman that crossed his path.
You may wonder at my running up to the third floor instead of taking the usually crowded elevator. Thirty five years ago, the French believed religiously in Saturday night as bath night. The intimacy of an elevator verged on painful after Tuesday or Wednesday. I learned to be aware of the day of the week.