Tuesday night was a big night at the grocery store. Like most Parisians, I go to the grocery store A LOT. Like, every other day pretty much. You know those gallons of milk we all buy at home? THEY DONT EVEN EXIST HERE. The largest quantity they sell at my grocery store is a liter. And folks, I love me some cereal...and yes, I know, I could buy two one liter bottles of milk at once, but have I ever mentioned I live up FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS?
At French grocery stores, a good amount of shoppers own these things called chariots (like a small rolling suitcase), allowing them to wheel their groceries home with them. Some people take their chariots around the grocery store instead of a cart, which incidentally makes it very difficult to judge which line is going to be fastest because WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY’VE GOT HIDING IN THERE.
For my part, I shop with the store provided baskets, and then FRANTICALLY bag my own groceries (yes, you have to do that yourself here and WHY OH WHY do plastic bags become impossible to open under pressure???) I then lumber home, while people with GROCERIES ON WHEELS whiz past me.
I would really like me one of those wheely things. I’ve seen a few girls around my age with chariots (usually the same plucky types who cycle around Paris in their stocking-legs and turtlenecks) but I’m JUST NOT THAT SECURE. Which is a nice way of saying if you’re going to use at chariot at age 24, you might as well lock yourself up with ten cats and tattoo “spinster” on your forehead.
So why the rampant use of chariots in Paris? And why aren't we seeing more chariot usage in major US metropolitans? If you’re thinking this is some noble environmentally conscious thing, like the people who bring their own mugs to Starbucks, I would say you need to see the way Parisians look at me when I ask where their recycling is--not so much a priority here.
What it’s about, folks, is LA CLASSE ET LE CONFORT... and the French DO tend to be experts when it comes to those matters. It’s about popping into the boulangerie for your bread, and not feeling like a shlump with five plastic bags. It’s about having the flexibility to run by the video store or bank AFTER the grocery store because your groceries are ON WHEELS!!
I explained to Kathleen this French method of shopping, and being the gift giver extraordinaire that she is, she quietly noted the fact and proceeded to order me the largest LL Bean monogrammed tote I’ve ever seen. (I can sit in it, I tried.) I love that it’s from LL Bean. I think it says, look at me, adapting to your French culture while still retaining my American identity. Non?
So the bag arrived yesterday, and I hopped on the metro after the post office, bursting it out of its hunter green packaging for everyone to admire its preppy American splendor. The timing was perfect--I was planning on making the Monoprix in Saint Germain des Pres my last stop of the evening.
And folks, lemme just cut to the chase and tell you how it went down at the grocery store: I started with the produce like always. My pears were weighed and then I just needed to put them in my bag. No big deal, right?
Only, do you know how weird it feels to be putting groceries into the deep, dark, recesses of you bag where no one can see? I’ll tell you what it feels like: IT FEELS LIKE YOUR SHOPLIFTING. I was physically unable to do it if standing alone in an aisle. I found myself holding items until I was plain view of several witnesses so that NO ONE WOULD THINK THEY WERE CATCHING ME. And I tell you this only to explain how insane I really am.
But when I joined the check out line of the always stoic middle-aged clerk who has seen me a million times before, I noticed she gave me the once over and then SHE NODDED AND SMILED!!! AND I WAS WEARING MY GYM CLOTHES!! I swear it was the bag. So, do you know what this means, people? I’M FINALLY IN! The mean Monoprix clerk actually likes me! And it only took a year of living here.