I’m looking for a new suit in a shop on rue de Turenne. I explain to the saleswoman that there’s a certain medium blue that I’m looking for, in a size 50.
She asks me where my accent is from.
“I’m American,” I say. “How about your accent?” I can hear it.
She glances to a man in the open back office who looks up from his desk.
“Not important,” she says.
I try on a jacket. She tells me that it’s a beautiful fit and that I’m very handsome in it. This is the fifth jacket I’d tried on today and that’s the fifth time that I’ve heard that. It does fit, but I’m not sure that it’s the blue I had in mind. I ask her the price.
“349,” she says.
“That’s more than I want to spend,” I say.
“I’ll throw in the tailoring,” she says. That’s also the fifth time that I’ve heard that today. She gives a reason: “I like Americans.”
“Where are you from?” I ask.
“It’s important for you?” she asks.
“If you’re offering me a price because you like Americans I might buy the suit if you like I like where you’re from.”
“Where do you think?”
“I’m guessing Greece.”
“Do you like Greeks?”
I wasn’t buying it.
I’m having a friend’s name printed on a t-shirt that I’d bought as a retirement gift. I planned on being in the area of the shop in the afternoon I’ve paid 3€ extra to have it printed by 2PM rather than the usual 6PM delivery time. The shop manager, who spent a half-hour with me the day before, doesn’t recognize me when I enter to pick up the shirt.
“Your first name.”
“No, your FIRST name.”
She looks through the packets of printed t-shirts and other objects on the shelves behind the counter.
“I don’t see anything, but the delivery man doesn’t come before 6.”
“I paid 3€ extra to have it here by 2.”
“Can’t be. Are you sure that’s your first name?”
“Gary. It’s a blue t-shirt with a cycling motif.”
“Oh, now I remember. But it was for 6 o’clock, right?”
“No. 2 o’clock… Gary.”
She calls the place where the printing is done to say that she’s missing something from the 2PM delivery. The person on the other end asks her a question that she then repeats to me: “What’s your first name?”
“C’est bien votre prénom.”
“He says ‘Gary,’” she tells the man on the phone.
A minute later she hangs up. She tells me that my t-shirt didn’t go into the rush pile so it’ll be here after 6. She says that they printed my t-shirt and mistakenly also put in a second order for a plain blue t-shirt and printed it as well.
She says, “The good news is that you’ll have two t-shirts after 6 rather than one t-shirt now – and for the same price.”
“That’s not good news to me,” I tell her. “I’d rather have the correct one now. And if it isn’t ready then you can reimburse me the 3€ for the rush order and keep the second t-shirt for yourself.”
“What would I do with a t-shirt with Schulman written on it?” she says.
“What would I do with it?” I say.
“We’ll it’s your last name,” she says, “not mine.”
I’m on a bike, stopped at a light, my right foot on the curb, waiting for people to cross the street. A man teeters up to me, drunk.
“Because you’re North African and you don’t drink.”
“And if I told you that I do drink?”
“Can you give me some change?”
© 2017, Gary Lee Kraut