Saturday, 4 August 2018
The true horror stories in modern Paris part 59
Mme. Landlord was chatting away about her grandson and how well she was getting along with her son and her daughter in law. Mme. Landlord and I were in Leroy Merlin, a hardware shop in Paris. Paint needed to be purchased to paint her apartment, the one that had been left in mess by her former tenant Jupiter. Not knowing that she was lying I offered to help with the big task because she had put on an Oscar performance of a crestfallen old lady. Besides, her son who lives in Paris would surely help his old mother too? To this Mme. Landlord replied as ‘Oh, no, I cannot ask my son (and his wife). They are raising children. Their time is precious.’ I let pass this inconsiderate comment about my time being insignificant as a childless single woman because Mme. Landlord was from the generation when women’s worth was measured solely by the number of children she bore and raised. She cannot be accused of the general opinion. To her credit, she had shed off racial discrimination that was prominent among the older generation.
Or had she? Her eyebrow moved up as Mme. Landlord spotted some paints with the reduced price. She asked a shop assistant if it was suited for painting over a dark color. The assistant replied ‘Non, it is semi-transparent.’ Now Jupiter had left black wallpapers on the wall and yet Mme. Landlord wished to paint the walls in light beige. She should have a professional painter remove the black wallpaper or invest in high-quality paint. She chose neither because both options were costly. She purchased the cheap paint and decided that I should paint many layers to compensate for the poor quality. And yet such was my loyalty to her that I did not oppose. I wished to help her economize, just like I did all the printing jobs she needed for nearly two years.
I had to carry all the heavy cans of paint back to her apartment because of Mme. Landlord who would not spend 50 euros for delivery. Mme. Landlord thought I deserved some reward and served me a pumpkin soup. It was the weakest soup that I had ever tasted that even water would have had more flavor, but ‘it is the thought that counts’ I told myself. Then one of her gentleman friends knocked on the door. She had asked him to come give her some advice on the best way to paint her apartment. I was amazed by her transformation. She behaved coy and flirtish, her voice was a pitch higher than the one she would use with me. Well, that’s French woman for you, I was amused…until she started telling lies.
The gentleman said the painting of the entire apartment was a bit much for an amateur woman like me. He advised Mme. Landlord to use a good quality paint to compensate for my want of stamina and experience. I was relieved that he had spoken some sense into her, however, Mrs Landlord replied ‘oh, I have bought the best that the shop recommended to me.’ My French had improved enough to understand her lies, but my speaking ability was never to be on par with a native speaker. As soon as I opened my mouth and uttered a few words of French, Mme. Landlord spoke over me to shut me up. She went on to say to the gentleman that it was me who insisted on doing this favor for Mme. Landlord because I wished to repay her for her kind services. It was true, but the minute she boasted it publicly, it lost its class. I felt used by Mme. Landlord to impress her gentleman friend. She went on to plead him to tie two chairs on a small lorry. The gentleman obliged and asked if she wanted him to deliver the chairs to her other apartment. Mme. Landlord declined saying that she could not be so impolite to her good friend. And yet, as soon as the gentleman left, she turned around, back in her normal tone, and told me to deliver her chairs across the old town of Paris at 23:30 at night. On her lips there was a sheepish smile, but her eyes were malicious.
To be continued.