St tropez
Today's story takes place near St. Tropez...

essuyer (es-wee-yay) verb
   1. to wipe, to dry
   2. to mop
   3. to clean; to dust
   4. to wipe up; to mop up

Le rire, comme les essuie-glaces, permet d'avancer même s'il n'arrête pas la pluie. Laughter, like windshield wipers, permits us to advance even if it doesn't stop the rain. --Gérard Jugnot

A Day in a French Life...
At a busy intersection near St. Tropez, a woman dashes up to the convertible Peugeot two cars behind us and squirts sudsy water from a plastic bottle onto its windshield before lunging forward to wipe the glass clean with one of those squeegees. When the driver fails to reach out his arm and offer a coin or two, the woman gives an exasperated shrug before trying her luck on the quatre-quatre* just behind us. This time the driver's arms do stretch out, but only far enough to reach the lever that activates the truck's windshield wipers.

"Now that's a clever way to put a stop to the window washers!" I say.
Jean-Marc laughs, not at my comment, but at the radio from which a comic sketch is playing on the Rire et Chanson* station. Unfazed, I look past my husband to his driver's side mirror to spy on the washerwoman's progress, now reflecting in the glass.

The woman navigates through traffic to another car, this time to the cherry-red Mini Cooper in the lane to our left and splashes water on it while its driver wags a manicured fingernail back and forth in vain. "Je vous ai demandé d'arrêter!"* the driver shouts.

Meanwhile, off to the side of the road where a majestic parasol pine throws shade over the parched grass below, two more gitans* lie sideways on a blanket, bottles of sudsy water between them. It is another sweltering day on the Côte d'Azur* and I sympathize with the gypsy washerwomen who are trying to make ends meet via this suds-slinging enterprise. But my compassion is short-lived when my eyes return to the rearview mirror to find the woman approaching our car.

Heureusement,* we didn't have to wag a glossy fingernail or activate the essuie-glaces* to escape the soapy deluge. It was the feu vert* that saved us.

*References: un quatre-quatre (m) = a four-wheel drive vehicle; Rire et Chanson = Laugh and Song; Je vous ai demandé d'arrêter! = I told you to stop!; un(e) gitan(e) = a gypsy; la Côte d'Azur ("the Blue Coast") = the French Riviera; heureusement = fortunately, happily; un essuie-glace (m) = a windshield wiper; un feu vert = a green light


In related books:

Little Money Street:

In Search of Gypsies and Their Music in the South of France

Django Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

In Francophile Gifts:Provence_dinner_plates

Provence dinner plates : Set the table with the sun-drenched hues of the Provence region of France. This collection of 4 dinner plates features a collage of floral patterns in sunflower gold, olive green, spicy orange, lavender and sky blue.

French Pronunciation:
Hear my daughter, Jackie, say the following sentence: Download essuyer2.wav
Je dois essuyer la table. I've got to wipe off the table.

French Expressions:
s'essuyer ses pieds = to wipe one's feet (before entering)
essuyer la vaisselle = to dry the dishes
essuyer une perte = to suffer a loss
essuyer un refus = to meet with a refusal
essuyer les plâtres = (lit: to wipe the plasters) to be the guinea pig

un essuie-glace = a windshield wiper
un essuie-tout = a paper towel
un essuie-mains = a hand towel

In magazines: (Published in the French language)
MARIE CLAIRE IDEES focuses on fashion and beauty issues, career success, and each issue includes easy-to-follow instructions for a wide range of crafts and projects.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety