Tout rikiki, fastoche, and the unexpected French word for "good luck" + my would-be 15 seconds of fame
Recipe for Disaster & "To return the kindness" in French

Sans plomb, essence, caoutchouc, and a gas station story on French nonchalance

The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires". And in today's column, an oldie but goody from the archives--beefed up with extra vocabulary. Please share this post with someone who would like to learn French.

Today's word: "caoutchouc"

    : rubber

Audio File: Listen to french word for rubber, via the following sentence

L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)

Unleaded gasoline 98 is more detergent than unleaded gasoline 95 and is more corrosive, especially for elastomeric parts (rubber). Both of these fuels contain high amounts of aromatic components that are very toxic. Therefore, avoid breathing vapors and do not use as a cleaning agent or degreaser.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...back in 2007

"La Station d'Essence" by Kristi Espinasse

At the gas station in Camaret-sur-Aigues I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" (faire le plein) with Sans Plomb 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my bagnole).

Opening the little door that leads to the réservoir à essence, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all my neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until the camion rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond (at pump number three) seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more liters. Don't take chances. Remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth I notice the attendant on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (Presently, she's filing her toenails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.

la station d'essence = gas station
faire le plein =
to fill up (gas)
sans plomb
(m) = unleaded
un centime = cent, penny
la bagnole = (slang) car
réservoir à essence = gas tank
le camion = truck
l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline

A French must: Embryolisse cream. I am down to the last drop (or squeeze) of this handy cream! My daughter and I both use Embryolisse (my twisted tube, left, hers, right) and it was extra utile for our recent trip--as one tube serves many purposes: makeup remover, face lotion (hydrating lotion seems misleading as it will not put moisture in your skin, but will help keep it there), and primer. Men, it makes a good aftershave! Order a tube here.

Also, I found this little wonder gadget "tube wringer" to help squeeze the last bits of cream (or toothpaste or you-name-it) from your favorite product. Check it out, or buy it here--it may well be the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for one on your list! 

Snapshot from Vaison la Romaine 

This next picture (Jean-Marc, his elbow broken, surveys the land where he would plant his grapes) was taken a year before we decided to sell our 2nd vineyard near Bandol...

Jean-marc broken elbow

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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