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Today's Word: culotté (koo-loh-tay)
: cheeky, daring, sassy
Culotté, cela veut dire "avoir du culot, être effronté ; manifester cet état d'esprit : C'est plutôt culotté de venir sans être invité." Culotté, it means "to be cheeky, to be daring; to manifest this state of mind: It is rather cheeky to come without being invited."
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Robot Panties (or Les Culottes en Fer)
By now we are all familiar with the automated side of life, as increasingly machines replace people. But do you ever wonder how Old France is faring in this new world? In the past week, I've been surprised by the degree to which public areas are automated--from fast food to fast doctors we are going to have to have more than steel nerves to function in the coming robotic world....
For now, we must resist while we can.
On our way home from the Alps, I agreed we could stop at Mac Do (as they call it here) on one condition: we would not do the drive-through but would go inside, sit down and eat our lunch (with linens if possible...). This intention to slow down was foiled when we encountered the computerized self-service stations where extra seating used to be. Taking a deep breath, I searched for the "Royale" burger I had the last time I was here (a year ago?). Not finding it, I went to the front counter to order from a human, only to learn that was impossible. All of the registers had been removed, and the counter now served as a barrier. It wouldn't be the first barrier we would run into....
Arriving home a few hours later, I unpacked in time to accompany Mom to the doctor. At the medical center I searched for a secretary when another patient pointed to a dull gray tablet near the exit. Studying the screen I was explaining to Mom how to use the computerized check-in when we ran into another pépin: the instructions were, of course, in French.
"Don't worry Mom. If you ever have to come here alone somebody will help you!" I assured her. With that I offered a pleading look to the two patients, who smiled in solidarity.
From there Mom and I went grocery shopping only for one of us to become frustrated upon learning that every fruit/veg had to be weighed electronically and self-labeled. My feisty Mamacita, having moved here from Mexico (where she had only to reach out her kitchen window to pick papayas) returned everything to the bins and grabbed a prepackaged sack of pears. Harrumph (well, I'll say harrumph. Mom exclaimed a much more colorful word!). If this automated society is challenging for the French, it is baffling for immigrants. Thankfully we aliens could stick together on this changing planet.
On the way to the checkout, we were eager to pay and leave only to learn no humans were available (owing to a broken cash register. The newly remodeled store put in two cash registers and five self-checkouts... Mom and I headed to the second register, only to find it abandoned; we would have to use the self check-out stations. Knowing this would take a while (our motley duo attempted self check last time. If you think weighing 3 apples back at the produce section was complicated, try typing in 46 tiny digits when the scan code doesn't work). Taking another deep breath, I asked if they had a public bathroom (a pressing question since arriving to the store 45 minutes earlier...). Non, the manager smiled, they did not. Now I ask you, who smiles when delivering bad news if not a robot? Which leads me to the point I am trying to make....
Looking around the shiny new store (which included a beverage stand and snacks for sale), I wondered how it was possible to put so much effort into supermarket efficiency and so little thought into human beings? You might say the company's decision to forgo a public restroom was culotté --cheeky on their part! Humor aside, I (and my bladder) can't help but think: In order to keep up with this futuristic society, we'll need more than nerves of steel, we may need robot panties!
* * *
I leave you with an image of Mom, in her favorite place to shop--the farmers market. The warmth and conviviality cannot be weighed or labeled with a machine. And (at this one, in St Cyr-sur-Mer) the public toilettes are at the end of the leafy lane. :-)
Mac Do = Mc Donald's
les culottes = panties, underpants, knickers
le fer = iron
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
culotté = cheeky
les toilettes (nfpl) = restrooms, bathrooms
Improve your French pronunciation with the book Exercises in French Phonics
Thank you very much for reading these stories, especially via email. Each week, more people sign off the email listserver--yet another sign of the changing times. It is a crowded world out there and a chaotic inbox only makes it more overwhelming. So merci encore for hanging on, for being a subscriber to this journal. Without you I would not be writing. I leave you with a rainbow, un arc-en-ciel, spotted here in La Ciotat a few weeks ago. I am leaving, now, to visit our daughter in Miami, and hope to post some photos on my Instagram if you would like to follow me there.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety