Pictured: a muguet stand here in La Ciotat. I hope you all had a relaxing premier mai, or Labor Day, and that the month is going well. On May 12th, at 6 p.m., Jean-Marc and our son Max are having a special wine-tasting for organic and natural wines. If you are in the area of La Ciotat they would love to see you. Click here for more info about this free winetasting event
TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: “dépanner”
: to help out, to lend someone money, to help someone out of a jam, to come to the rescue
(Here we are focusing on one sense of the multi-meaningful verb “dépanner” as it relates to today’s story)
FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Driving up to a local ATM for some flouze, I saw the familiar figure loitering around the strip mall. I hesitated over whether to drive off or face the situation.
As soon as I got out of my car, the woman beelined it towards me. “Vous avez un euro cinquante à me dépanner?”
Could I spot her a dollar fifty? Such a specific sum. Was she a regular shopper who was short a few coins for a pack of cigarettes or a baguette? It is the impression she gave the first time she stopped me, in a nearby parking lot.
"Non. Non, non!" I replied (those last two noes surprised even me as I nervously turned to the distributeur. I tried to hide the numbers I was punching into the clavier--all the while keeping an eye on the woman who was slinking away.
Having run into her several times, I knew her story didn't add up. Unlike the panhandler outside our post office or the mendiant beside le tabac or the ivrogne seated in front of the superette (whom Mom regularly supplies with ice cream) who are clear in their motives and whose stories (true or not...) we blindly support, this woman made me uneasy. Certain beggars make me uneasy but that is no reason to look away. It is better to err on the side of giving than to make the mistake of leaving someone in need. I suppose that rule should apply to her as well?
Her. We will call her "Passe Inaperçu," because she blends into the scenery: bare skinned (no makeup), hair tied back, neutral pants and top... you might not recognize her a second time. But a third, fourth, fifth... I see her when I go to the grocery store or to the animalerie, she's soliciting other shoppers in the parking lot, walking right up to them as they head to their cars: "Vous avez un euro à me dépanner?"
Maybe it was a question of the language? Jean-Marc's guess, when I relate the story to him, is the woman is too ashamed to beg, so she asks for money another way. If that is true then I am the one ashamed for jumping to conclusions. Yet...there is something dishonest about her, something in her manner that is synonymous with con or scammer. My intuition is so specific it adds “organized ring” to the hunch. Is it any coincidence, then, what happened next....
While driving to that same centre commercial, I noticed a van pull off to the side of the road, the side door rolled opened and a handful of people got out—including her. I knew where she was headed, but who were the others and where were they off to?
There are all sorts of scams and scammers in France and various ways to deal with them. Our friend Charles, in Florida, has a homemade "antivol" contraption anyone can make. To outwit a Parisian pickpocket all you need is une épingle à nourrice. Charles fastens the safety pin to the bottom of his front pant pocket, and ties a string to his wallet, attaching the two. C'est malin. A clever way to keep your wallet safe.
You've got to be malin with these thieves. And malin enough to know who's who: are you dealing with a con artist or someone in need? When is one the other? Tell me, Dear Reader, how would you handle my “parking lot” situation and have you ever been duped? I would love to know your thoughts and hear your stories in the comments section below.
See une coquille, or “a little mistake”, anywhere in today’s post? Thank you for letting me know and I will fix it illico!
Photo of the shopping center mentioned in today’s story. Look at the dog on the back of the motorcycle.
le flouze = cash
le centre commercial = shopping center, strip mall (when it’s outdoors)
Vous avez un euro cinquante à me dépanner? = would you spot me a dollar fifty?
le distributeur = ATM, cashpoint
le clavier = touchpad
le tabac =tobacconist, tobacconist's (shop selling cigarettes and other items (cards, magazines...)
un ivrogne, une ivrogne = alcoholic, a drunkard (man), a drunkard (woman)
la supérette = mini market, grocer
le mendiant, la mendiante = beggar
passe inaperçu = goes unnoticed
l’animalerie = pet shop, pet supply store
un antivol = antitheft device
une épingle à nourrice = safety pin
malin = clever
illico = right away (see the post for more)
Rusty and Betty, the baby tourterelles, are doing great. We are thrilled they have remained in our yard, and often fly down to peck for seeds in the garden.
Do you know The Serenity Prayer in French? Learn the words and enjoy the calm and peace this poem brings. Bon week-end. Enjoy.
A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
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