Diary of a Marked W•man



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Paris, June 2007

CROCHET

With the project I finished last February, a cherub singing and playing the mandolin, I realized at the second half that I had acquired some skill and speed whereas the first half was more difficult because quite a few months had passed since my previous project. So I decided that I should not let so much time elapse in-between in order to maintain if not improve my skill level. And when I was crocheting the rose border doily I didn't have much of a warming up period because only two months had passed, and I worked so fast it reinforced my conviction that not only should I keep doing it to maintain my skill level, but I should take advantage of my skill to do more of it since I was getting really proficient.

At the same time I was thinking this I saw, facing the rose border doily, a wide filet border at the bottom of a curtain with so-called "spiders" which I considered to be floral motifs in negative before I learned their english name. The way these motifs were worked in that project was really very handsome so I decided to give it a try but I was afraid it would be hard to do so instead of doing the entire border by following the instructions, I first learned how to do only the "spiders" and found them worked in a different setting in a crochet album. I spent my Sunday doing samples. It was not so difficult after all. .

Then I had the idea to adapt the border to a fireplace mat. Many projects from old books have no place in today's lifestyle. One doesn't take five o'clock tea so there is no more need for tea cloths, but what a pity there is no use for all these lovely patterns! But if one finds a way to adapt them to contemporary life, then they can be put to use, and what prevents me from adapting a tea-cloth or a curtain edging to a fireplace mat? Of course I have to learn how to make mitered corners but I'm not against learning new stuff so....

I took pencil to paper and with the help of photographs and patterns I drew a pattern to make an angle in the spidery motif to fit the fireplace top and it worked out fine. I started crocheting immediately with thread number 30 I had at hand. Oh oh! It's gonna be niiiiice! .

Basically this motif, on a filet grid, is a hanging foliage, a leaf, and at the bottom the spiders, arranged in a saw-tooth zig zag, and bordered by additional tiny scallops with picots, form clusters of flowers that seem to hang down from the foliage. .

Making a pattern for the corners is the difficult part. The classical way of doing it is to draw an imaginary line at 45 degrees of the corner and decrease along this line, then at the bottom where there is only one mesh left, to turn the corner and go back up by increasing and joining the work along the diagonal. Of course this line is not straight but is made of steps of two meshes at a time most often. But this is not how I did it. I looked for the most logical spot -the narrowest and least visible- to make the joint because it was not possible to do the mitered thing with these particular spider motifs and it worked out fine. .

Thur. the 7th: went to pick up my computer central unit at the post office. The new procedure where you need to pick a ticket to get a number, and chose which button to press depending whether you want to get a package or send a registered letter or some other postal service doesn't seem to speed things up. The package pick-up is always less busy than other windows. My number was 19 whereas a woman next to me waiting for another service had a number in the 390s. I remember they tried this system in NYC. There was an electronic ring every time a teller became available, so people looked at the flashing number and also looked at the row of windows that had a light flashing to show where the available teller was. They try so hard to be modern, they forget to be efficient. This system was abandoned after about a year. Pity the tellers who heard the ring tone all day long. But here in Paris it's even smarter: there are three different sets of numbers flashing: one orange, one blue and one red so customers have only 33 percent chances of "their" number series ringing and most of the time look at the number display only to think "it"'s not my line"..

Last week I went to pick up a package. My number was 18, and number 15 was being served. But after number 16, the tall thin bald man -who has this sadistic little smirk etched on his face- called a number from another series in the two hundreds, breaking the new procedure where windows were specialized in a service instead of polyvalent like before. So ok, someone got ahead of me because this is the way the dude wanted it. Then at another window a man appeared and announced "people who need to pick up packages may come to this window". And immediately two persons came and I stood in line behind them. The first man in line said he had number 17. After I got my package I asked the teller -a blonde man- why they were not respecting the new procedure. "But it's to save you time, Madam", he said. "Oh I see", I said calmly, "because the new procedure is not there to save time!" The man was upset and avoided responding by wishing me a good evening with exaggerated emphasis. It was closing time, he was saved by the bell. .

Getting back to my computer -a used HP Pentium' bought on ebay for 181 euros- I saw there were about 7 people ahead of me but a chair was available so I sat down. Two other women were sitting, so I said to the one on my left that before the new system, I could ask people to let me pass ahead of them, so she said that I had priority over everybody else if I had a "carte d'invalidité". So I said that I did not have one because my handicap was not permanent and incurable. I added that since I could sit down it was ok to wait. The woman on my right offered me her ticket but it was in the late three hundreds so I said it was not my line, and she also said that definitely, if I had a carte d'invalidité I wouldn't have to wait, all I had to do was show it to people. So I thought, it's not enough for people to see a person on crutches, the person must prove that the disability is permanent. Otherwise, they won't make a gesture of empathy. And while I was realizing silently that this was a set up an Asian woman walked in with a man and stopped to talk with him so close to me that she blocked all my view so I tapped her on her bare arm and asked her to move over. Then a woman teller called up anyone who needed to pick up a package or registered mail so I got up but an old fat man beat me to the window and started talking with the woman about the need to make an appointment with a financial adviser. I didn't mind while I was fishing for my yellow slip and ID in my shoulder bag but he kept going after I had put both on the counter so I asked him why he was keeping me waiting, knowing full well that I am handicapped. "Are you doing this to spite me?" I asked. "Spite you?.." he said trailing off, then he went away.

I had the impression the woman was trying to discourage me from taking the machine but the prospect of having come for naught except all this trouble didn't appeal to me so I resolved despite her discreet entreaties to carry out my mission and took possession of the beast. I carried it with the narrow side resting on my shoulder and holding it up with my left arm, and using my crutch in the right hand while holding the unused crutch horizontally. No one offered to help me and I walked out of the post office then kept walking outside on the foot-path for a short block and then I had to put the thing down. I leaned my crutches against the wall next to me, and the machine at my feet I looked around for help. Two young men walked by.A woman with a toddler on a tricycle/ A teen age girl with a boy and his scooter. Then from a distance a black man approached, wearing a monkey suit. "That's my man!" I thought. When he wazs close enough I asked him to help me, said that I lived very close and wouldn't take more than five minutes of his time. He replied that he was just going to work and didn't have the time to help me, that he had to go there and blah blah blah, he made me feel sorry for his own predicament so I felt a bit angry all of a sudden and I said to him with some bitterness "I'm asking for your help..." not finishing the sentence but meaning "and all you give me is a sob story as if your situation was worse than mine. So he walked back towards me and said he had not understood right away that I lived so close, he tought I had meant I lived at the Porte de Choisy proper, which is much farther than where I live. But I had never said "Porte de Choisy". But I was in no position to analyze his rationale so I said nothing. On the way he said that this district had a lot of people abusing social services. "Oh!", I said, "but there is a lot of misery, you know." "Yes but some people abuse the system." I really didn"t like this idea. If people are poor they ask for help from the government. Of course there always is abuse; like women getting money as single mothers even though their boyfriend is part of their lives. It happened in the US too. Welfare queens they are called. But who was this guy to say? And why in this district in particular? "Oh! I know, that's because there's a lot of social services in this district!" I said -yes, more than in any other, probably because office space is cheaper to rent here than in any other district. But he said no, as if I wasn't getting it. Then I thought he meant medical services so I got confused. Why would people get medical treatment if they didn't need it? I gave up trying to understand. I asked him if he didn't mind walking to the second floor. I said I would give him a tip for his effort. When I reached him on the second floor he had put the computer down in front of the wrong door so I asked him to put it in front of my door and asked him to wait a second while I looked for a 5 euro bill but he declined and started back down and shook my hand. "Thank you very, very much!" I said. I hesitated to say "God bless you" and didn't say it.

Sat. the 9th: Went "to the city" around 6:30pm for the first time in many, many months, maybe more than one year. Went to the notions store on rue Monge to buy thread for crocheting. I had not been in for a minute when a man with grey hair walked in as if in a hurry and instead of letting me pay and leave since my thread was already packed and rung up, interrupted and told the old lady what he was looking for. I took the opportunity to open some of the crochet and embroidery albums that were for sale. Most were in the 20 euros range, lavishly illustrated with color pictures and big charts but the models, even the old-fashioned ones did not attract me. I thought about my five-dollar Dover book that is so rich in different techniques; lovely projects and detailed enough with good B/W pictures and charts and clear written instructions.

I've noticed that almost every time I go to a store and am in the process of buying something, the same thing happens and the salesperson, instead of asking the intruder to wait a minute, abandons me and turns his/her attention to the newcomer, forcing me to wait. I remember it happened when I bought a nightgown at the open air market in late 2004 and other times tough right now I don't remember the occasions.

Next I went to Phildar nearby to get some thick cotton thread for Irish crochet. I haven't done any since my last project of last December that disappointed me though I worked hard at it with very thin thread number 70 and a .6mm crochet.

I got of the bus at the mall on Place d'Italie to get a roll of film developed because just before leaving I had taken pics of my various works and in particular my tablet woven trial sample. But it was too late for the one-hour service. Then I bought some powdered unrefined sugar at the Naturalia store next door, then continued South and bought a ten-pack of bus tickets, then made a left to rue Caillaux where I bought groceries. Not for the first time the bag of ground coffee that was perfectly packed when I took it off the shelf was now misshapen as if someone had stepped on it.

Mon. the 11th: The same team of Asian workers that lqst Spring installed large fans on the flat roof of the beauty parlor just outside the kitchen windows is back after working hours. I ask one of them what they are doing. The man sounds a bit reluctant to answer, then he says "It's for the air." I check later and see that a panel is enclosing two of the large fans and also blocking the view of one window. The narrow sheets of material composing the panel, which are angled so as to form a horizontal surface, seem to be made of light plastic and are assembled with silver colored duct tape. I don't see how this panels that encloses the fans can help the ventilation just at the beginning of the warm season. The only space for the air to come in and out of the enclosure is about 40cm high at the bottom of the panel. The weirdest detail is that the panels turns a corner, facing the wall where the door is, as if an attempt was made to hide something from view.

Tues. the 12th: I go out to buy food around 6:30 PM. When I'm back and ready to climb the stairs back to my appartment with my backpack loaded with maybe 5 or 6 kilos of fruit and veggies, plus a plastic bag I'm carrying by hand containing cookies, I have a bad feeling and decide to wait until a tenant comes in. I've hardly put down my crutches that Phung, Jr dressed in a black suit walks in hurriedly.

"Could you help me please?" I ask him. He’s walking so fast he’s already on the first steps of the staircase so he turns back and asks what do I want, and grabs the bag of cookies. I say "No, this!" showing him my backpack. So he grabs it by the handle and rushes upstairs, disappearing from view. "You are a co-owner, aren't you?" I ask; "No," he says. "Well, your family is, right?" "Yes." "So why aren't you doing anything to get the door fixed? Anyone can walk in and I'm afraid of being attacked, you know, because I"m handicapped and can't defend myself." "That's because every time we fix it, someone breaks it again." That's the excuse I hear every time. "But then you should ask the police to investigate." He's already walking back downstairs.

"Please, wait until I get to my appartment," I ask him. "I don't have the time, I'm in a hurry. Come on, there's only one flight of stairs left", he says, crossing me on the second floor landing. "That's the most dangerous part!" I say, because half way up there is the door that connects to the beauty parlor roof and I'm always afraid someone will use that door to hide before or after attacking me. But he's already gone. So now my backpack is waiting for me in front of my apartment and here I am one flight of stairs below, but instead of keeping on up I turn around and hobble back downstairs. That's when a young Asian man walks in, so I ask him to accompany me and wait until I'm on the second floor, "Just for one minute," I qssure him, so he waits for me while I climb the stairs one by one with my crutches as fast as I can. I tried faster ways of climbing but always ended up with terrible pain in both knees that lasted for days, so now I'm not trying to go fast anymore. Once I'm reunited with my backpack I thank him and find myself home with a feeling of intense relief, so I hum my victory hymn on the melody of "Fallen Leaves":


"Bande d'enculés,
ça s'ra vot fête,
Un d'ces quat' mats
Moi j'rirai bien.

Bande d'enculés,
Faudra voire vot' tête
Un d'ces quat mats,
Un de ces quat matins.

Car voici qu'elle arrive, la Justice
Pas celle des hommes mais celle du bon Dieu
Et maintenant que vous avez le cul dans l'Pastis
Il est trop tard
Pour avoir
Les larmes aux yeux."
.

I invented this little ditty after returning from hospital in early 2005. The insult of "enculé" is one I heard all the time when I was using the cyberspace rue Auguste Perret, where all these young men and boys were playing video games. Having lived abroad for so long I wasn't informed of the current insults but they set me straight soon enough.

On Fri. The 15thFirst I went to the post office to pick up a package. There is an attendant at the ticket machine to make sure people take the correct ticket. What a job! So I tell him my business and he gives me a ticket bearing #3 and the message “There is no one in line ahead of you”. One of the customers at the two windows dealing with pick ups leaves so I walk up to take her place but the man sitting at the desk tells me he didn’t call me. “But I’m next!” I say. “I haven’t called your number,” he replies, and he presses a button that makes the number 198 blink in red and an electronic sound ring, but nobody walks up to his window.

Then he explains that the color codes don’t mean anything, that just because I need to pick up a package doesn’t mean I’ll go to window #1 or 2, I could just as well be called to any other window. But he takes my slip and goes to fetch my package so I don’t care too much about his explanations. “But then how would I know which window to go to when my number is called, then?” “You have to look at the small number next to your ticket number to know that.” “So you mean that this machine that distributes three series of numbers could just as well distribute just one, and that all the work and money spent to make these signs in different colors were all for nothing?” “Exactly,” he insists, “the color system is of no use at all, please ignore it in the future.” And I walk away shaking my head in disbelief. Well at least nobody can say he didn’t make a good effort to rescue his colleague –the tall skinny sadistic one- from a tight spot.

I had my roll of film developed and digitized on a CD but since it was the first time I had this service done for me and I looked at the files on the CD with the “files display” setting, I didn’t find right away the high resolution pictures. All I saw in the Explorer window was the “Pictures” file and the sub-file named “lo-Res” so I thought a “Hi-Res” file was missing and for a week or two I believed the people at the 1-Hour Photo service had cheated me. It was only when I looked again with a different display that I saw all the high resolution photos in the “Pictures” file. But back to the 15th:

I had dinner at the Fung Shun restaurant next door to where I live and after I had finished and paid I was afraid again to climb the stairs alone so I asked the young woman who had served me to accompany me. I had been right to be afraid because none of the buttons that one presses to turn the light on in the staircase was working. It was not because the bulbs were dead: had it been the case, the small led lights below the buttons would have been on, but they were off at both ground floor buttons and also at the second and third floor. This could only happen if someone had tuned off the circuit breaker inside the closet. Fortunately there still was enough light to make out the stairs, but barely enough. Once again I was very relieved to be home in one piece.

On Tuesday the 26th I went to Monoprix to replenish my pantry which was stark empty. I hadn’t gone there for about three months because I have resumed buying groceries at G-20 which is much closer. But I needed so many things plus I wanted to exchange a pair of 100 grams balls of white thread, still in their shrink-wrap, for the écru color and I could do it only there.

I went first to the Customer Reception desk and told the woman –she was back, this middle aged short woman who had given me a hard time previously!- what I wanted. She asked if I had the ticket receipt. I said no but anyway I didn’t want a refund, only a color exchange, and they had this item for sale year-round so it was not off-season. A teen aged boy was there when I came to the desk and didn’t seem to be doing anything besides keeping the woman from attending to me. Now the woman asked me to follow her so I did, and I expected that she would go to the place where the thread was but instead she walked with the boy to the magazine rack and they both stood there doing absolutely nothing while I stood at a short distance waiting.After a few seconds I decided I didn’t need the woman and went to pick up 2 balls of écru thread and started my other shopping.

When I was finished and got in line behind the only delivery check-out that was open, a woman I had never seen before asked me to follow her and she opened the other delivery check-out station. I started putting my things on the conveyor belt but she didn’t start ringing up until after the belt was entirely covered and piled high, meanwhile she filled out the date and time on the delivery slip.

When she finally put her pen down and prepared to do her job of ringing up my things, I approached her with the two balls of thread and told her I was only exchanging them, I had already paid for them. So she called the Customer Desk and the short middle-aged woman came over, she confirmed my statement, and since the delivery man was putting my things in a large box I didn’t pay anymore attention to the matter. When I was ready to go back home I told him I would give him an extra big tip if he made the delivery at 7:30 sharp, which he did. I remember now (July 20) that as I walked away from the supermarket I had a sudden thought of alarm about my two balls of thread and almost turned around to go and put them in my back-pack, but I thought the delivery would be in only thirty minutes so it wasn’t worth the bother. Ha! Next time I’ll pay more attention to my alarm system.

So the delivery man was on time and though I had promised him a big tip he left hurriedly and I had to call him back. But after I had put away the several kilos of brown sugar, the two cans of olive oil, the five or six bags of pasta, the cookies, coffee, tea, tissues and ten kilos of potatoes etc. I realized the two balls of thread weren’t there! And I had just given the man a 7 euro tip! Dang! So I immediately called Monoprix to explain the situation. The woman who answered said that the delivery man was off for the day so I said it would be ok if he came tomorrow at the same time and I gave her my phone number to confirm the time of delivery, but after hanging up I started to worry because there would be no delivery slip for tomorrow and what if the cohort of my would-be killers took advantage of the situation? There was definitely an opportunity for them to make me open my door under false pretense and bring their nightmare –me- to an end.

So when the phone rang the next day I didn’t pick it up. Quite by chance the memory of the answering machine was full and the machine couldn’t take any message. “Memory full” it said. Yeah, my memory is full too!

There were many, many attempts to get me on the phone that day. Between 15 and 20 attempts I’d say, and I remained holed up not answering the phone, in a state of utter disgust.

How could they pretend it had been an oversight when these two balls of thread had been the first items I presented to the cashier and when they had been the object of a special manipulation requiring the presence of the short woman? How could these balls of thread have been negligently set aside from the items to be delivered after being the objects of special attention? Besides it had never happened before.


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