Diary of a Marked W•man

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Paris, September 2007

Sun. the 16th: What a nice, perfect Autumn day. Sunny, with mild temperature. The window is open in my bedroom and I'm lying on my bed using my old computer to write this because I don't like the nosy paperclip with buggy eyes that shows up when I type in Windows XP. I have a lot of updating to do. I wanted my life present to be uneventful, and be busy only with my textile work but my wish was not granted and so I'll have to narrate the events tha have occured since last June. But first I'll get up to date with this month so far.

Wed. the 5th: First event of note was on the 5th when I went food-shopping at G-20 just before closing time. After all my shopping was done I moved to the closest checkout that had one customer, instead of any of the other two that were unoccupied. When I started putting my things on the counter the woman from the next check-out, a tallish Asian woman I recognized from last time, moved to the one I was at. To explain her move she said the young woman who was cashing me out was new and needed help.

After I had put all my things on the counter I realized I had forgotten the cookies so I asked them to please wait and I went to pick up some madeleines and Petits Lu. When I was back at the checkout I saw that the Asian woman was just starting the process of changing the paper tape. I said "I see you are determined to keep me waiting!" because if she was not intent on harassing me she had ample time to install the new roll while I was picking cookies. "Well", she said, "these things happen, you know!" I was irate and I sat on the empty counter at the next cashout. "Besides," she added, "we've been keeping your place in line" implying she had done me a huge favor. "What line are you talking about?" I asked. "I don't see anybody waiting behind me. What happened is you wanted to keep me waiting on my feet even though you know that it hurts me because I'm injured," I said. "Oh, I think you are exaggerating" she said. (What special knowledge does she have to assert this?)

When all my items were scanned and the total announced I paid with my bank card and only then, as usual, did I get the ticket, and since the first woman had made mistakes I looked at the ticket and found several mistakes. I noticed, first, that the 4 half-litter bottles of milk were billed .80 euro each instead of .65 and asked why. The Asian woman called a store clerk and asked him to verify the price. He came back saying that .80 was the correct price but I insisted that the label on the shelf said .65. Finally it turned out that the brand of milk I had already put in my bag was not the one I thought, but how could this be so? I am positive that I took the brand of milk on the extreme left of the shelf, the house brand ("Belle France") which is the cheapest and has red markings, not the one next to it which has no red at all. So I took the bottles out of my bag and asked the clerk to give me the brand I wanted. I forgot what the cashier did about it, whether she corrected and refunded me. Then I noticed another mistake, a certain item had been billed as two instead of one, so at this point the Asian woman called the manager who took a look at the ticket and said that the erroneous item had been cancelled at the bottom of the bill. "I want this ticket cancelled and everything to be checked out again," I said "It's impossible," the Asian woman said, "because you have already paid by card." So I said I wanted to check every item on the ticket and the store manager, who still held it in hand, started to itemize a few things but then he suddenly left and kicked my crutches to the floor. I didn't realize right away he had done it but i could not explain any other way how my crutches, which I had leaned against a shoulder-height, shrink-wrapped package of bottled water just off the pallet, had fallen to the floor with a metallic clang.

Then I noticed that the bunch of bananas had been weighted for 120 grams -or the single bell pepper had been identified as bananas I don't know- so I asked the woman to fix this mistake as well, and with all the sarcasm and contempt she could put in her voice she said that, in fact, the mistake was in my favor, that in reality the bananas weighted 1.4Kg and cost almost 3 euro instead of 12 cents. I said I wasn't asking for favors, just for a correct bill, so she refunded me 12 cents with a lot of flourishes and I had to fork an additional 3 or so euro. Meanwhile another customer who only bought one item passed through the checkout. I hoped that he would pick up my crutches but he didn't. There was another man at the entrance who was playing with a kid on a bike, who also could have picked them up but he didn't either so I did it myself before putting my heavy backpack on.

Well, this incident sure took my mind off the subject I stumbled into just before going out shopping, when I put in my computer an unmarked diskette and opened a file and random, and it was Part 2 of May 2003 that starts with my saying I was devastated upon learning my great-nephews and niece, the Saclier children, were being sexually abused by their father and grandparents.

Still I ruminated the supermarket incident and found it unusual that the bill had come to 33 euro (including the extra I paid in cash for the bananas) when usually my bills are no more than 25 euros. I called up a 1:30PM and the manager answered the phone. I told him about my perplexity and he said that there should be no problem checking the sales ticket next time I come to the store. "But the problem is that I don't have that ticket", I told him. He said that it's the law to give a sales ticket at every purchase. "But because of what happened last night there was some confusion. You held the ticket in your hands at some point and I don't know what happened to it afterwards, but usually I don't spend more than 25 euros and this time I paid 33. Besides your cashiers are very arrogant and disrespectful and I don't have any more patience with you." "I know," he said, "I've terminated that woman." "The next time there's an incident I'll complain to the headquarters." He said he would tell his cashiers to be more polite and we ended the conversation.

*** insert music interlude here ***

Sunday th 9th: I was surprised to see Mrs Phung dumping something at the garbage closet just when I arrived downstairs, because usually the hair and beauty salon is closed on Sundays. She said hello to me. The iron curtain was lifted only halfway, so apparently the salon was not open for business but for some other reason. I had never seen it open on Sunday before, even half-way.

I went food-shopping at G20 and the white apprentice cashed me out without any problem and said hello and good bye.

When I returned from the supermarket I saw the salon's iron curtain hadn't moved. I went to the Chinese restaurant because I didn't feel like cooking and I was hungry. I wanted a soup in a big bowl like I saw some customers have but didn't know where to find it on the menu. The waitress told me it's not a soup that Europeans eat usually, that's why it was written only in Chinese on the menu, but I said I wanted it. The main ingredient, when I saw it steaming in front of me, was broken rice and not much else, and I was quite disappointed. It cost 6.50 euro and for an extra euro I could have had any meat or chicken dish.

After eating I saw nothing had changed at the hair salon. I didn't feel like going to my apartment unaccompanied so I sat down on the stairs and waited for some tenant to show up. Fifty minutes later Tina -aka Regine Feller- entered the building and I asked her to go with me because I was afraid of being attacked. "Have you ever been attacked in the staircase?" she asked. "I've been attacked," I said, and she made no reply. I said I thought there could be no landlord worse than the one I had in New York, but my family who own this building are even worse than he. At least he kept the front door locking and had it repaired as soon as it was broken, (and he kept it painted too, but I didn't mention it). Tina said that someone was breaking the lock every time it was fixed so my family stopped repairing it. Same excuse I hear every time, whether from the syndic or from Sophie. I said it was no excuse, it was the law to maintain the premises locked and accessible only to those who live there.

When we reached my floor I suddenly remembered how she, Tina, had sided with my mother back in April 2004 when my RMI allowance was cut for no good reason and my mother refused to give me money. My mother acted like she was being victimized by me, she even had a tear sliding down her cheek after taking refuge in her car, and Tina joined her there, as if she were Mom's real daughter and me just an interloper. And when I begged her, Tina, to help me shortly after returning from hospital with my broken leg in early 2005, she declined saying she had to go to work and hurried downstairs carrying one of those Zen cushions called, I believe, "zafutu" or something like that.

So now these memories came back to me and I said to her "You're a good friend of my mother, aren't you?" "First of all," she said, "I haven't talked to her in a very long time and I don't see your brother either. I have a job taking care of adolescents. It doesn't pay much but I get paid vacations." (Oh! She's no longer working as a cook at the Zen place!) "All this hoopla about Zen philosophy, and the Zen place on rue de Tolbiac, all that was fake right? It was just to influence me, to make me believe that your advice to sign the settlement of the estate was motivated by your Zen wisdom?" "So how are you?" she asked. "How do you think I'm doing when I need a knee operation, dental work and eye care and am being prevented from getting medical care?" "But you have medical insurance, don't you?" she interrupted. "That's not the point! I told you I am being prevented from getting medical care even though I am covered by health insurance."

I pushed open the door to my apartment and asked her in. "...and how do you expect me to be doing when I'm being prevented from having my lock repaired, and my apartment painted after extensive water damage to the entrance, bathroom and kitchen?" I showed her the peeling paint. She exclaimed at the outrageous state then she said that she had herself had a water leak from upstairs that destroyed all the improvements she had done in her apartment, and the leak happened because the plumbing is old. She noticed a moving plank in the parquet floor underneath the linoleum and said that there was a rotten spot in the floor too. "I could give you the address of the person who painted my apartment," she said.

Then I remembered she was very much into sewing back in 2002 when I met her at Norbert's apartment, so I couldn't resist showing her the new things I'd made. She was appreciative and said that she had a book about sashiko embroidery. The light was filtered by the yellow curtain and gave the room a nice glow. "At least you have this room that is clean" she said. And I found the choice of word unfortunate but probably deliberate because it implied that the other rooms were dirty by my fault, and diverted the attention from the issue of the disrepair. And yes, the floor of the kitchen is dirty, and I wonder how else it could be with my two bad knees and these raised polka dots all over the surface that make the dirt so hard to dislodge. In New York I used to sweep the floor every day and mop it almost as frequently and it makes me very unhappy to no be able to clean.

After she said this I remembered how, when I invited her to my place in 2002 to see some textiles I had collected in the USA, she said of one batik piece I was showing her proudly that she didn't like it at all, with such vehemence that I was astounded at the uncivil, antisocial behavior. She has a venomous tongue like my mother. So I walked to the door and opened it. "The things you made are nice" she said before leaving.

Wed. the 12th: Went to the post office to pick up a kitchen scale and a large office punch-hole bought on e-Bay. I picked up number 173 at the ticket distributor and nr 168 was being served, together with a client with a number from the other series. I sat down near the door and leafed through a book on Mountmellick embroidery I had just received in my mail box, and when my number was called I walked up to the counter on the left and at the same time a woman who was waiting close by came in from left field and beat me to the counter by a split second. "Why are you coming to this counter?" the man with the pierced eyebrow asked me. "I have number 173, isn't it reason enough?" I asked. "But I didn't call this number!" he said. Then he turned toward his female colleague and said "Millie (or whatever her name is) could you please take care of this?" and he put my two mail slips and ID card on a surface between the two desks, then I saw him count out cash in banknotes to the woman. I've seen tellers count out cash at this desk several times but there is no sign whatever indicating that this desk is exclusively for payment of whatever and anyway why don't people have money transfered to their account and use the cash machine?

He had hardly finished speaking when a Vietnamese-looking man walked to Millie's counter and handed out his own slip to retrieve some registered mail. The woman took it and disappeared behind to look for his piece of mail, then she came back saying she had been looking at the wrong address, it was number 8 and she'd been looking at 80, and went backstage again and finally came with the envelope. Meanwhile Mr Nguyen, a young man, who could have had the decency to cede his turn to me but didn't, but to the contrary beat me to the desk like the woman on my left, was making small talk with me, explaining I had not seen the desk number next to the call number, that's why I went to the wrong window, and kept smiling and laughing as if he was having the time of his life. In fact there is no desk number indicated next to the call number and I said so. "It's disappeared now, but it was displayed before," he said. Then I turned to the pierced man again and begged him to please attend to me and he did. I told him this system with two series of numbers was very bad. He said that the other customers were of a different opinion. But I have never been told if there's a special window to retrieve mail, and if so which one is it, and what is the use of the 2 series of numbers if all the windows are polyvalent.

But what makes me think I am being deliberately harassed by the staff and by complicit civilians posing as customers is that when my number was called, it was the only one being called, so why did two other people show up and take precedence? They were not answering a call for the other series of numbers.

It is a sad reflection on the state of society when people take pleasure in inflicting physical suffering -and mental too- on people who cannot defend themselves. So these little postal employees are enjoying themselves getting a power trip at my expense, France too has its share of sadistic bureaucrats and supermarket clerks, and when one goes away you can bet your last euro another is waiting just behind to take his or her place.

Thu. the 27thYesterday I had to go to the post office pick up some purchases made on eBay or Amazon but the thought of being mistreated again was very distressing so I called up the number the public can call a second time. The first time was a day or 2 after my last visit there and the woman on the phone told me I should write a letter to the "chef d'établissement". I asked whether it was a man or a woman and she wouldn't answer. But a few days of reflection made me think that surely the branch manager was certainly responsible, because the personnel in general was horrid to me, it was not just one or 2 individuals who had taken a dislike to me -and even in that case it's not a valid excuse anyway-. So writing to the manager wouldn't help.

The man who picked up the phone when I called the 2nd time told me the same thing, to write the "chef d'établissement" so I told him what I thought, that the attitude of the personnel must be due to a policy coming from higher up since all the personnel was acting this way. I don't know what he replied to this, but when I went to pick up 5 packages a half hour before closing, the premises were almost empty so I didn't take a ticket but a young woman coming in just after me took one, and when I walked up to the counter on the left the man I had never see before asked for my ticket. I said I had not taken one because when I take one and it's called up on the LED board, every time the agent tells me it's not the number he called. But he didn't give me a hard time and went backstage fetch my packages and didn't take for ever doing it either, like the others did before the renovation.

Before the renovation that was almost the only way they could make me suffer so they kept me standing on my feet as long as possible, 3 or 4 minutes sometimes, just to find one package, but this time the man took less than one minute to find 5. What a relief!.

I put my packages on one of the tall round tables on which people can write while standing, and started to open the packages to discard the boxes on the spot to reduce the volume I have to carry and a woman who was standing there too, where another woman came from last time and beat me to the counter and got precedence, this time this woman gave me smile after smile. She smiled at me three times, for no apparent reason, so I smiled back twice, wondering why she was doing this, and when she left she said thank you to me even though I hadn't done anything. Oh well.

When I left I went to the ATM check my bank balance and then walked towards the avenue and on the way I saw 2 policemen walking on each side of a young black man towards an ambulance that was stationed at the end of the walkway near the ave. d'Ivry. I'm wondering why are 2 cops walking toward an ambulance with a young black man. I only saw their feet because I'm always careful where I put my crutches, but I gave a brief glance up when we were close and the young man didn't seem to be under arrest, his expression was relaxed and he seemed to be walking deliberately towards the ambulance. Good for you, bro!

I went a few more times to the G20 supermarket. The time directly after the incident of the 5th I mentioned earlier, and after I had talked to the manager on the phone and told him I had run out of patience and would complain to the headquarters if there was another incident, what do you think happened?.

His colleague (I suppose he is just under the manager in hierarchy, both being apparently from Indo-Pakistani origin) was manning the checkout but just after he had rung up everything he called the manager and asked him to replace him, saying it was time for his break. Come on, who takes a break less than one hour before closing time? But it was very quick and I didn't have to wait , so I handed my cash to the manager but when I was almost done putting my things in my backpack I saw right in the corner of the spot where things that have been checked out are put, hidden from the manager's view by my back-pack which I had stood there, in the corner, a bottle of shampoo I was sure I had not bought, so immediately I thought about the customer who would find it missing and handed it to the manager, saying this wasn't mine, and I asked him to look at my bill to make sure it hadn't been billed to me because I had already put my glasses back in my bag.

The next time, after I had put all my things on the counter to be checked out and the young white woman was almost done except for the apples, I pushed my cart out of the way towards the other carts at the entrance (seeing the manager near the bread rack nearby) and that's when I noticed that the vanilla-sugar packet I had put in my cart hadn't made it through the check-out, so I handed it to the cashier who then asked me what variety of apples I had bought. (she only had to look at the color coded labels stuck on the apples if she was unable to identify them). I had been wondering why she didn't check them with the other fruit and veggies I had bought that day, keeping them for the very last. Maybe she heard from her boss how one day I came with one apple I had bought and my bill to prove that I had been charged for a more expensive variety, and she wanted to be niiice to me, apart from setting me up to be arrested for shoplifting.

They had done this to me several times at Monoprix too. I bet they would be so relieved if they could get me arrested.

Finding the headquarters of this supermarket took some doing but with internet it's definitely easier. The organization is a 2-headed beast so it makes it a bit more complicated: there's Diapar, the unit dealing with warehousing, and there's Group 20, both at the same address, rue des Mares Juliennes at 91380 Chilly Mazarinn phone 01 64 54 23 22, president Claude Segurel for Diapar and Piton for Group 20. This is what the man who answered the phone explained to me. He said that if I sent a letter of complaint to Mr Piton, he would forward my letter to the owner of the particular supermarket I was a client of and the owner would take necessary action.

Next time I went to G20 the guy who took a break a half hour before closing time walked along the aisle I was in like a malevolent ghost and gave me a menacing look.

The next time, he was manning a cash register and when I approached it he closed the little door to prevent access to customers but fortunately there was another one right next to it that had only one customer buying a bottle of wine.

And today, through the magic of eavesdropping no doubt, the manager himself cashed me out and he even helped me put my things on the counter! He was perfectly correct and professional. I wish everybody would be like that every time I go shopping..

I must have said something right when I called the post office today.

I also called Dr Catherine Courson, who came to my apartment twice to renew my prescription for painkillers, last time being in June last year. That time I gave her a letter asking her on one handwritten page to contact the Procureur de la République, the homologue to the District Attorney in the USA. because I feared for my safety. In support of my request I attached a copy of an email I had sent five days earlier to Sophie complaining of all the irregularities in the processing of the settlement of my father's estate, and complaining of interferences preventing me from getting medical help for my knee, teeth and eyes, and repairs for my door, paint, heating, water heater etc..

So this time, in case she forgot who I was, I tell her she already came twice and explain I need a new scrip and she says no, she won't come. She doesn't say she doesn't make house calls anymore, she just says she won't come to my place. Since I never heard from the prosecutor in over a year since I asked the doc to notify him of my dire situation, I know she didn't write him and I know this is the reason why she doesn't want to come visit me, so I get it out in the open, saying apparently she didn't write the prosecutor.

She admits she didn't, she says she wrote the Ordre de Médecins, an organization equivalent to the AMA, that deals with ethics and breach thereof, as if she was in doubt about the ethics of what I was asking her to do, and then, she said, she tried to call me but couldn't get through. I said this is not the kind of things that on talks about on the phone, especially since my phone conversations are monitored. I explained that all my communications are monitored, including my mail and that I do not enjoy any privacy in my relations with professionals like doctors, dentists or lawyers. "Anyway it's not my job to mail your letters for you," she said. "I'm calling for help, I'm in a desperate situation, asking you as a doctor to notify the authorities and you call that "mailing my letters"! It is your duty, when you know a patient is being mistreated, to notify the prosecutor. You didn't need to consult with the Ordre des Médecins, you must have learnt that in med school. It is your legal obligation!" I expected that as a doctor she would write the prosecutor, saying how she found me health wise, and use the copy of my email to my sister as an attachment, but she turned the entire thing around, saying I was asking her to mail the copy of the email.

She said if my mail is being monitored, then I should speak to the letter-carrier. "Oh, sure," I said, "I'm going to go downstairs and wait for him." "You should speak to a lawyer, that's what you should do." I can't believe people who give advice like this, as if I didn'thave enough brain power to figure out what's best for me.

Did any of the five or so lawyers I've had for my first knee injury and for my father's estate ever do anything that benefited me? NO, NEVER! I know, it's more convenient for my enemies if I have a lawyer they can turn against me, than if I have a prosecutor and his team investigate my claims. I didn't ask for her advice anyway, I asked her to do something it was her duty to do. I repeated to her that I wascalling for help in a desperate situation, that she was guilty ofdenying assistance to someone in danger, a penal offense in France (and obviously she's also covering up for the renegade doctors who wilfully failed to treat my fractures and teeth). Her bad faith was getting me more and more upset and I was feeling the anger surge and my voice rise despite my efforts to stay calm so before I lost it and had a screaming fit I cut the conversation short and said "aurevoir" and hung up.

I called another woman-doctor's office nearby and the receptionist, after keeping me waiting long enough for the eavesdropper to cut in and tell her what to say to me, upon "learning" that I wished the doc to visit me at my residence asked if I knew her and when I said I didn't, said that the doc wasn't in right now and she, the receptionist, didn't know if the doc made house calls for people she had never seen before so I should call tomorrow morning and since the doc made house calls in the afternoon it might be possible to see her tomorrow.

Yesterday the 26th I called Mrs Pambou, my current social worker, to make an appointment to renew my contrat d'insertion. She said that the secretary responsible for making appointments isn't in right now so she can't make an appointment, but she will write to me with a date and time. I say any time in the afternoon is ok with me, but please make the date at least a week after the date of the letter because I don't go out every day to pick up my mail. I say that my contract expires at the end of September, so she says even if the appointment takes place in early October I won't lose any money so not to worry.

I've worked my fingers to the bone (I love this expression) doing all kinds of needlework, crochet and tablet weaving, to fulfill my contract and deserve a renewal of it but also to have something to sell, because the end result of the RMI after all is to help people become self sufficient.

I have for the first time done insertions of filet-crochet into a square tablecloth 140cm wide. I bought the heavy white cotton fabric and hemmed it, making mitered corners, and then I inserted 4 squares 23cm wide in the corners and 4 bands 10 x 60cm in the sides. I did all the insertions by hand and it took me about eight days full time. Afterwards I did a sashiko panel and started on the tablet-weaving loom a pair of black and royal blue handles for a LL Bean-type tote or a shoulder bag. Each strap is 106cm long, and symmetrical from the point where the hand lifts the bag. On either side of the middle motif are five motifs from the Mamasa Toraja of Sulawesi in Indonesia, which follow each other continuously as I have found it possible to do and aesthetically pleasing. Photo coming soon hopefully.

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