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Evian or plastic nipples?

When it’s 6:30 pm in Los Angeles and it’s time to collect the mail, garage doors screech open all over the city as 360,000 convertible BMWs jet out to the end of their driveways. At this time, 360,000 mail boxes open, the post is retrieved and the $60,000 luxury vehicles roll back up into their garages and are put to sleep.

Five days ago I moved to Paris from Los Angeles, California, where anything over ten feet is considered driving distance. You can imagine my shock, living on the seventh floor in the 16th arrondissement, to find out that there are no elevators. My imagination ran away with me. What about the mail? The trash? How many trips down these stairs was I apt to make in a day–worse, how many trips up? This is when I froze. What about my groceries?!

At this moment I resolved to begin a strict diet of leafy, light-weight foods. For two days I ate nothing but lettuce, cold cuts and cheese; I drank only tap water. On the third day I broke down and called a friend in Paris and told her my trouble. This angel suggested that I have my groceries delivered. Of course… it was so simple. All I would have to do is visit the web address she gave me for an online grocery store and “Voila!” Two days later I’d have a full stock of food.

I hung up the receiver and plugged the phone cable into my computer. Dial-up. Haven’t used that in about ten years. Apparently elevators aren’t the only technology the French are slow to spread. Eight minutes later I was online. I typed in the address and waited to welcome my at-home supermarket. Pause. My friend forgot to mention that the site would be in French. Luckily, I was able to take refuge in the cartoon-like sketches sympathetically provided for non-French-speaking visitors such as myself.

A few clicks was all it took: tuna (thon), cinnamon (cannelle), water (eau)–not a bad way to learn French. I gave my credit card information, my address and name and that was that. I was even able to select a convenient delivery time. I could expect my delivery between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. As it was Monday, I thought this quite efficient.

Wednesday night, I prepared to camp in my studio for at least two hours, as Californians know what the cable guy really means when he says between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. At 6:05 my phone rang. It was a man speaking in French, I didn’t understand most of it, but I assumed that he was from the delivery service. I tried to tell him that I’d be right down, but he didn’t understand me either and I hadn’t thought to figure out how to say, “I’ll be right down,” in French.

I grabbed my keys and raced down the seven flights of stairs (in my pajamas). I threw open the first door and then practically fell on the second door, which caused me to fly into the arms of a middle-aged French delivery man with a small white moustache. I couldn’t tell how he felt about our abrupt embrace, but he was definitely not thrilled when the maid from next door told him that I lived on the seventh floor.

I watched the man struggle to unload the groceries from the cart and so I leaned over to help. Together we began the hike: he with four cases of Evian under one arm and two huge bottles of Diet Coke accompanied by at least ten cans of tuna under the other. I’m not sure what was in my bag but I had no doubt that it was lighter than his. On the second flight he looked up at me with big eyes that pleaded “How many more till the top?” I wished that I could offer him some comfort but there was nothing I could do–there were still five more flights to go. On the fourth flight he made a joke in French that I understood to mean something like “I can’t believe you do this every day!” On the fifth flight we laughed together and became friends.

The two of us made it up all seven flights, he panting and I in my pink pajamas. I was grateful for his help and tipped him five Euros at my door. I signed off on the delivery, thanked him and began to lug the four overflowing plastic bags into my studio.

Filled with a feeling of tremendous accomplishment I began to sort my groceries. I commended myself on the small but important challenge I had overcome. I spoke too soon as I unwrapped four cases of water bottles that were wearing nipples. I wondered, if it were possible that Ooshop also specialized in the delivery of kinky sex toys? I didn’t even know that water bottles came with nipples. What was I do with them? I quickly stopped my mind from going there. My confusion was shortly remedied as next I unpacked twelve containers of baby food, which is, surprisingly, not bad.

Who knows what had become of my milk chocolate bar with the almonds that I love so much; or my cottage cheese, which is my personal comfort food. Perhaps the Parisian community felt that I needed to let go of any “teddy bears” I had brought with me from the US. Perhaps the delivery of baby food and water nipples was a sign that I had some growing up to do while visiting Paris, or maybe that I sub-consciously yearned for larger breasts; or more likely, that I am unable to tell the difference between baby food and cottage cheese–water nipples and Evian. Perhaps their drawings are not so good.

Julian Green wrote, “Paris is a city of staircases that challenge the imagination.” Faced with seven flights of stairs, I had gotten creative and explored, for me at least, unchartered waters. True, I will be eating baby food for the next two weeks, but it’s really a healthy alternative to jam. My first trip on the online supermarket might not have been a flawless one, but it was certainly interesting. I’ll be living in Paris for a year, so I’m sure with seven flights of stairs I’ll have many more grocery deliverers bringing me entertaining adventures and new friends.

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Kirsten joins Bonjour Paris from Los Angeles, California where she recently graduated from the University in Southern California with a  BFA in Acting. Last year Last year she co-wrote the book and lyrics to a new pop musical which expects to open in Los Angeles next spring. Two years ago, while studying at a conservatory in London, Kirsten fell in love with Paris and decided that she was destined to return for some time. She’s thrilled to experience this dream come true.

Instead of traipsing up and down stairs with groceries, why not take a tour with professional photographer Linda Mathieu of Paris Photo Tours.