Friday, April 30, 2010

The Pendulum

In the absence of glowing mullets and disco-ball-themed passengers, I am forced to use other coping mechanisms to retain my composure during my daily metro rides. I have previously mentioned the erratic mode of operating that seems to be the norm for metro conductors. Additionally, I have previously mentioned how…we’ll say “cozy” that metro rides can be. On a crowded metro – as in geopolitical international relations – space that one can call one’s own rates as both a highly limited and highly desirable commodity. There are many often utilized ways to procure and maintain one’s personal space on a crowded metro – smoker breath, coughing/sneezing/sniffling, body odor, creepy stares, wandering hands…you get the picture. Being a legal temporary resident of Paris with respect for my fellow Parisians as well as someone who prefers to think outside of the proverbial box I wished to secure my personal space on the Metro without resorting to any of the aforementioned means. This is why I invented and hereby copyright “the Pendulum.” Like any tactic, though, “The Pendulum (this phrase and action is protected, copyrighted, the full intellectual property of, and not to be used without expressed written permission of Tommy Carrico, Inc.) has its proper execution and its improper execution. In order to clarify, I will relay personal experiences of proper and improper execution of this brilliant, space-procuring device.

The Pendulum Proper

Necessary Tools: A somewhat weighty purse and a disregard for the comfort and temperament of passengers who may invade one’s personal bubble.

Positioning One’s Self:

- Posture One: Standing against a wall of the train (most effective) or

- Posture Two: Single-handedly grasping the vertical handlebar (in dire situations this posture will suffice)

The Act: One must hold one’s purse in front of him or her (in the case of Posture 1) or beside one’s self (in the case of Posture 2) making sure that it is not resting on the ground, but rather hanging loosely to one’s front or side. Let the laws of physics take their toll on the ankles, shins, and calves of all those around you as the erratic and sudden stops and turns of the drunk metro conductor cause one’s bag to secure at least a 6-inch perimeter around one’s stake of metro territory. One must be extra cautious in seeming oblivious to the motion of one’s purse in order to give the impression that one is but a simple-minded, careless buffoon rather than a scheming, brilliant, comfortably-not-cramped metro passenger.

The Pendulum Improper

Necessary Tools: Living Beings and a complete disregard for the safety, comfort, and well-being of said living beings

Positioning One’s Self: In positioning one’s self to execute the Pendulum Improper, one must pick up whichever live being one might wish to use in one or both hands before proceeding to mumble, curse, and swing all one’s limbs (especially those clutching the leash, neck, or limb of a living being) violently and randomly in several different directions.

The Act: Fairly self explanatory with the given posture and just as effective as Pendulum Proper in the procurement of space, though less effective in giving the impression that one is a civil human being. I have witnessed the utilization of children and dogs in the execution of Pendulum Improper. A few days ago, a rather frazzled older woman was taking her dog for a walk and, for whatever reason, they wound up on the Metro line 8. The poor, frazzled lady’s poor, frazzled dog seemed to be somewhat afraid of either boarding the metro or was familiar with the events that were about to ensue and was obstinately refusing to willingly submit to acting as this woman’s pendulum. The dog did not win this test of wills as it was swung about in the air by its leash, knocking into several passengers before landing in a purse thereby being utilized as a rare combination of The Pendulum Proper and Improper which I like to call “the-crazy-old-lady-who-should-not-be-responsible-for-the-safety-and-well-being-of-another-living-being." I’ve said this before, but being a general fan of canines, I honestly mean that I wish I was making this stuff up.

For a re-cap of the Children-Being-Used-As-A-Pendulum Episode, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ode de Toilet

One of the great things about living abroad is that the vast amount of life experiences in a foreign language mandate that one learn a diverse array of vocabularies in said foreign language. This is always a non-stressful, enjoyable experience for all parties involved.

That paragraph is completely incorrect.

As my more astute readers will have deduced, I am about to relay the story that has captivated the minds and energies of the Carrico, Jr family abroad in Paris for the past week or so. This is the story of our noisy toilet and concerned neighbors. You see, when we lift the lever to flush the toilet, it takes roughly seven hours to refill, intermittently making a loud hissing noise for the entirety of those seven hours. If during those seven hours either I or my wife find it necessary to use the loo, tack another seven hours onto the remaining amount of the prior seven hours. Apparently, we have reached the point of no return. We have used the toilet during its seven hour refill period enough times that the toilet will be hissing, spurting, and squeaking in a vain attempt to refill until doomsday. Cue the neighbors.

I have developed a spectrum of responses to French people who ask me for directions, make comments, ask for change, etc. These responses fall under three broad categories: ‘nervous smile and nod and keep moving;’ ‘pretend I didn’t hear the French person;’ and my personal favorite and most effective: the ‘blank basset-houndesque stare.’ Not only do these responses work individually, but they are also highly effective in keeping me from speaking French when used together. For instance, we walked into our apartment building the other day to be confronted by concerned neighbor number one. She said something to me and was promptly met with a combo 'blank basset nod, smile, keep moving.' She shook her head in disgust and started talking to Abbey. As Abbey and I ascended the eight flights of stairs to our apartment, Abbey relayed the information to me that there was **gasp** a leaky faucet somewhere on our side of the building and concerned neighbor number one worried that one of our faucets may not have been able to withstand the great influx of liberty and freedom into our apartment. Abbey assured her that none of our faucets were leaking. We entered our apartment and were greeted by our hissing, snorting, not-yet-refilled toilet.

The next day, we noticed that a concerned neighbor had posted a flier in our elevator alerting all of those who live on the ‘B’ side that there was a leaky faucet somewhere, wreaking havoc on the well-being of our entire building. There was an additional note, however, that it may not be a faucet, but…a leaky toilet. We had been found out. We nervously drafted an e-mail to our apartment owner to inform him of the dire situation in which we had placed all of our innocent neighbors – should we call a plumber or should Tommy take the lid off the back of the toilet and unscrew things until it stops making noise?

Guess which one ‘we’ chose?

After disassembling the things that I could figure out how to remove from the back of the toilet, it was still making noise, so I turned off the water (apparently this is step #1 that I had inadvertently skipped). While I was tinkering, we received a prompt e-mail back explaining to us that replacing the “clapet” (pronounced “clopp-PAY”) was a yearly task and that, odds are, by so doing we would remedy toilet-geddon. I removed the clopppay and we ventured off to Bric-o-Rama (French Home Depot) only to be confronted in the hallway by concerned neighbor number two. He said bonjour to me and received the fourth of my looks: “I am annoyed and don’t feel like talking to French people” along with the latter half of the "nervous smile and nod and keep moving" (just the "nod and keep moving" part for those curious). I had a clopppay in a bag and was going to buy a replacement. The man, however, was able to talk to Abbey because she, for whatever reason, talks to French people (it’s like she enjoys making use of the second language she knows). He told us that he was sure that the drastic leakage was coming from the excess America that we accidentally brought with us because he had heard the noise coming from our apartment. Abbey (per my instruction) assured him that we had no leaky faucets.

We returned about 45 minutes later with a new clopppay in hand, ready to fix our broken toilet. I replaced the clopppay, reattached the bobbers, turned the water back on, and flushed.

**hiss, gurgle, spurt, spit**



**hiss, gurgle, spurt, spit**


I poured a bucket of water into the back of the toilet.


More silence.


So now the plan is to leave the back lid of the toilet open and dump a bucket of water in it every time we flush which would assuage the worries of concerned neighbors one and two and put an end to the era of the horrible toilet noise. After about a day, Abbey and I had grown weary of this practice as well as the fact that toilet flushes are much, much louder when the thick hunk of porcelain is removed from the toilet’s back. What happened next became another item in the long list of reasons that it pays to be married to an honest, outgoing, bi-lingual woman. While I was at school, Abbey spoke with concerned neighbor number one who called in concerned neighbor number two to enter our apartment and examine our john.

He said that it was completely normal (see: Tommy didn’t break anything while taking apart a toilet that had nothing wrong with it to begin with). The next day, the concerned neighbor committee hatched a plan to shut off the water in the building for an hour and try to fix something unrelated to our toilet that may have caused the building-wide problem. It worked. Our toilet now finishes re-filling promptly after flushing.

For those keeping score at home:

Tommy’s solution: when talking to our neighbors we should adamantly proclaim that nothing was wrong, then take the toilet apart, buy a new part, put it back together, then plan to dump water in it every time we flushed for the next three months when all of that failed.

Abbeys solution: explain to the neighbors that our toilet makes a funny noise only to find out that there was no problem with our toilet but rather the building's water system and the problem was fixed the next day.

Maybe it’s time for me to start talking to French people.

‘Fuite d’eau’ means ‘leak’
‘Chasse d’eau’ means ‘flush’
‘Robinet qui goutte’ means ‘drippy faucet’
‘le bassin’ means ‘the back of the toilet’
‘clappet’ means ‘flapper’
‘flotteur’ means ‘plastic floater thing attached to the flusher/refill doober’
‘coupure d’eau’ means ‘we’re cutting off the water’
‘compteur’ means ‘water meter’

And, finally,

‘Abbey avait raison et je n’avais pas raison’ means…look it up.

Thanks for reading.