Patience is not a virtue, it’s a survival skill.
I’ll get back to that shortly. In the meantime let me explain the title of the post. Before we moved, we attended a gallery show at Ryan James Fine Arts in Kirkland. (We consider Ryan our art “pusher” and enjoy the artists and works he brings to the small warehouse space in Totem Lake). Almost all of the pieces in the show were by working artists on the theme of maps and mobility, it was called cARTography. Some of the pieces were quite abstract and others literally included maps. Contrary to our usual taste, we were struck by the work of one of the most literal interpreters of the theme, a graphic artist from North Carolina named Dan Elliot. All of Dan’s pieces were screen prints with bold text on vintage maps. Before we moved to France, I asked him to make a piece for us, which he did. He found a vintage Paris tourist map, circa 1950’s, and printed on it in boldly colorful block letters the above quote from the poem Toujours (“Always”) by Apollinaire. It translates more or less to “make room for the newly known”. Right now the work is resting in it’s impeccably creased pocket map format inside a desk drawer, waiting for it’s place in our newly known, and still fairly empty maison. Stick with us readers and I’ll unfold it for you here, in due time.
Segue to today’s topic. Patience.
“Veuillez patientez…” implores the payment machine every time a card is inserted. Ironically, this is one of the fastest transactions de la vie quotidienne that one will experience here. Still I take those moments when I’m asked to wait to think about the ways in which I calibrate my life to match the pace – slow and fast – required in order to get in the rhythm of life here.
As alluded to in last week’s post, forget the 24/7 businesses that enable midnight runs to Safeway for munchies or milk for the breakfast cereal. You need to plan your shopping. Yes, IKEA is open almost all day on Sunday, but on balance, it’s easier to create space for hanging with friends, doing stuff at home, or going somewhere cool. On the other hand, a co-worker cautioned me to make an appointment three months in advance if I thought I might need an eye exam. The agency which is handling our immigration needs beckoned us to hurry up apply for our Carte de Sejour (resident permit) which is expected to take up to 6 weeks to process. The same agency asked me, the next day, to please provide my Carte de Sejour because it was imperative we start our Social Security application.
And then there’s the pace of business. Outside of Microsoft (and sometimes inside depending who you’re dealing with), email and phone can’t be counted on as immediate forms of communication, with anyone. In doing business with our insurance agents here, who are awesome, I learned that phone calls are only accepted during certain hours, one can’t even leave a message. When enrolling Tim and me in language lessons through my company, our training coordinator cautioned “don’t expect this to be very fast, it’s not like that here in France”. When our language coach, who is also awesome, finally contacted us, he called to talk to me about setting up a future time to talk. Then he called at that future time, we talked, then he set another future time that I would hear from him. I haven’t heard from him. On the bright side, he has now emailed Tim to set an appointed time for them to discuss a potential future appointment.
Last Saturday, the girls soccer team was instructed to arrive at the field by 8:45am. The bus with the other team arrived at 9:30 am while we all waited at the field in th rain. No one reacted – one player just shrugged and said “the bus driver always gets lost, it’s normal”. Later we ordered from webpizza.com from our cell phone delighted to see the pizza would arrive home shortly after we did. It took another hour.
Traffic and commuting is always a good for the topic of patience – 45 minutes to anywhere is a good deal – whether on a bus, a train or in your car. Amusingly, we now have Martin, our peerless GPS navigator who lives in our cherry red Renault Captur. I’ll leave it others to explain the naming of this entity who is almost entirely reliable. However, even this cheerful, British, disembodied Charlie (Angels, not Hebdo), doesn’t think our address exists. Each time we set off from home, we ignore his first several instructions because he is directing us to drive through a barrier at the end of our street. We wait until he gets unconfused, then proceed with his eloquent British directions.
Finally, we must be patient while we wait for our belongings to arrive from the states, while we learn our way around, while we meet new people and wonder which relationships will stick, while I strive to fit in and make a real impact at work, while the girls find their posses at the new school, while Tim still waits for his first French lesson, and while every answer brings new questions.