Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

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Coke racist

Someday, I’ll write the really good, salacious stories that illustrate how racist Spain is, but for today, here’s a little something to whet your appetite.

Sitting with a friend at a bar in Barcelona on a hot, hot day like all the others I spent there, I order a Coke Zero and she a regular Coke. Our drinks arrive a little while later and as the waiter is putting them on the table, her back goes rigid and her temper, aggravated by the heat, flares.

“I didn’t order this! I’m in Spain and I want Spanish Coca-Cola! Take. This. Back.”

The waiter starts to say that this is the only Coke they have and she gets up from the table, dragging me along.

Polish Coke 1

Even better than the real thing.

“Then we are leaving!”

Looking back longingly at my Coke Zero sweating it out on the table, I saw that her Coke had weird lettering on it, indicating that it came from somewhere close to Russia.

Later, drinking locally-sourced Cokes, I told her how in the US, Mexican Coke is highly prized because it tastes better. (It’s made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.) She was horrified by this information but recovered quickly, making disparaging remarks about Mexicans and their relative levels of cleanliness.

I let the topic drop since convincing Spaniards that they’re racist jerks is a futile endeavor and I just don’t have the energy to engage with them on every big and little thing they do that’s offensive.

But I do think of her every time I get Coke that “fell off the back of a truck” as is sometimes the case when I order food from a local place. I don’t understand how the economics of this works out, surely the transport alone negates any savings, but it all tastes good to me. (And it’s always still better than US Coke, so I’m still winning.)



Kitchen Nightmares

I loved you most of all.

Coke Zero means I don't need you.

Coke Zero means I don’t need you.

Red is my least favorite color. That’s a lie. I don’t dislike red, I hate red. A lot. Just seeing it makes me angry, which is apparently the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. (Color theory info.) For many years, I wasn’t able to get away from red as it was the predominant color in both of my sustaining substances, Coke Classic and Marlboro reds.

Now, I can avoid it pretty well and generally manage to do so, but French interior designers seem to love red. They put it in all over the place, especially kitchens. Here are some screen shots from different listings, all featuring variations on the last thing I want to see ever, and certainly not every day.

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But maybe…

It could be that there are so many red kitchens because no one likes red. That’s why American barns were typically red: it was the cheapest paint color.

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Another Camper fail

Sigh. Why can’t my full time job be correcting things*? If someone at Camper (or whoever does their not-good marketing) had just asked me to glance at what they were working on, I could have told them that in English, our colas are Diet, never Light.

Camper Light fail

diet coke coca light*This job kind of exists in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where Judi Dench is hired by an Indian call center to school the operators on how to be properly British. I would love doing something like this, especially since my General American accent (that is to say, one which isn’t specific to any region) is highly prized by people who are interested in such things.


Heart of Darkness

So, this happened:

Carrefour after dark 1

Oh, what? My crappy iPhone picture isn’t good enough? Try this one:

Carrefour after dark 2

Still not clear on what happened? I was in the supermarket when the power went out.

I’ll be honest, my first thoughts were of the Dawn of the Dead/The Mist variety and I was not happy because I do not like those kinds of movies. The store is open during renovation, so I thought someone tripped a fuse and power would be restored momentarily. After a few seconds, I whipped my phone out and fired up the flashlight app. As I scanned my immediate surroundings, I almost screamed because this old lady dressed in very dark colors was right next to me and that was like something out of Drag Me To Hell and I DON’T LIKE THOSE KINDS OF MOVIES!

I kept my cool though and eventually took it upon myself to help people find what they were looking for since most of the patrons mid-morning are older housewives and grandparents who don’t have flashlights. After a half hour or so, we were all ushered to the front of the store where there was light coming in through the windows and the clerks all got together, waiting for orders.

My cart was loaded up with a few things I needed, but my express purpose had been to buy a rotisserie chicken and some Coke for lunch. Some 20 minutes later, I tore into a pack of gum because I was genuinely hungry. One of the stock boys came up to me all aggressive-like, asking me what I thought I was doing. (I really hate rhetorical/sarcastic questions. Total wastes of time.) In my best French “duh” voice, I said I was hungry, obviously, and he started yelling at me, really yelling, asking how I was going to pay because all the machines were down. “I have cash,” I said and then he actually started flapping his arms angrily, saying that the registers were electric and that he was going to stay right by me to make sure that I didn’t leave without paying.

In the end, I got what I wanted because I’d thought the whole thing through in advance. I paid for the gum, the chicken and a bottle of Coke Zero in cash (€11,96) because the manager was a more reasonable person who understood that money is always money and that, because she had a key, she could open the register. She even gave me change back, which I wasn’t expecting.

I also learned an important lesson that day: the cashier from my peanut story wasn’t an angry person after all; the stock boys she works with are just total dicks.

Weapon of Distraction

I finally stopped thinking about scary movies by singing The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” to myself. I read an interview once with Joe Strummer where he went back to the market that inspired the song and couldn’t believe how small it was. Insert Thomas Wolfe-ism here.


Bachelor fridge

Speaking of being a total cliché, there is no reason why my fridge should contain only condiments, Coke and cheese (except that maybe I take alliteration too seriously).

bachelor fridge

Actually, I have a legitimate excuse, namely that one must go to several stores to stock up on things and food items here go bad almost instantly so one must either shop for dinner items every day or face this pitiful sight.