Wednesday, August 18, 2010

With the help of a Frenchman...

If you practice a trade anywhere in Santa Barbara—or California, for that matter—you have to understand and/or speak a certain measure of Spanish. Ostensibly, this fair state considers itself an English-speaking territory, but those of us who have hammered nails, tightened pipe-fittings, whitewashed walls, and listened to our co-workers Mariachi music on the radio know better: Spanish is here—nay, has ALWAYS been here—and will be here tomorrow, after the Taquerias close their steam-frosted doors for the night.

It came as a surprise, then, when I had to speak French while installing this last chandelier.

It turned out that our electrician, Eric, was from France. I asked him (in broken Francais), how many French Electricians worked in Santa Barbara. He said twenty-one. And thus, I thought, my chances of meeting French-folk, retrieving verb conjugations from my subconscious, and subtly brandishing casual, relaxed, vocabulary in their jaded faces increased by a factor of twenty-one. After my initial linguistic foray with Eric, in which I covered the basics—hello, what's up, yada yada—he asked,

— Ete-vous de Canadien?

— Pourquoi?

— Puisque vous faites accentuer un canadien.

Great, I thought. I just got admonished for having a Canadian accent when I speak French. I truly had not anticipated the catalogue of emotions that would accompany such an accusation. Eric, with a smile that MIGHT have had some "merde" in it said (in English):

— Ah well, we can't all be perfect.

Eric spent the rest of the afternoon brandishing his unadulterated French-ness, making quips about the City Building Inspector requiring a wine racks for residences (if, of course, you are French) and once, visible to all, greeting the designer, Dawn, with two neat kisses on the cheek. We of North American origin crossed our arms over our chests.

But my chandelier took the gâteau (cake). The installation went flawlessly, the bulbs flashed to life in a corona of clear-filament glory, and everyone—even Eric—ooohed and aahed. In a word: bitchin'. Higher res' photos will follow, once the remodel is completed.

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