On Convenience

Chris went to England for work last week.  Knowing he’d be gone, we bought less at the market, but still, all the shopping must be done on Saturday.  At this point, roughly 60% of what we eat comes from the market or from one of Chris’ family members’ gardens.  The market only runs on Saturdays, when the winding cobblestone streets of the vieille ville – the old town – fill up with vendors.  If it’s a sunny day, the tarpauline is nowhere to be seen, so to one’s left and one’s right, the rainbow colors of so many fruits and vegetables line the streets.  Saucisson hangs, eggs are plopped into customers’ re-used cartons, cheese is cut from enormous blocks and wrapped in white butcher paper, the kind I used in school for drawings, and always used to wonder at its peculiar name.  Some of the vendors call out to passers-by; most do not, for this is provincial France – not East London – and things work their own way here.

On Sunday, though, it is as though the town has gone to sleep, which is the other reason the shopping must be done on Saturday.  In Le Puy, as in most French cities, virtually every business, small or large – from restaurants to clothing shops to butchers and bakers – have closed for business.  And, as with many other small cities, shops are also closed on Mondays.  While a few cars drive past – moreso on Monday than Sunday, this is a welcome respite.  It may be a small town, but we still live on one of the busiest streets around.  Today, the second day that temperatures have for the first time this summer soared into the 90s, it is nice to know that windows can be opened without the rush of cars on the road below.

Wednesday marked the Fête d’Ascension, or Assumption as it’s known in English.  This is the day on which Catholics celebrate Christ’s mother Mary’s delivery – body and soul – into heaven.  As France remains a Catholic country, at least in name and paid holidays, Wednesday welcomed not only a procession of the Black Virgin, but also a day off of work.  I’d forgotten it was a holiday.  That morning, on my run, it was also warmer and drier than it had ever been:  the hot wind and empty streets were an eerie and delightful addition to the rising sun. And while I was frustrated that I couldn’t go to the bank to sort out an issue I’d be dealing with, it rolled off my shoulders as I walked across the street to the park to work, and saw parents spending the warm day in the sunshine with their kids.

Where does one person’s quality of life usurp another’s?  How does it benefit us to have everything open, all of the time?  There’s no doubt that it can be inconvenient.  Every week there are new little things we couldn’t take care of as quickly as we would have in England or California, but when those shops are closed it means everyone who works there is off for the day, at least in some capacity.  It means that consuming isn’t the focus of people’s outings.  Consequently, Sundays here are marked by trips to go walking, or swimming in the lake, or family gatherings after mass.  Is that so bad?

Chris got back a day late from London (because a tree fell on the tracks and they couldn’t get it removed in time for him to make his flight…ask me if I miss London).  As the family was getting together for lunch owing to his sister’s family being in town, I didn’t have time to do the shopping at the local store where we buy the other 40% or so of our weekly stock.  On the off-chance they might be open tomorrow (we’re out of tofu…yikes!), I checked their website.

I was almost disappointed to find out they would be.

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0 thoughts on “On Convenience

  1. colgore says:

    Everything in my little town is closed on Monday for some reason. I never thought about it as a chance for the employees to take the day off. Now I feel a little bad. Good for you, eating fresh food. More prana. Your current home sounds amazing.

    • ann says:

      you know, it’s probably because i was here, in france, when i was faced with it, and the french are fierce about their right to free time. people laugh at them for it, but there’s something admirable about it just the same. it’s very fight club, if you think about it: they are not their jobs…

  2. suncitymom says:

    I discovered this in my SPAM! I am so glad I found it before it went to never, never land. I remember a time in my childhood when the stores were mostly closed on Sundays. Sometimes you could find a grocery store open but that was it! NO DEPARTMENT STORES!!! But, then that was before Target and Wal Mart. But, it was definitely a slower time of life and yes there were family benefits as a result. That is one of the reasons we like Chic Filet, (other than the fact that Keith loves their chicken). The Owner is a Christian and refuses to open his fast food on Sundays and the company is growing by leeps and bounds. He also stated that he hires who he wants to hire and has been accused of being anti-gay–and so he might be—but people rallied around the company not because of his being anti-gay but because he should be able to say what he wants and not be targeted for it. Anyway, good thoughtful post—-it should be one that you could broaden and put on elephant.

    • ann says:

      dunno why my posts sometimes end up in your spam box! weird. i can totally appreciate that being a big reason to love chic fil a (other than the fact that keith and seemingly everyone who’s ever tasted one of their sandwiches love them). but gonna have to disagree with you on this one. he’s donated copious amounts of money to anti-gay organizations. these are the organizations that tell parents that their children’s homosexuality is an illness, that would have us believe that being gay is not only a choice, but that it is a sinful one. he may have the right to support those organizations, but people also have the right to say, ‘okay, buddy, then no matter how delicious [albeit unhealthy] your sandwiches are, i’m taking my money to someone who will not invest it in hate.’ to me, it is not unlike buying a product from someone who makes regular donations to the KKK. i would support, and be unfazed by, a nation-wide boycott on said producer. likewise, i support and am unfazed by this boycott. the people who rallied the company were led by sarah palin and company, tea party pundits looking for hate-filled photo op’s. people encouraging a boycott were by no means encouraging an end to freedom of speech; they were encouraging people to think about where their consumer dollars end up – not just how delicious a sandwich might taste. by the way, here’s a recipe for a copycat recipe, in case you want to make ’em at home – the chic fil gay (’cause it’ll make you feel happy’): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNq8r4S5jSk 🙂

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