Therefore, I was dead set on visiting a parfumerie. If I wasn’t able to have a perfume exactly crafted for me I was darned well going to pick myself out something pretty smelling that was perfect just for me and the other 30,000 female tourists who would also choose that scent in one day.
My husband was a good sport, even accompanying me into the store as I screeched, “If not now, when?!” as I dragged him into that adorably appointed, sweet-smelling shop for all I was worth. Coincidentally this is exactly how he ended up in Paris in the first place. (The general screeching and dragging.)
For a woman who looks as though she’s taking a “How to Get Over Your Olfactory Fears” course every time I enter a Bath & Body Works store stateside it was truly amazing how much unfettered fun I had.
Ah, but in the City of Love I was truly in my fragrance element, I tell you, feeling my aroma mojo, and spraying for all I was worth. It looked as though we were shopping at Napalm Village I had such a ginormous cloud of spray hanging in the air of that tiny parfumerie.
Every fragrance I sampled was more lusciously scented than the one before it. I was Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, gallivanting about gleefully, only in my production there was an atomizer prop which is a new twist.
The shop owner humored me by ignoring me. My husband humored me by smiling and thinking of something else – anything else; a technique he has honed over the decades for maximal marital happiness.
I was willing to pay any amount for one of these eau de colognes, interestingly enough more than I was worth, but of course that’s a philosophical question for another day, e.g., one’s worth. What is worth? What is worthwhile? Why do I hear the clock on the wall ticking louder as I think these thoughts?
(You can see why it was I barely scraped by with a “C” in my college Philosophy class as I had so many of my own essential questions I couldn’t even entertain the notion of addressing those my Prof proffered. Plus, I had a penchant for parsing out the question itself. Ergo: I’m now an English teacher.)
Each time I picked up a tiny French-sized perfume – everything is smaller there, the women, the clothing sizes, the streets, the food portions – I said, “oui” and “wee” to each and every one of those darling little vials, but then the time came to choose one. “For the love of god any one.” (This was what my husband finally said and I believe it is what the shop keeper was thinking, but in Frenchier language.)
As I made my way over to the clerk I proudly and almost correctly pronounced the name of the perfume I wished to buy. What I thought was a look of pride from her that my accent was so good, upon closer examination was actually a look of amusement. She smiled not unkindly and said one of the two million and thirty-seven French words I do not know. It sounded like “leet.”
I looked at her and she looked at me. I smiled. She smiled back. Neither of us knew what to do next. Perhaps I could move us to the next level: Point of sale. I tried a combination throat clear and giggle, not quite pulling off whatever I thought that would do.
I repeated what I thought I heard. “Leet,” I chanted as I made the international index finger squirting motion known the world over for spraying perfume. She nodded vigorously. “Yes. Bed spray.” Oh, now there were two words I knew, though I had never used them together.
“Bed spray,” I stated. She again nodded. I walked back over to where the air had just begun to clear just as surely as my own thoughts were clearing.
It dawned on me that what the mademoiselle had been trying to tell me was I had been dousing myself with French air freshener. Bed spray. Eau de pulvérisation en lit.
I was soaked in French Glade.
This is the second in a series of humor columns chronicling Diane’s “Non-Ugly American” European Tour. Diane Dean-Epps lives and works in northern California, teaching English to Generation Y-ME?! in real time and writing books in her spare time, to wit: Maternal Meanderings (Humor), Last Call (Humorous Mystery), KILL-TV (Humorous Mystery), Quiet Boundaries (Poetry), and I’ll Always Be There For You…Unless I’m Somewhere Else?! (Humor). Her numerous essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including MORE magazine, NPR’s This I Believe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Business Journal, and Sacramento magazine.