Sunday, December 6, 2009

Un Mélange of Anecdotes

Several Sundays ago I was in the midst of a terrible hangover and trying desperately to lie still and sleep when from across the room I heard my mobile buzzing furiously on the table. Thinking it might be something important I wrenched myself out of bed and after much searching located my phone under a pile of bills. It was Deborah from Breakfast in America who explained that they were a man down and asked if I could go in at 4pm instead of 7pm. And so, with puffy eyes, a splitting headache and a stomach that felt as if it might make a bid for freedom one way or another, I fought for a place on the metro and arrived at work just before 4pm. Brunch was in full swing and there was a queue of around 25 people waiting outside, whilst, inside, there were plates stacked high on every available surface, pancakes with sticky containers of maple syrup at almost every table and a very frazzled looking staff doing their best to satisfy every demand. I surveyed the room with a feeling of despair and immediately popped two Doliprane in an attempt to ease my headache before I joined the fray and began taking orders and clearing tables. Whether it was a result of the Doliprane, the pace of work, the heat, or a mixture of all three I’m not sure but within an hour or so I realised I was feeling relatively normal. My headache had subsided, I no longer felt queasy and I was feeling rather energised by the atmosphere in the restaurant. Perhaps forcing your body to perform in such a situation induces your metabolism to speed up and purge itself of all the toxins left over from the night before, I was certainly feeling better, regardless.

Despite having a wealth of things to do in my spare time such as searching for a new apartment, writing this blog and, of course, learning French I have become so drained by the lack of long hot showers, central heating and pretty much any creature comforts that all I seem able to do is lie in bed and watch Brothers and Sisters and Spooks. However, I am off until 7pm tonight, which is unheard of, and, having just had a delicious and comforting meal in a warm delicious restaurant with my friend Camille, I feel rather energised so thought I would channel this energy into something productive.

Last Sunday I had enjoyed a lie in and was just getting through the daily obstacle of showering in a cupboard when I heard someone come up the stairs and knock, either on my door, or on Soraya’s (they’re so close together I couldn’t tell which). The last thing I felt like dealing with was anything that required speaking French so I stopped singing abruptly and listened for further developments. Presently Soraya answered her door and I heard an anguished cry from our neighbour below us who exclaimed ‘Il pleut dans ma maison!’ literally translated this means ‘it’s raining in my house’. I felt sure this was caused by my shower but I was in no mood to deal with this kind of problem on one of my precious mornings off so I quietly finished my shower and got dressed. All the while I could hear Soraya and the other woman murmuring outside trying to determine whether it was Soraya’s sink or the loo or something else entirely. Eventually Soraya went downstairs to see where the water was coming from and I snuck out to buy some lunch. As I passed the doorway to the apartment below mine I noticed that it was ajar and I could them still trying to determine the source of the leak.

When I returned with a fresh baguette, some smoked salmon and some cream cheese all was quiet so I made myself a sandwich and decided to Skype my parents who had just got back from an extended holiday, as such it was the first time I had spoken to them in around three weeks. About five minutes into the conversation there was a loud knocking at the door. I wearily answered it to find Soraya who anxiously explained to me about the leak. Despite my protests she ran off to get the neighbour below us silencing me with shrieks of ‘J’arrive toute de suite!’ I explained to Dad that I would call him back, sprayed some Febreeze around the place to get rid of the smell of fish and waited for the neighbour. She surveyed the shower and exclaimed ‘Oh la la, c’est sympa eh?!’ I studied the peeling paint, the mouldy skylight and the ancient tiles on the walls and shrugged before she explained that she wasn’t sure where the leak was coming from but would try and arrange for a plumber to carry out some tests. I agreed and she went home, Soraya returned to her apartment and I went back to my sandwich. I haven’t heard anything since so I’m hoping the cause of the problem was something entirely unrelated to my apartment.

Breakfast in America is as enjoyable as ever and we rotate duties regularly meaning that one day I am taking orders, the next I am on the door and the next I am on the bar. This creates a nice variety of tasks and regardless of what I’m doing I always have fun whilst I’m there. The staff are extremely easy to get along with and we all seem to have a similar sense of humour resulting in a great atmosphere.

When working on the door one is responsible for seating new customers and clearing tables. The restaurant is so popular and so small that there is nearly always a queue of at least twenty people in the evening and it is the job of the person on the door to explain to them how long the wait will be and to juggle tables to seat everyone as quickly as possible. There is a notice outside that asks customers to wait outside to be seated since there simply isn’t enough room for people to wait inside. Last week, when the restaurant was as full as it is possible to be, a group of four French girls came in, ignored the queue, and asked me if I had space for four. I looked at them for a moment trying to judge whether or not they were being serious and, deciding that they were, made a mock scan of the room as if to convey the fact that there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. They didn’t catch on. I explained that we didn’t have any seats at the moment but if they’d like to join the queue outside there’d be a wait of around 20 minutes. They smiled and explained that they only wanted to eat a couple of pieces of cheesecake. Rather than explaining that they should, in fact, wait longer than all the other people who were already in the queue and wanted proper meals, I explained again that we didn’t have any tables at the moment. They decided to order the cheesecake to take away but in the ten minutes they were waiting for their order insisted upon waiting at the bar, getting in everyone’s way and asking me continually if they could sit at every table for two that became vacant. We were all very glad to see the back of them.