Love Chunks is driving Sapphire to school as he's not able to ride his bike to work. I farewell them both at the lift and always like to see them enter and the door close on them before I go back inside our apartment. Milly and I have the place to ourselves.
We only have a brief walk as it snowed unexpectedly overnight and she rushes out to the Dog Forest, does an urgent whizz under a dry bush and is back in the foyer before the sleep boogers have been removed from my eyes. She sure ain’t a water loving creature.
Back upstairs, there’s a load of washing to be draped on and over large pieces of furniture, a run on the treadmill, another load to be draped during my ‘cool down’ session and floors to be vacuumed. This is done barefoot and the urgency of the dreaded task is revealed by ending up with soles that have tiny mud pellets, dust bunnies and crumbs stuck to them like pebble dash. Milly hides under the desk as there is nothing more frightening than the Dyson loudly removing all the fun/smelly things from the carpet.
After showering and dressing, the computer is switched on and two old bills studied. It’s time to cancel our internet and home phone provider as we switched to a different company over the weekend. This is one of the Kath Tasks I loathe: ringing up a service company when English might be offered fourth on the menu or not at all.
And it is here that my day slows r-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-g-h-t down. With barely any French and absolutely no German or Italian language skills in my repertoire, I hear the automated voice say ‘un’ and I quickly press number one on the keypad. It could be the line to request delivery of a swimming pool-sized satellite dish for all I care but should hopefully get me through to a human being so that I can ask if they speak English.
Forty two minutes later, I’m long past the irony of hearing ‘Call me Maybe’ and getting rather tired of the song that most of us had tired of after the second listen a year ago. Shoving the phone under my right ear and on top of my shoulder, I reach over to try and tap out a response to an email when.... poo bum bugger shit fart – my fat chipmunk cheek must have spread over to the buttons and hung up the phone.
My second try sitting on hold to, let’s just call them WaxWho, takes a mere twenty nine minutes before someone answers. Thankfully she does speak English and I explain our situation.
“You must put it to us in writing,” she says.
“But I’ve been on the phone for the best part of an hour and have confirmed all the identity questions you asked me so why can’t you---“
“Always a letter. Always in writing. Then we cancel thank you.”
Oh. The second company, somehow connected to the first but not able to be transferred by my ‘Always in writing’ lady, takes a relatively rapid eighteen minutes. In writing, yep, of course. Oh and can only be cancelled on the anniversary of our contract date; how flexible of you.
Both letters are duly written, printed out and ready to post but wouldn’t you know it, no stamps are left in the kitchen drawer. But the shopping list is:
Veges. All green stuff
Stuff for smoothies
We three Locketts love our veges; always have, always will. Sapphire has enjoyed them right from the time she was given solids and nearly made a lady faint with shock when, at age three, she spied a string bag of brussel sprouts at the supermarket and said, "Mum, look! Can we get these, please?"
Thus, few things concern us more than a vege crisper with nothing but a slimy end of cucumber wedged into the back corner and a few stray capsicum seeds, and it is enough to cement the decision to wade my way through the snow – on foot – to the shops.
At La Poste, the ticket machine informs me that ten customers are further ahead in the queue, which gives me time to note that, for such an efficient, suitably ‘Swiss’ agency, they have the book 'Sex for Dummies' (Le Sexe pour Les Nuls) on proud display.
This amuses me enough to take a photo of it and as I'm crouching slightly and tapping the screen to get a better focus, a rather hefty gentleman snorts and says something to me in French. He looks slightly alarmed when I turn around to get a better look at him but does compose himself well enough to read what I’ve clumsily typed in google translate.
J'ai écrit un de ces livres, mais pas celui-ci
(I wrote one of these books, but not this one)
This time, he laughs out loud and clasps my shoulder in some kind of sleaze bag solidarity. My brain finally catches up: he thinks I’ve written a sex book but not via the Dummies line.
Non non non, soum différente...
Har har har he goes, all coffee and cigarette breath puffing out his moustache. It is then things turn into a movie slow-mo scene: surely he’s not reaching out to pinch my ----- thank god, Counter G has pinged my number and his thumb and forefinger only squeeze air. I’m yet to discover what the accepted Suisse etiquette is for dealing with getting your arse pinched in the post office.
Safely in Migros supermarket a few minutes later, I am surprised to note that broccoli is not available. Intellectually and environmentally this is a good thing in that they only sell produce in season, but culturally and greedily, it’s one of our favourite faithful standbys and I’m miffed. However, in the never-ventured-to Bio section, there are a few miniscule wrapped bunches of organic broccoli and for not an unreasonable price. Two are scooped up in relief before crossing to the far end of the store and trying to translate bra sizes.
Yes, bra sizes. Australia seems to have 12A, 12B, 12C and so on but here they have 75A, 80A, 85A and in the United Kingdom they go for 32A, 34A, 36A...... Google does a good job of giving me some equivalent measurements and I receive a few suspicious looks from the teenage bloke unpacking socks in the next shelf.
At the checkout, one lady signs off and a new lady replaces her, surprising me a little by greeting me with a big smile. Migros matrons aren’t usually big on smiling, using their arms or emanating any interest in being there whatsoever.
With only a few veges and bras to slide through, they are all easily packed by me without careening past on the conveyor belt and sliding off the end as per a loaded trolley. But wait – she is speaking to me. I heard the word ‘broccoli’ and ‘ordinateur’ which means computer.
She calls over to a colleague who suggests new buttons for her to press on the computer screen. This does not seem to do enough to make her slide the two bunches of broccoli over the scanner and towards me which encourages the flat capped-fifty something in the line behind to heave a huge sigh.
Migros Matron dials up what I can only guess is someone from fresh produce. Again there’s talk of broccoli and computers. She listens intently, hangs up and tries a few different buttons but there’s still no success. Her colleague is now concerned enough to leave her own checkout spot and come over to help. She presses the screen in what appears to be gay abandon, leaving my original lady brandishing my two broccoli heads like maraccas.
Another phone call, a few minutes of awkward waiting and trying not to meet the annoyed eyes of the four people behind me and a third lady appears brandishing a key. Intense conversation occurs but not including me: just my broccoli.
It appears that they have caused the entire checkout to melt down and we’ll now have to move to a different check up further up the line. The four folk behind me all gather up their things (serve ‘em right for laying them out on the conveyor belt too early) and huff off somewhere else. No way are any of them prepared to follow me to the next check out.
Bleep bleep – it worked! They passed through! “Ah, who knew that broccoli sometimes uses its powers for evil,” I said, smiling.
Never mind. “Bonne journee madam.”