Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 13

I always considered “13” a lucky number. It’s the age when one becomes a teenager and knows everything. It’s the big bat mitzvah. It is deemed lucky in Italian culture, and Friday the 13th has never provided any complaints for me. That was not the case on my day 13 of being here.

7:00 a.m.- Wake up. Make my daily green tea and take my daily chewable.

7:30 a.m.- Wake up the kids. Clement wakes up with ease. Cecile wakes up whining (however, she follows this pattern at most times during the day.). Get them dressed and downstairs.

7:45 a.m.- Sit with kids for breakfast. Cereal? Nope. Yogurt? Nope. Fruit? Not a chance in hell. White bread with chocolate spread, aka Nutella? Absolutely. (Best to get them on a sugar high then send them to school for their teachers to deal.)

7:55 a.m.- Brush teeth with the kids to show them that good hygiene is the cool thing to do. “Clean” is the new black.

8:10 a.m.- A blur of “Dépêche-toi! On-y-va!! Où sont vos bottes ?? Dépêche dépêche! (Hurry, Let’s go! Where are your boots? Hurry, hurry!!)" Side note: According to the Au Pair Reference guide, this does not work. The kids could care less about hurrying.

8:15ish a.m.- Take kids to school. Drop off Cecile. Park car and walk Clement to class. Today, I decided to leave the car at the school and jog home to get some exercise and enjoy my new itunes purchases (Thanks, Rachel for the recommendations).

9:00 a.m.- Arrive back “home” to shower, enjoy less than adequate instant coffee, and prep the kids’ lunch that the mom left for them.

11:00 a.m.- Walk back to the school to pick up Clement, Cecile, and the car. Bring them home for lunch and sit with them while they devour their chicken nuggets and purred vegetables mixed with cream and cheese. 3 parts cream, 3 parts cheese, 1 part vegetables. (Does this still qualify for the 5-servings a day, food pyramid?) No judgment.

1:10 p.m.- Déjà vu of 8:10 a.m. Seems like all is going swimmingly, right?

1:30 p.m.- This is where the day takes a turn. After dropping the kids off, I thought I’d drive to the shopping center a couple miles away to pick up staples like lotion, face-wash, and tea, since the airlines have hijacked my luggage. Bastards. However, the gas tank was on empty; Light on and everything. Mind you, this is despite my request to the au-pair dad, Francois, to fill it the night prior. Aggravating? Yes, but the independent Lauren thought, “I’ll just fill it myself.” (Mistake #1). The last thing I want is to run out of gas and be stranded in the middle of France. “Uhh, Triple A? Could you send a serviceman to France to fill up my gas tank? Premium membership covers that, right? Great, thanks.”

Stop at the gas station, grab black nozzle and begin to fill gas tank (this is the nozzle that the gas attendant instructed me to use when I asked (Mistake #2).

Gas attendant comes out. “Je peux vous aider?”

“No, I think I’m just about done (In French, of course. No one in this town knows a lick of English).”

She must be asking if I need help because of the gas spilling all over the ground and my boots.

Her, in French: “Just a moment, I will go get the mechanic. I think you are putting in the wrong type of gas.”


Enter Mechanic. Queue rapid French dialogue. (Keep in mind that my ability to speak “car mechanics” in French is about as proficient as my ability to speak “car mechanics” in Chinese--Non-existent. However, I have a gut feeling that I know what he’s saying. It’s not good. With a lot of hand motioning, I understand. The gas tank needs to be emptied. Perrrrfect. He can’t do it until at least 4 o’clock. I have to pick up the kids at 4 o’clock to head downtown for Cecile’s cello lesson.

Me: “Can’t I just drive it home and bring it back after 4?”

Mechanic: “No, you can’t start the engine. If you drive the car, it will sputter and break.”

Me: “Oh, really? Are you sure?”

Is he absolutely positive it will sputter home? I'm sure it'd be fine. It's an old car.

Without choice, the car gets left with the mechanic. Start walking. Anxiety is streaming. Figure out the next plan of action. Do I call Francois and tell him? Do I head back to the gas station at 4 p.m. and hope that it’s done so I can pick up the kids and make on with the day as if nothing happened?. Do I call the neighbor to pick up the kids? Oh good, it’s raining. Thank God my dad is on his way to the house so I don’t have to go through this alone. Maybe they’ll fire me and send me home… Then I can just tell the airlines to route my bag straight back to LA.

Apprehensively, I called Francois and explained the situation, to which he responded that he didn’t fill up the car because “when the light comes on, it still has another 50 kilometers left in it.” My thought is that this is his way to control my driving whereabouts and it really doesn’t seem all too far-fetched.

The afternoon ended with my dad and I walking to the school to pick up the kids (Rain). Walking back up to the bus stop (raining harder). Taking the bus to the metro to the tram to the cathedral to the conservatoire for Cecile’s cello lesson (rain plus wind).

Francois met up with us there, lacking the reaction that I was anticipating. After greeting us and babbling in French, he commented to my dad in his broken English and obnoxious smile, “Lauren has a lot of emotions with us.” Huh?! I don’t know the meaning of that and I’m not sure I even care at this point. As remorseful as I felt about earlier, I was infuriated to be put in that situation in the first place. His comment fueled the fire.

So, in the end, they didn’t fire me. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Lesson learned: Always carry an umbrella. No, I still don’t know what type of gasoline the car takes.

Daily Gratitudes:

  • My dad was there with me during this whole fiasco. He's amazing.
  • In less than a month, someone from home is coming to visit. A trip to Cinque Terre, Italy is in the works. I’ve always wanted to see the 5 cities.
  • With my missing luggage and all my undergarments hanging to dry, I’ve started going “Commando”... I kind of like it. It feels freeing and I may continue even after I get my luggage. TMI?
  • These lists of "daily gratitudes" are keeping me from making lists of "daily annoyances."
  • This book Merde: The Real French You Were Never Taught In School, has provided material to use for responding to Cecile's whining.
  • My host family doesn't know about my blog.


  1. Oh my gosh, what a fiasco. I don't like car situations anywhere, let alone in a foreign country. Still, you remain hilarious. How do you do this? "Clean is the new black" - Nice.

    I was wondering if your host family found your blog. Hahahaha. That would also be hilarious.

    And, going commando is freeing, though I'm not sure I would go this route in cold temperatures. To each her own.

    Miss you!

  2. omg! what a crazy day. so glad everything worked out in the end and that your dad was there to help you out. ahhh i probably would have freaked out big time, you're brave. i feel ya, i can't understand car mechanic talk in english let alone french. merde is like the only french word i know ;). cecile sounds like a treat! i love reading about your adventures, even if they prob weren't a lot of fun for you at the time, sorry! um if it's wrong to go commando, i don't want to be right. years of swimming & hit or miss packing of clothes to wear after practice taught me to appreciate that lol

  3. One day, these aupair days will be great memories you share with those you love :)

  4. Oh my goodness, what a mission! I am glad you got it sorted out in the end, I'm impressed that you managed to hold it together! You made me laugh with the comment about going commando too ;) uh, I may or may not have also done this in the past...

  5. You are hilarious! I'm really sorry that you had to go through all of this, but on the bright side, you tell a kick ass story! M.Y.