Signage at La Buvette, a Paris natural wine bar, deep in the 11eme near Pere Lachaise
This is not a picture from the Paris Film Festival's closing night tonight, which involved outdoor movie karaoke night, in a prime setting along the Seine (in the awesome new build-out that is les Berges), because my iPhone was stolen this morning in the Charles de Gaulle metro station.
So I have nothing to show and help describe the pretty amazing scenery of a giant movie screen, crowds below singing along, many bateaux mouches going up and down the Seine with their bright white lights shining in the night and lighting up the water, the Louvre lit up in the distance, the white lights of the giant ferris wheel and other neon lights in the dark sky over in the Tuileries. The night was so chilly and breezy after such a hot (86 degrees) day I almost did not stay for the movie even after getting there way too early at 7:30, having read the movie clips for sing-along would start at 9:30. Allergies, cool/cold breeze, no movie, and just my sitting there among the happy groups of picnic-ing francais all waiting for the movie to start...that was a long three hours to sit and reflect by oneself without a phone to engage in one's virtual social media world to feel connected.
Instead, without the iPhone I had to do something unusual. I had to just experience the experience. Experienced it without the compulsive need to document and capture every visually stunning moment. At many times, especially when I looked with longing and pangs of sadness at everyone else with their iPhones, capturing the cool image of the big screen, the hot pink verbiage of the Paris Film Festival logo against the dark night, the crowds, the funky brass band playing and the people dancing...yea, I felt regret I could not have the visual image to recall the night. None of that though for me. Hard to accept. I will have only the memories (which are not reliable at my age).
Included in those memories will be the visuals of some very awful picnic food some groups were having around me (while I tried to look entertained and content by reading The Economist). I have to say : the French know how to do a picnic. They were out en masse for this event and had planned ahead. Everyone else but me just about had bottles of wine, baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, hummus--18 packs of Kronenbourg. Nothing particularly high-end or sophisticated. Just a bunch of food. But the 20+ gals next to me were eating some things I wish I could block out of my memory bank forever: industrial doughy white slices of bread, slices of slimy turkey out of a plastic package, processed cheese slices, and some jam/spread thing to top off that lovely sandwich.
However, from some of the less-than-great situations on this trip (having iPhone stolen would be one of those), I have had some different, real-life experiences of Paris and its inhabitants--experiences beyond figuring out which red wine to order for an apero on the rue des Abbesses and which cafe should I hang out with le laptop: Le Sancerre or Le Vrai Paris (they are right next to each other on Rue des Abbesses).
Example: Had to trek from Charles De Gaule Etoile metro station (after one meeting) to go to Abbesses for 11h30. There I realized I was without my life support device while traveling abroad that is the iPhone. Friend I met there tried to call RATP for me to see about lost and found. We had a nice visit nonetheless. She thought I should check back with the station and see if someone picked it up. Yes, yes - I will do that. Hope springs eternal. Back to Charles de Gaulle Etoile. No luck. But the guys at the Info booth/command central for the station were quite helpful in at least helping to make the inquiry--or make it look like they were helping.
I run back to apartment to get address for 2 pm meeting far away - no iPhone to remind me or help me find the place so I have to use a real map to get there. I make the 2 pm meeting.
Back to apartment to (i) call AT&T via Skpye on the laptop; and (ii) block the phone now that I have confirmed no hope for finding it. [The 2 pm meeting person regales me with stories of flagrant thievery. When he asked if it was crowded where I was (yes, very) - he confirmed that this was no mere loss or casual thievery. More orchestrated and, alas, very typical.]
No point getting new iPhone here (locked, more expensive, about to leave anyway): I should go to Orange - the carrier here - and get a pay-as-you-go phone. And so I do.
They could not have been nicer at the Orange store in my quartier. The nice lady gets me all set up; we discuss how much time I should buy. We discuss the manner in which I was accosted/thieved. Another customer comes in. She says - yes, madame, I will be right with you please have a seat."
But then Orange assistant person, totally focused on my dilemma, has the idea: Had I contacted the police? Well, no, I had not thought of that. She decides she needs to get the address and phone number. Her manager comes out. They proceed to attach themselves to this task, which requires deciding which arrondissement I was in, and where the relevant police station would be.
All the while, the other customer is sitting there waiting while they are both surfing for information for me. She writes down the address and phone number for me. She wishes me luck (bon courage).
I would, 2 hours later, be back at the store for help getting the SIM card in the phone. The manager is there from earlier in the day. He fixes that issue, handily, and then sets up everything on the phone for me: date, time, language, etc.
Between this and the cute little guy near Place de Clichy being so tickled that I was his first customer to buy the first of his first shipment of suitcases (cheap suitcases are everywere for sale for tourist crowd) that he gifted me with a couple of Eiffel Tower key chains, I am once again amazed at the kindness of Parisian folks. And in the most unlikely places.