Month: May 2011

Or just push it down the stairs

Besides the missed chance of having the fellow pushing the armoire up the metro stairs, look at what the storage company is telling us :

“You love it. Your wife hates it. We stock it.”

Is that still arguing in their favour? Imagine if you are the unfortunate character in that sitcom. Before your marriage, she put up with your bench-press, your playstation and your antique armoire in the living-room. But since contracts have been signed and noble metal rings have been exchanged, her true feelings have surfaced. She does not like the armoire, and in fact, she had never liked it. So the armoire has to go. Being the peace-loving type of husband that you are, you call up your friends and work your way down five flights of stairs with granny’s armoire. But once you are down on the boulevard puffing away, what do you do? Is storage really the solution?

Every month as those 100 euros of storage rent leave your account, you will be reminded that she does not like your grandmother’s armoire. Every month, you have 100 euros less, which could have been time to yourself every day, with a coffee and Le Monde before work. But no. She does not like your armoire. Or it could have been a bouquet of flowers for her, every week. But no, she did not like the armoire. And that would go on indefinitely? This advice is a recipe for divorce, as, after all, you are already preparing for your new life after she’s gone. This is not a good idea. Do yourself, and your marriage, a favour and give the armoire to your sister in the south or sell it online. Or just push it down the stairs like the fellow in the Ad – you will be a happier person. And so will your wife. The timing for a counter Ad from le bon coin or ebay would be in order:

“You love it. Your wife hates it. We’ll sell it.”

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At what point is it no longer a long shot?

When you casually buy a lottery ticket at the Française de Jeux, your chances of winning the lottery are 1 in 19 million. Naturally, everyone understands that this is a long shot. To many people (15 million of them in France) the hope of something is better than nothing. To others, (the rest of the population?) the chances of winning are so low that they do not manage to even derive any day-dreaming pleasure from buying a ticket, making it a pure waste of money. But both sides are easy to understand…

But what if the odds of success are even lower, say  your pet bird flies out the window because you forgot to close the cage door after cleaning it, as has happened to the unfortunate person hanging up desperate posters on drainpipes. Do you really think there is any chance at all that someone will recognize your little Mojo and manage to catch the bird to return it to you? The bird has flown away! It is completely irrational to spend your time printing and pasting posters around town (and why not further afield, it is a bird, remember?). But people do it.

Buying a lottery ticket, or distributing posters of your lost bird, both give you the illusion that you are doing something to remedy a situation, even if it is not a rational course of action. Newspaper articles about lottery winners and websites about found birds feed us false hope, a hope which is mildly reassuring. You may well know that it is pointless, but sometimes doing something feels better than sitting in a corner sulking. But of course, secretly, you know it is not.

Modern urban decline

Technological innovation has now led us to new ways of discovering that your neighbourhood is going down the drain. And this was in dire need. Successful regulation has led to buildings being kept, cleaners and impeccable garbage collecting led to tidy streets, and mass produced clothing has led to decently dressed people. So how are you supposed to know if your neighbourhood is still up there? You will never guess the latest indicator.

Sure you can turn to the town hall, the Mairie, and find an elabourate report on composition of the neighbourhood, the number of accidents, the crime rate and so on. But other than that it is going up or down for your area, you still need an opinion about how “bad” it was in the first place. It is not easy. I think I have stumbled upon a simpler method, a much simpler method: buy some cake.

Even if the pastry in the local bakery is not a give-away of the quality of the area, it may still prove very enlightening. Buy one of those little cakes and you might discover a whole new piece of depressing technology – the automatic change dispenser. Yes, really. The smiling lady who used to give you your change, has been replaced by a robot! Well, in at least one bakery in the 13th district. The coins you feed into it yourself, the bills the lady feed in on the other side. The staff has no access to the money. Why do we need a robot to intervene exactly at the moment of human contact? Or more from a business perspective, when the baker is supposed to be making idle chit-chat with the customer in the hope of keeping their custom? A moment of thought would suggest that it must be something which is more important than the continued return of the patron. Since mistakes would not be very costly at a bakery -perhaps a few cents here and there- it must be the threat of theft.

But theft? Is the staff suspected or is it the clientele which steals the pennies from the people that bake our bread? Besides the depressing thought, if that is not a sign that your neighbourhood is not what it was, then nothing is. This must also be the single easiest technological give-away not to move into an area. Future buyers take note: test the local baguette not only for the bread, but also to know who gives you the change!