I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When in Paris, never, ever, accept “non” for an answer. Or at least not the first “non” you hear. Why? Because despite what we were taught in high school, a “non” in Paris doesn’t really mean “no” at all.
What it actually means is, “how bad do you want it?”
Here’s what I mean. Yesterday, I spent my afternoon at the Apple Store near the Opera Garnier. Thanks to my seven-year-old, my Macbook started its day in a bath of hot, milky coffee and subsequently refused to cooperate. After a quick Google search (“coffee on Macbook”) revealed a dizzying number of DIY fixes and photos of laptop innards, I opted for professional assistance.
So there I stood, on Apple’s old-Paris-meets-new-millenium threshold, my caffeinated computer in hand. I headed for the “Genius Bar,” having read that this was the place for service and repairs. Dozens of blue T-shirted techies hovered about, toting iPads and chatting with one another. I approached a pair of customer service reps. Could I speak to someone about possible computer repair? Blank stare. Repairs? Here? Non, non, non. You must make a rendezvous online, madame, to speak to someone about computer repair. Oh, I see. So even though I’m here now, talking to you, with my computer in my bag, I have to go online and make a rendezvous to come back to talk to you? Oui! He motioned to a bank of iPads on sleek blond wood tables and suggested I email him for my rendezvous. Oh, and there was a two week wait for repair appointments. Desole.
I felt dazed. Had I fallen into a parallel universe? Why was he forcing me to go online (not five yards from where we stood) to do something we could easily achieve in four seconds face-to-face? I tensed up and turned for the door, picturing my poor Mac in the tobacco-stained hands of the non-licensed repair guy I was sure I could find on CraigsList.
But no! This is Paris, I reminded myself. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I would regroup, apply fresh lip gloss and deploy my feminine charms (admittedly faded though they may be for twenty-something computer guys). I scanned the blue T-shirted techies anew and identified my target. And this time, I brought a fresh, French approach.
Bonjour! Ca va? I know it’s a lot to ask but I was hoping you could help me? I’m sure this happens all the time but I was at a cafe and spilled coffee on my computer…you must see that all the time, non? I thought so…Oh, me? I’m from la Californie originally. I know, I love it there, too. The beach! And the people are so nice! Really, you think so? That’s so nice of you to say. I’m still working on my accent but I’m glad you like it…
I was shameless. I even grazed his arm as he led me to the Genius Bar.
Twenty minutes later, I sauntered out into the Paris afternoon, my computer in the able hands of my Apple technician, his (modest) repair estimate tucked inside my bag. I wasn’t sure whether to feel proud of myself or the tiniest bit dirty. Mostly I felt grateful for that Balenciaga fragrance I’d spritzed at Sephora before I hit the Apple store. Everyone knows the French are suckers for a little seductive scent.