In the grocery store, a man stocking avocados sneezed. "Bless you," I said without thinking.
"Thank you," he replied. It was nothing to him, but I suddenly realized that was something I would never have done in France. First of all, the words are hard to say "à tes souhaits" (“to your wishes”) and they sound to me like "a tissue," which maybe is appropriate. Second, I've never heard a French person say that to anyone in public.
I suddenly realized, I wasn't in France any longer.
|A sunrise across the golf course as I walked out of Mom and Dad's house in Florida
The morning after we arrived, I walked out the door to go for a run and the man in charge of the roofing project at my parents' house was standing in the yard. "Bonjour," I began to say, then bit back the words. "Morning," I substituted
One night, we cleaned up after dinner and Mom started the dishwasher. I checked my watch. It wasn't 9 p.m. yet, the time we usually start the dishwasher in France because the electricity gets cheaper. I sat in the office for a bit preparing for my classes the next day. Then I heard Mom in the kitchen again.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Unloading the dishwasher," she said. It hadn't been three hours, the time it takes our dishwasher in France to run.
"Why does it take so long over there?" she asked when I explained the situation. I wasn't sure. Maybe because the dishwasher heats the water. I've just gotten used to it.
The same with the washing machine. The shortest cycle in France is an hour. Here, the cycle finished in 27 minutes, the dryer goes about 25 minutes and the laundry is finished. And we don't have to wait until night time to start it! It's amazing.
A couple of times, I have caught myself using the word toilet. Of course, that is a word in English, but it's not something we would say when excusing ourselves. "Excuse me, I need to find a toilet," would probably indicate I'm about to get sick rather than that I need to use the bathroom. Bathroom, restroom, I remind myself, but "toilette" is what sticks.
|Me and Earl with Tampa Bay behind us
Here in the States, stores are open on Sundays and there is traffic, traffic, traffic everywhere. The town where my parents live has a population of about 10,000 people. It leads to another town with 10,000 people, and a six-lane, sometimes going down to 4-lane, road goes from one to the other. It is always busy. As I watch the road, I wonder how we go from Quillan to Carcassonne on a two-lane road, sometimes interspersed with four lanes. The traffic on this six-lane road is fast and aggressive.
The only thing real about Covid here, other than the more than half a million deaths, is the people wearing masks. Otherwise, everything is open, business as usual. Except for Starbucks, which is only open at the drive through, and Trader Joe's which counts the number of people going in to limit customers in the store. We're in Florida now. Soon we'll be driving north toward Ohio. I don't anticipate things will be very different, except maybe no outdoor dining because of the cold.
It's a real jolt to see life going on as normal in the States after France has been in lockdown or in curfew with restaurants closed since October. I understand now why the virus has continued to spread.