Monday, February 7, 2011

Zone de Confusion

Before Bill and I met he took a trip to France. He told me that it was a trip of mixed emotions. I think a lot of the time he was miserable (he went alone). But, he brought back two important purchases: (1) he imported a Mercedes Benz - a car that he kept on the road for years after; and (2) a French traffic sign that he had purchased in a sign shop. This is precisely the kind of thing I would never buy while abroad because the shipping is so difficult. Bill said that he drove all around France with it (in his new Mercedes) and ended up shipping the sign out of England. I think the car was easier to bring back than the sign.

Bill was drawn to this particular sign. He had it hanging in his house when I met him.  It was unframed and steel - it's an honest to goodness, real Department of Transport (or whatever the French equivalent is) sign. He pointed out to me its authenticity and that it had called to him in the store. It had made him snicker at the French sensibilities: "Look at zee Gallic nose, zee suit coat with zee cinched in waist, and zee pointed chic shoes." Not only was this a warning sign, it was a fashion statement. And the heading: "Zone de Confusion" - how much more descriptive could you get? This was so much more than merely a 'Construction Zone' notice. Look what could happen if you wander into this zone. All Hell could break loose. Or Thor could throw his bolt.  Or your body could give off hot heat waves.  Mon Dieu! The possibilities were endless.

When Bill and the kids and I went to France he had talked so much about these 'Sign Shops' that we were determined to find one for ourselves. Will was especially keen to find a cool Gallic sign for his room. We looked everywhere in Paris for such a shop but, to no avail. "Cette boutique n'est pas ici" (Will was already speaking better French than his parents and the sarcasm was evident). In the end, Will had to settle for ripping a paper sign off the walls of the Metro. It's still hanging in his room.

I admired Bill for finding such a shop, spotting this wonderful sign and hauling it home. He had purchased it for the pure pleasure of having this constant reminder of the French mindset. The sign is now properly framed and hangs above my own confusion zone: my desk. 

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