During my first stay in my new Paris apartment, my main water pipe, located in my bathroom, sprang a leak. My contractor, who was on vacation, left it to me to sort out, and the usually very helpful agency that manages my place was operating on their August vacation schedule. I was in a foreign country with only a basic knowledge of the language, and zero understanding of the repair process in my building. Was it my responsibility, the building’s? The easiest solution would have been to talk to the superintendent—le concierge—but unfortunately, I bought a home in a building that didn’t have one, despite my misgivings about doing so. I knew that would bite me in the ass.
I was, as the French say, foutue—screwed big time. I’d wanted to live like a real Parisian, sure, but did I really have to live the full experience in my first week?
Ever since my mother’s passing, I’ve taken to praying to her when I’m in need. Well, not so much praying as pleading and whining. “Ma, you gotta help me,” I begged as I walked home from Conforama with two bags full of cheap towels to mop up the flood. “Pleeeeease, mommy.” How could this happen to my lovely new apartment? Didn’t I deserve to have something nice? Was mom right, were we a family under a dark cloud, marked with crap luck?
Then, just as I entered my building, an angel appeared.
Okay, it was a neighbor—but she could only have been sent from my mother. That she was an English-speaking Canadian was my first clue, but when I learned she’d lived in Buffalo, New York, the city where my family is from, it became very clear: this one was being handled by a higher power.
My angel took me under her wing, made calls to building management, waited with me for the plumber. My troubles were over.
Alright, it didn’t go quite that smoothly. Since it was already 6:30, the building management, or Syndic, was gone for the day, so I spent a sleepless night mopping the bathroom floor. Tuesday morning my neighbor came over and started calling the Syndic until she got someone. “Mademoiselle is leaving for New York tomorrow so this is very urgent,” she told the woman who finally answered the phone. “C’est pas ma problème,” I heard the woman reply—it’s not my problem. Tant pis. Plumbers would be hard to find in August. But after several calls, find one they did, and a Monsieur Petite arrived 5 hours later to survey the problem. Hallelujah.
Well, not quite. The plumber was unable to shut the water locally, so he would have to cut the water for the entire building. That would require 24-hour’s notice—and another sleepless night mopping the floor. The plumber would come back in the morning.
Wednesday rolled around and I would not be flying home. All my troubles, it turned out, were the result of two tiny, faulty washers, which were changed inside twenty minutes. I shouldn’t complain, at least I got to spend three more days in Paris. Maybe that was mom’s grand plan for me, I don’t know. But what I do know, what I learned from the experience, is that luck—good or bad—has nothing to do with it. There is no black cloud. Whether it was mom in heaven, or a shift in my mind, things worked out just the way I needed them to. But yeah, I still believe it helps that ma’s on the other side pulling for me.Miss part 1 of the story? Click here.
I live in Chicago (having been a part-time Parisienne over years) and my son, which also lives in Chicago, recently inherited a little apartment from his father at 89 rue de Charonne–not far from you! It needs a new kitchen and bath, entry stairway walls (remove or cover crépis), and a new front door in the courtyard. He does not need an architect, but he does need a reliable contractor to oversee that work. It looks like you would recommend the people who renovated your apartment. Can I find them through Vingt Paris? If not, can you provide their names. I am fairly fluent in French. I look forward to hearing from you soon. BTW J’adore votre site!
I have pots (under the leaks, plural) in my bathroom as I type but my landlord doesn’t think that’s a problem.