Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ouverture Exceptionnel

Last Wednesday marked the begining of the "Soldes" or summer sales period. This date, dictated by the Prefet (a kind of puesdo-dictator for the region that is appointed directly by Chirac or one of his minions), signifies the only time that stores can legally place their products on sale. There are two soldes periods per year. One just after Christmas in January and one starting in early July and lasting into mid-August. The principle being that the stores can reduce prices on the stock of winter or summer clothes so they can make way for the other collection.

The soldes traditionally bring out the worst in the French. Always a fairly introspective and me-first society, a sudden trip to the shopping center turns into a full bore war...for a parking space, for a cart, for the last head of lettuce, and of course for a place in the line (word to the wise; if you are ever in France, never, ever, blink when you are standing in line, this is some sort of non-verbal acknowledgement that you want 20 people to crowd in front of you). If I could so how avoid eating for 6 weeks I would be all means skip the supermarket for the duration.

Anyway, getting to the real purpose of my current topic. French stores are, on top of being told when to reduce their prices, told what days of the week they can open, for how long, etc. One day that is strictly interdit is Sunday. I believe I raged previously in this post, or by email, about the "free-market" candidate for President in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy, who reaffirmed the belief that Sunday should be spent with the family and not "shopping." Anyway, Sarko, as the political hacks like to call him, "liberalized" the society by allowing any specific store to be open a whopping 10 Sundays per year (fucking amazing, 10 of 52!). Generally these Sundays are before Christmas and at the beginning of the sales periods, like today for example. On a whim I figured to try to run down to the local Carrefour to check out the sales, because, as you will see, being knowledgeable of French society I realized this is the only day to go.

So I go, and Carrefour is of course opened. And who is taking advantage of this, besides me of course. In one word: Arabs. The French just do not have the wherewithal to imagine shopping on Sundays, whereas our lovely friends from the Mahgreb do of course. If there are any laws in Marrakech I would like to hear of them. Anyway, the population of Carrefour this Sunday consisted of 50 college students and 50 year-old women behind the counters, and 500 Arab customers. It is strange, and I was thinking about this when I was there. I tend to be cerebral, so I figured that the shopping center would be open, based on previous experience and pure logic. The French, being less so, obviously did not think of this, they instead thought of which paté they should open with the brie and red.

I think of myself as a non-racist; and what is funny is I can bang on the French all day and possibly be considered uncultured, or crude, but never a racist (even if they are clearly a different breed of person than Americans), but I fear that the first time I make a crack at the immigrants, I risk being put into that exclusive club with Edgar Ray Killen. This is by no means my desire, but in all honestly, the northern African population of France is less known for their intelligence, than for their insolence. And it makes me wonder; how did they know to go to Carrefour today? Is it that they do not have a culture problem shopping on Sundays, and when learning that the stores were opened they decided to go? Did they happen to be passing and just decide to stop? Do they go to Carrefour every Sunday in the hope that it is open? They seemed right at home, contrary to the French (there were a few, but honestly less than 50% of all shoppers), who on more than one occasion just looked completely lost shopping on a Sunday, honestly, I saw multiple couples looking at the ceiling inside as if saying to themselves, "So this is what Carrefour looks like on Sunday." Or maybe their were asking if this truly signifies then of French culture as they know it; Shopping on Sunday to buy shit they don't need...I'll admit, it does seem so American...

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