Monday morning, 8:27 AM. ONLY two classes to teach today, hmmm… Must squeeze in some writing. Current story is about a 17-year-old bar girl in Cebu, very hard to wrap my mind around dialogue like “Hello, my big honey!” at this time of the morning, so…
I turn my attention to photo postcards. I want a bunch of them. They used to sell them at Wolf’s Camera in the Sequoia Station, but the store closed YEARS (Did I tell you I am constantly 10 years behind the times?) ago.
But I kept the packaging from the very last time I bought the picture postcards (You know what I’m talking about, right? The ones that have a peel-off back, that allow you to turn any photograph into a postcard?), knowing that 10 years later I would certainly get around to wanting more.
Alas! Packaging has no website info. So I decide to google “Photo-a-la-carte.” Find a website with a number. Phone rings– ring, ring, ring!– but it’s a very funny ring, sort of like the ring of an old rotary phone in an empty house…
Then, a man picks up: ‘Allo? ‘Allo?
Pardon me, I say, have I reached FRANCE?
“No!” He goes. I hear barking. “Where are YOU?”
“I’m in California!” I say.
“Oh,” he says. “So am I! Where in California?”
“The San Francisco Bay Area,” I say. “You mean– YOU are in San Francisco, RIGHT NOW?”
“No,” he says. “I mean, I’m FROM San Francisco (which explains the French accent– somehow everything is WONDERFULLY CLEAR right now, ha ha ha!), but I’m in Las Vegas right now! That is, I’m in a PARK. I’m walking my DOG.”
“Oh,” I say. “Let me call you back. I can wait until you get home…”
“No,” he says. “Let me take your order. How many postcards do you want?”
“A dozen,” I say.
“A dozen?” (Dog yipping and barking and slobbering, very close to the phone, apparently. Suddenly there is an eruption of horns bleating, also very close.)
“Uh–THREE dozen, I mean!” I say.
“OK,” he says. “Give me your name.”
At which point things become very complicated, I am shouting M-A-R-I-A-N-N-E into the phone, over the sound of the dog’s excitable slobbering and the bleating car horns. Things are more complicated because when I say, “M for Mary,” he comes back with “M for Michael”, and when I say “N for Nancy” he comes back with “N for November.”
Eventually, we get it all straightened out, and now he says “Card?”
And I say, “Yes, I want the photo postcards.”
And he says, “No! I mean your CREDIT CARD.”
And I say, “But I’m worried that you’ll lose the slip of paper with my credit card number on it while you’re walking your dog!”
And he says, “No! I’m in my car now.” (Oh. Must explain the sound of “dings” I hear at periodic intervals now, like the sound an elevator makes when it arrives at a designated floor and the doors open…)
So I give him my credit card #, because now he and I seem like old, old friends.
“My name is PIERRE,” he says, after he’s written my credit card information. “The photo-cards are my own invention.”
“Oh,” I say, “They are great. I just love them.”
“I can send you cards in any language,” he says, “French, Dutch, Spanish. You want Spanish?”
“No,” I say. “English will do.”
“You want designs on the back? San Francisco? Las Vegas? Hawaii?”
“I want San Francisco,” I say.
“No, they’re not ready yet,” he says. “What about the Statue of Liberty?”
“No, no,” I say. It’s not just the fact that I’m NOT from New York, but also the fact that I’m thinking of all the bad associations the statue– and any reminder of New York– has for me today, of all days.
“I’ll mail you the cards today,” he says. “The charge will be $18.”
“Yes, thank you, Pierre,” I say.
And thank you, too, for the fascinating conversation.