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Ascenseur Pour l’échafaud 05/11/2009

Posted by brendan in La Vie en Paris.
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There’s a little old lady with a little dog that lives here. She can be found staring off into space– either unable to hear or embittered beyond words– as you attempt to greet her with a friendly “bonjour”, or talking to her four-legged life companion on the stairs.

Little old lady with her little dog were on their way in as I was stepping out, greeting my overtures towards neighborly pleasantries with silence. I was sure to give her plenty of time to make her way home to avoid another encounter.

Upon my return I rang for the elevator only to discover the claustrophobic box hanging between floors. A fierce pounding and ceaseless stream of politely annoyed French continued unabated until I reached it, knocking on the door of the captured vessel. “Madam!”, I called. She immediately began to detail her plight while I wracked my brain for some course of action. “Un instant!”, I replied at first opportunity. Quietly she responded,” J’ne comprend pas.”

Does this mean she didn’t hear me or couldn’t decipher my thick accent? I repeated myself in between experimenting with doorbells, listening in vain for approaching footsteps over the sour muttering that the woman had resorted to. Some respite materialized as a woman walking down the stairs was unpleasantly surprised by my presence. Language failing me I informed her what had happened through the use of “madam” and pointing. Other neighbors began to collect.

The original woman abandoned me to find a number for the elevator company while a second woman fussed over her sleeping baby I had disturbed and a third began to berate me for pounding on her door. I hadn’t actually touched her door but even if I could explain the little old lady with the little old dog had been causing an ungodly racket from inside the elevator I’m sure this excuse would have sounded incredulous. The original woman returned and the three took turns communicating through the sealed doors while waiting for instructions. Advice over the phone required that the little old lady with the little dog press the emergency communication button inside. She was unable to correctly give her address so this was shouted by the woman I had somehow antagonized, affording me brief respite from lectures on how a doorbell works.


After instructions had been relayed the original woman left us and I remained standing with an empty coffee cup caught between two strangers. The little old lady with the little dog had taken to tearful conversation with her four legged life-partner which was sadly hilarious for all of us. I was asked how I had come to discover madam, and I was successful in explaining. More difficult was gracefully extracting myself from this situation where I was clearly not needed. It seemed rude to just walk away and I did feel genuine concern about our victim. Several painful minutes of agonizing thought processes eventually led me to inform the women, “Je rentre chez moi”, which they considered a fabulous idea.

I didn’t leave the apartment for a couple of hours which gave the elevator company time to arrive, extract the little old lady and her little dog, and begin to repair whatever malfunction had caused the catastrophe. Discounting the melodrama this is what my life feels like every day.



1. erica - 16/11/2009

Sacrebleu! Your distaste and disregard for the elderly is intercontinental.

2. blaark - 16/11/2009

It’s not my fault if the aged generation of Parisians can’t bother to learn a couple key phrases… Had we been able to carry on a meaningful dialogue while she remained incarcerated inside the elevator there would have been justification for remaining– she decided to continue talking to her dog…

3. erica - 16/11/2009

somehow…between all of your mass emails, I failed to grasp that you started a ‘blog’ about your Parisian adventures…expect lots of filthy comments from here on out.

4. blaark - 16/11/2009

Between the mass e-mails you haven’t been reading and the dread Facebook links you haven’t been following, you mean… I guess I can’t count on you to support my journalistic endeavors via clicks…

I’m happy to see you back on the business side of the comments again, and no longer hiding behind the monikers of old… Just remember when you’re poised to leave another “genital warts” comment that this time my mom’s reading as well…

Or maybe you guys can just laugh it off over drinks…

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