Umbrellas in Paris
As my feet hit the asphalt, my nose simultaneously picks up hints of warm, fresh baked bread mixed with the sharp tang of exhaust, the tip of my tongue acidic. Here, in Paris, my eyes always drift up first for the buildings are the perfect height, soaring only five to six stories, each floor laced with intricacies. The very top floor, wrapped in black iron, frames the cloudy skies. Eyes moving down, through the pastel and chalky carvings of those recognizable Parisian facades, the floors get wider, each framed with window boxes and blooming spring flowers. Resting just above the earth, where my gaze fits naturally at five foot five, is a store, such a Parisian store.
This is the umbrella shop in my neighborhood. And not just any umbrellas! Umbrellas for the sun, umbrellas for the rain, patterns and plain, pocket-sized or even golf umbrellas, opening bigger than my erect body.
For only here, in this city, could one store sell solely umbrellas and be successful. I hated this Parisian concept at first, the inconvenience of your errands - with a lack of affordable department stores or supercenters, if you need to pick up groceries, a screwdriver, makeup and a movie there is no quick option. That is four different stops required for your mission: first the “handy” shop, on to, you guessed it, the makeup shop, the electronic store and finally, the grocers (last of course, so your milk doesn’t go bad)! You begrudgingly carry your twenty-seven bags up your four flights of narrow stairs.
However my frustration quickly wore off, for I came to appreciate the simple complexity of this paradoxical city, an eco-system that values products and small business. The trade of Paris simultaneously limits over-consumption, while protecting business owners. You buy what you need, when you need it. There’s no grabbing sale items at Target because it was sitting deviously at the counter. You don’t tempt yourself with useless things.
For she is a city that makes you work for what you want - wearing you down until you prove your loyalty. Like any good lover.