Perhaps it’s because while I was walking to dinner last night, a man approached me and spoke to me in French. I’m trying to rationalize why, exactly, I allowed myself to cave, to enjoy one of my true weaknesses this morning. Two, actually. A café au lait, rather than my plain bold, black brew, and, a big, flaky, buttery croissant, probably my daily allotment of calories in one item and my monthly allowance of plain, white, enriched flour.
So, this nice looking man approached me, on the street last night, as I was scurrying off to dinner, and he addressed me in French. I’ve had years of French in junior high, high school and in college. I don’t speak a word of French. It’s one of those things you have to practice daily and put to use in order to retain. Use it or lose it. Flustered, I responded, “Je ne parle pas, francais, un petit peu seulment”, which I think means, “I don’t speak French, only a little bit”. Only a little bit, as in, you’ve just heard everything I know with the possible exception of “my name is Scarlett.” I could probably dredge that phrase up if I had to. He didn’t ask. He continued, in French, “Parlez vous anglais?” I replied, simply, in English, in my boldest California accent, “yes”. And he continued his charity organization donation schpeel in perfect, English, in a bold, California accent. I kid. There is no California accent, we have the blandest, least identifiable dialect in the world, which, I suppose, distinguishes us from everyone else in the world.
I am of French descent, but I don’t think I look any different than any other Cali girl walking briskly down the streets of San Francisco. I was even wearing “the uniform”; tailored gray slacks, black blouse, black cardigan, black shoes, black coat. The only flair, or personal style I added to the bay area working girl uniform was a scarlet red scarf with small white polka dots and a scarlet red cross body purse. I like to add a splash of color, usually red, sometimes pink or magenta. As a matter of fact, I wear something scarlet daily, whether visible or not. And, I generally wear polka dots on Fridays. Why not, I ask, why not? Most ladies in the city wear scarves with their coats, rarely scarlet, though. I’m just wondering if my splashy flashy flair is what set me apart as, possibly, foreign, and, specifically, French. I don’t know, but it totally made my night, and, as evidenced by my breakfast selection at the café downstairs, my morning, this morning, too.
I had a banana with my croissant. I know, having a banana and a croissant with my café au lait is really not all that interesting, until, until you try to throw your shit away. In San Francisco. Have you ever tried to dispose of rubbish of any sort in San Francisco? It is not so easy. There are no less than three garbage receptacles, sometimes more; compost, recyclables and trash. True, there are almost always pictures posted nearby to provide some guidance, but, truthfully, they don’t. As a matter of fact, I think the pictures only complicate things as I don’t think any two pictures are the same. After eating my banana, I stood in front of the three garbage receptacles and looked for a picture of a banana peel. I would assume the banana peel would go into the compost can, but, there is no picture of a banana peel, only what appears to be a picture representing the sticky pork bun I ate yesterday at lunch at the dim sum place. I fished my cheaters (glasses) out of my purse and squinted at the pictures again. Nope, no banana peel. I quickly glanced over my right shoulder, then my left, to make sure no one was monitoring my trash disposal activities, and I quickly slipped the banana peel into the compost bin. Now for the paper wrapper the croissant came in; recyclable or compost? I’m pretty sure the croissant wrapper appeared on the picture attached to the compost bin, so, in it went. I left quickly, just in case I’d guessed incorrectly and the garbage police were nearby.
Thankfully, I still had coffee and was not yet ready to dispose of that troublesome item. I made my way upstairs to the training center I’m working in this week. There is a coffee service and a few pastries set out for us, but, I’ve already nourished and caffeinated myself adequately. Next to the coffee service area, though, are more garbage cans. Three. Compost, recycle and trash. There are pictures, again, to assist in your endeavor. The pictures are different than the ones downstairs, and, to my joy and delight, a banana peel is pictured on the compost bin example. I did a little happy dance. People were looking at me a little odd. Have you ever seen someone do a little soft shoe in front of the green compost bin? Right.
I proceed into our classroom and practically tripped over a trash can. A single, unlabeled trash can. I glance inside, there are apple cores, Styrofoam food containers, half full (always the optimist) coffee cups, candy wrappers, plastic wrappers, napkins. All in one bin. Is it weird that I’m excited? I now know exactly where I’m throwing away everything I need to discard while in this amazing city; in the single, unmarked trash can in my classroom. I’ll just take the laundry bag from my hotel room, collect my rubbish for the day and discard it here, in this single and very un-confusing trash bin. Apparently, with the purchase of this trash can must come a service of sorting the contents, or, perhaps, when one purchases this trash can you must agree, under some unmentionable penalty, to properly sort the contents into the appropriate receptacle before it is removed from the office suite. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ve found my solution!
So, what lessons can I take away from my experiences, today? First, if I don’t speak French on a daily basis, I lose the ability to speak French. At all. There are so many things in life that the “use it or lose it” rule applies to; fitness, health, strength, flexibility, mental acumen, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-motivation, progress towards our goals and our life purpose. Everything in life worth having requires constant use and practice. Think about it.
My second lesson today; sometimes we have to find a way to apply life’s rules in a manner that best suits our individual needs. Not to cheat, but to find a way to make it all work. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work well for others. When we are looking at boosting our self-esteem, our self-confidence, our self-motivation and our self-discipline, we can read twelve different “self-help” books with twelve different sets of rules and find that no one of them really suits our individual needs. Perhaps we have to combine some ideas from one with ideas from another. The whole point is to find something that, ultimately, works for us, and, to just throw the rest away! Whether we’re going to discard the unwanted items in the compost bin, the recycle bin or the trash bin is up to our interpretation, too!