Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Google Translator Is My New Best Friend

Soren has been replaced. Who needs a live translator when I have Google Translator at my disposal? Without this helpful tool, I would have not been very successful in getting our needs met lately. Take the bathroom disaster, for example.

At 1:30 a.m., after cleaning up the wet mess (which I was still trying to believe was shower water only), I logged onto Google Translator and typed my English description of the problem and my plea for help. Thank goodness Soren gave me a printer tutorial before he left! The next morning (thank goodness we have a 2nd bathroom!), on our way to school, I slipped the note under the apartment manager's door. When I returned, Christine, the apartment manager, was waiting for me in the lobby with a look of horror on her face. She made sure to express that I can always wake her up in the middle of the night for something like rain in the bathroom. At first, I was relieved to know that this was an acceptable thing to do for future reference. Then, I felt the now-familiar feeling of lameness for having broken a rule since I did not wake her up in the middle of the night.

After Christine looked at our bathroom I proceeded to show her the video that I had captured during the rain storm. I didn't understand hardly anything she said, but I did catch that she wanted to know if we had renter's insurance. As a matter of fact, yes, and we even have insurance for our children to attend school too, yet we have no idea what the heck it's for! She immediately went upstairs to the neighbor's directly above us.

Meanwhile, Soren and I connected via Skype. It was the middle of the night for him in his Chicago hotel room. I was catching him up on the bathroom news and we were just beginning to realize that we might have to figure out how to file an insurance claim when Christine returned. I was relieved to have my human translator available. I guess he's not truly replaceable afterall and works just as well virtually. Christine greeted Soren and began speaking to him, or rather, his head. She told him, in French, with enough pantomiming that I could also understand, that the rain was due to the neighbor's toilet and that she used a wrench to turn off the water at the source. She will be calling a plumber and asked for my phone number. I dutifully gave it to her and she rushed off. I was left to wonder how, if she or the plumber call me, I would be able to hold up my end of the conversation? I also did not know, do I need to stay home all day and wait? Can I go on a run? Can I take a nap? I felt paralyzed. So, I stayed put in the apartment and busied myself while I waited.

About an hour later, Christine and the plumber arrive. The plumber speaks to me and Christine has to repeatedly remind him that I do not speak French. Finally, after the plumber has a look up into our ceiling and visits the upstairs neighbor he returns to speak more French to me. Christine gives him another reminder. So, the plumber summed it up for me simply, "C'est bon, madame, c'est bon." It's all good? He was not here nor upstairs for more than 10 minutes. Can I really trust that all is well and it will no longer rain toilet water in our bathroom? I'm still having a hard time with the fact that toilet water rained down on me and our stuff. My germophobia was already intense enough.

Our Paris apartment phone then rang. I love answering this phone because I get to fool the caller, momentarily, that I am French by uttering the standard phone greeting, "Allo?"  Then, I usually get a barrage of French from the caller before I have to say in my heavily accented French, "Je suis désolé... I am sorry but I have tricked you and I really do not have the skills to communicate with you, understand you, or take a message for the owners."  

It was Lucia, the owner of our apartment, calling. She had received Soren's message about the rain and had just spoken to Christine so Lucia was able to translate for me what Christine and the plumber could only communicate with,  "C'est bon." Apprarently, the bathroom above us is in great disrepair. The neighbor has agreed to refrain from using it at all and make due with their second bathroom. The water has been turned off so there is no chance of another rain storm. Lucia was very apologetic. I was waiting for her to mention something about renter's insurance, but thankfully, she did not. I was certainly not going to bring it up. The rest of my day was spent disinfecting the entire bathroom, all of our bottles and tubes of stuff, and doing laundry with the hottest water setting possible. So much for enjoying my second day of alone-time out and about on the town. Paris will have to wait for me.

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