It had been raining non-stop since I woke up at 8:30 a.m. It was neither one of those persistent misty drizzles that occurred quite frequently in the past few weeks nor one of those intermittent light rains. It was instead one of those relentless moderate rains that were interspersed with sudden heavy showers. No sane people would venture out this early on a wet Saturday.
However, it was the grocery day. Rain, sun, or snow—I still needed to get my provisions for the upcoming week. Nobody would want to come across a mentally-drained and patience-stretched English teacher Claudia who came home to an empty fridge after a day’s work. Besides, I needed to get my breakfast from the local bakery so that I could leisurely indulge in some French buttery pastries over a cup of strongly brewed coffee at home. A long-needed run would then follow: I had only done a short run this week due to the hectic schedule and need to catch up on the mileage.
Alas! The rain continued. I was usually not a fair-weather runner but I really didn’t like to get drenched within seconds of stepping out of the house and running in squishy socks for more than an hour. Moreover, I seemed to have caught a little something from either the students or the commuters in the constantly packed Parisian metros and trains. I didn’t want to risk turning a scratchy throat to something more serious. A teacher can’t teach without a voice.
When noon came, the cats and dogs were still out playing. My routine of running in the first part of the day was ruined. While I was wondering whether and when I could run today, I got a message from Silviu who was now in Grenoble (another story for another time) asking me when I would get the Christmas tree. Christmas tree! I had totally forgotten about the tree. Instead of waiting vainly for the rain to stop so that I could get in a run, I decided to grab this opportunity to get the tree from Jardiland, our local gardening store. The trip would hopefully burn some of the calories from the heavy croissant aux amandes that I had for breakfast (the calories were intended to be used for my workout…).
It was my first time shopping for a Christmas tree by myself. In the past, Silviu and I would shop together. Other than pointing at a particular tree that I wanted and decorating the tree after the purchase, all other details were handled by Silviu. So, the simple act of shopping for a Christmas tree was NOT that straightforward for me.
Firstly, I needed to ask Silviu where he kept the the tree base. We bought one last year which we could reuse this year; I would be buying the same type of tree from the same gardening store.
Secondly, the transportation. It was embarrassing; we had the car for almost five years but I had never had to lower the backseats to allow more boot space. So, I had to ask Silviu how to do that. It wasn’t as convoluted as I thought it would be: there was actually a big button with a “Click” by the headrest of each backseat. The backrest could be smoothly pushed forward once the button was clicked. Once that was done, I could make my way to Jardiland. The rain seemed to have let up slightly.
I was at the gardening store in less than 10 minutes and got myself an empty parking slot, the closest possible to the entrance. If the rain started to pelt later, I would be able to minimise the impact.
Before entering the store, I had to get one of those unwieldy metallic trolleys from the parking lot. I always felt a tad embarrassed when Silviu and I had to use of one of these trolleys in the store because of the rattling clanging noise made by the trolley as the entire contraption seemed to ‘bounce’ or maybe ‘jiggle’ as the four wheels rolled into the store. So, there I was, une petite femme, steering a big trolley into the store, keenly aware of the noise originating from my trolley.
I guess the inclement weather had discouraged the festive shoppers. There were not many customers around in the brightly lit big store. The absence of crowd on the aisles facilitated my manoeuvring of thee bulky contraption across the main part of the store towards the greenhouse where plants were kept.
As expected, a big part of the greenhouse space was occupied by Christmas trees. Since we had been buying the Nordmann species for the past few years, I zoomed right into the corner populated with this species. For me, it was either a short stubby 1.5m or a slenderer one of 1.7m which cost 10€ more. After a quick exchange of messages with Silviu, I decided to pick the taller one which fitted better in our high-ceiling living room.
I communicated my choice to the female store staff who was just standing close by. She must have known that I was discussing the choice with someone through messaging as she had observed me for the past five minutes taking photos of the Christmas trees and texting. I personally liked this kind of customer service: no effusive friendliness but always ready to help when required. After I told her my selection, she efficiently picked up the tree, put it though a funnel-like device to wrap the tree up in a net, and then loaded it onto my trolley.
Almost done. Just had to pay now. I had to pass through the Christmas decorations section as I pushed the ponderous contraption, now loaded with my tree, towards the cashier. Since there was a 30% discount on decorations and I had been looking for something simple to place on top of the tree, I decided to pause and have a quick look. Something simple…voila! A red star. I would have preferred a lighter colour like white, silver or gold but the only other colour available was brown. When Silviu saw the photo of the red star, the first word he said was COMMUNISM.
Paid. Now the home stretch. The first time Christmas tree shopping by myself wasn’t that complicated after all. Luckily the rain was still on hold as I pushed the trolley out of the store. It wasn’t that hard to load the bulky but not heavy wrapped-up tree into the boot.
The Christmas tree reached home safely. I had to climb a flight of stairs with the tree to get to the living room and fit it gently into screw of the tree base, making sure the tree didn’t topple. Good Job, Claudia!