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My encounter with the French Embassy

July 14, 2010

As an intern, I get to do a lot of research. And that means I get to make a lot of phone calls. I talk to people, annoy them briefly until they give me the information I need and then I leave them alone, that is, until I need to annoy them again.

I’ve become quite good at annoying people.

Yesterday, I got to annoy the lovely people over at the French Embassy of the United States. Afterwards, however, I found that they can’t be annoyed. They’re simply … too … what’s the word? Oh yeah: loving.

I’ll explain.

So I give ’em a buzz, and am immediately answered by a French receptionist. All I could really make out was, “Bonjour …” and then it was a bunch of other words in French that I couldn’t figure out for the life of me.

There was a pause, and then I said, “English?”

“Oh, yes, of course! ‘Allo. Oo wood you like to speek wis? Wat eez your concern?”

“I’d like to talk to someone about philanthropic programs offered within the Embassy.”

“Oui, sank you, I weel transfer you.”

[Lovely elevator music ensues]

Side note: I had been calling people all day at several different embassies — each time I called and notified the receptionist that, no, I don’t speak Korean, Spanish or Portuguese, I was met with an unbelievable sigh and some monotonous English. The French receptionist remained incredibly cheery throughout our encounter. I had a good feeling about the person to which I was going to be transferred.

“‘Allo, I am Jean, ‘ow may I ‘elp you?”

I introduced myself, told him what I needed and asked him if I could send him an e-mail with some quetions I needed answered.

“But of course, Emilia, was it? Of course, I weel just geev you my e-mail name. Are you ready for eet?”

“Yes, thank you.”

And then he proceeded to spell out his “e-mail name” in the thickest French accent I had ever heard. Every single letter sounded the same. It was quite embarrassing when, after he had gone through great pains to spell out the address, I had to say, “I’m sorry, Jean, I couldn’t make out any of those letters …”

“Oh, make no worry!” he said. “‘Ow about you geev me your e-mail name and I weel send you an e-mail letter so you have my name? Bon?”

“Yes, yes, thank you Jean!”

Two minutes later, I received an “e-mail letter” from Jean saying that he would respond to the questions as quickly as possible, but he had several meetings, so it may be an hour or so. He signed the e-mail, “Fondly, Jean.”

Fondly? Fondly. Yes, this was the most loving Media Relations Office I had ever come into contact with. Just so we all know, most offices do not even give a sign-off. Or, it’s just “Marsha” or “Anne Sanchez Media Relations.” But Jean here went above and beyond the call of duty and customized his sign-off for me. And it’s not like I was even that suave over the phone — I insulted his English (unintentionally, of course), and was taking up his time by making him answer questions. And still, I get “fondly.” Maybe that’s the way he ends all of his e-mails, but either way, it made me smile.

Those people made me want to jump out of my chair and buy the next one-way-ticket to France I could get my hands on. They really take the whole “joie de vivre” thing to the next level.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Gus Hastalis permalink
    July 14, 2010 5:00 pm

    I’m afraid to think how Jean might have signed off if you spoke French! Something to think about….

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