The Seriousness of Lunch

I had a companion in France, a co-pilot of sorts. We met in the rental car parking lot and parted ways three weeks later at the Marseilles airport. His name was Jean Claude. He was high strung and easily agitated–a drama queen, if truth be told. We drove though Provence together, following a trial of medieval castles and crystal clear rivers.

Jean Claude loved the open road, but parking lots made him nervous. He would screech if I came too close to another car, and was always on my back when I maneuvered into a tight spot. Watch the front bumper! No, the side door! He loved telling me what to do. I can’t say I liked it, but I learned to appreciate it. The one time I chose to ignore his rants I hit the wall of a building–no damage done.


Nyons with its Roman Bridge

Nyons with its Roman Bridge


More than once Jean Claude came to my rescue when I was lost. He always knew where the next turn was and had a knack with names of unfamiliar streets. He even found the police station for me—in three different towns.

I had a travel mishap in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it had nothing to do with their famed wine. At the top of the village, among the ruins of the Pope’s summer home, a friend and I stepped away from the car to inspect what was left of the palace and came back to a broken window…and her missing purse. Jean Claude effortlessly led us to the Gendarmerie. It was closed, shut down completely by 6pm. How can a police station be closed we asked?? No one was there to reply.


Country vegetable stand

Country vegetable stand


Driving back home, through the city of Orange, we spotted a police car and asked the officers inside what we should do. Yes, definitely report the crime, they said and Jean Claude directed us to the nearest station. It, too, was closed. There was a telephone outside, so I called the number and said I needed to report a robbery. “But it’s dinnertime.” was the reply. “Come back tomorrow.” When I explained that we didn’t live in their town, I was told to report the incident anywhere I liked, but only during office hours.


Castle outside Chateau-neuf-du-Pape

Castle outside Chateauneuf-du-Pape


The next day around noon Jean Claude showed us the way to another station. The man in charge took our statement and began filling out forms. He huffed with disgust at the trivial waste of his time, sighing loudly and rolling his eyes. His English was meager, my French laughable, but we managed. He eyed his watch, growing more and more agitated. At 1pm with the paperwork not quite done, he rose from his desk and declared it lunchtime. “But I really need the papers now, to return the car. I can’t go anywhere with a broken window.” He exhaled loudly, rolled his eyes yet again and told me to return later. The employees left and the building was locked.

This was something Jean Claude couldn’t help me with. I asked a storekeeper how it was possible that the police only paid attention to mealtimes and not crime. Being a good eater myself, I understand the anticipation of heading to the table; however, shouldn’t someone be minding the store, so to speak? “Everyone in town knows where they live….we call them at home, if it’s important.”


Asparagus & Herb Sandwich

Asparagus & Herb


The next day, with the police report in hand, I headed to the airport to collect my new car, as promised by the Europcar agent. I bid farewell to Jean Claude in the parking lot, telling him he was the best GPS ever. I was sad to see him go; we had been through a lot together.


A Better Mode of Transportation?     A Better Mode of Transportation?

A Better Mode of Transportation?


Our separation lasted only 20 minutes, the time it took the car company to explain to me that they had no more cars, that the operator lied….”they always do that, promise things we can’t make happen.” I was told to fix the car myself and given directions to a local mechanic. Jean Claude helped along the way. Was he as happy to see me again as I was to see his friendly, shining screen? The mechanics were quite friendly and somewhat attractive. I practiced my French; they fixed the window.

I missed two days of sightseeing, but I was with Jean Claude again, winding through the streets. I didn’t even mind when he told me how to park.


This is not Jean Claude

This is not Jean Claude


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