The Story Behind the Strangeness: Explaining the Inexplicable in France (and Wherever), Part Six
- Published on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
Two lost bits of apparel found on the same street on the same Sunday morning. When searching door-to-door for his true love, a French prince likes to have more to work with than just a shoe size.
In the past few days, readers from all over the world, or my frontal lobe, have been writing in to ask, “David, have you seen anything strange in Paris recently?” To which I can only answer, “Should Adair buzz in the wits?”
To which they invariably reply, “Huh?” To which I say, “I’m so glad you asked!” Because here at C’est Ironique I consider it my solemn duty to explain the inexplicable, as explained in the past installments of this recurring feature (each of which contains a link to the previous one) (except, of course, Part One, because that would be inexplicable).
So here goes: the biggest, strangest thing I’ve seen in Paris recently is the slogan made up by the committee spearheading the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics:
Why is Paris “made for sharing”? Oh — I get it: because rents are so high that everyone needs a housemate!
Paris has a remarkably diverse population, spanning a wide range of economic brackets, political leanings, spiritual persuasions and glass slipper sizes. So I have to applaud the Olympic bid committee for adopting a slogan that has united public opinion in absolute unanimity: everyone hates it.
And not only because the slogan isn’t in French. Even the Académie Française, the distinguished body charged with protecting the sanctity of the language, weighed in on the issue, pointing out, not very distinguishedly, that the same catchphrase had already been used by an American fast food chain for a bizarre and understandably short-lived attempt to market a hybrid hamburger-pizza.
In any case, the proposal left everyone in Paris wondering one thing, namely, “How did this hand-picked, highly qualified panel of communication experts manage to come up with such a brainless slogan?” Well, that and, “Whoa — you mean Académie members eat at Burger King?” But mostly the thing about the slogan.
But I can explain! The reason is: they’re French communication experts.
In other words, they are the kind of people who find it perfectly normal to squander huge advertising budgets on slogans like:
Why the capital “S”? Who is Shape, and why should we want to be him?
Well, you can’t deny the logic.
Not to mention...
Oops — in a remarkable coincidence, all of those same readers I mentioned earlier just wrote in again to say, “Wait! Not in Paris. We meant Rome. Anything strange there?” To which I can only answer, “Is ‘hep-cool’ pathetic?”
I spent last Christmas vacation in Rome, where I spotted, in addition to an impressive array of ill-advised English shop signs, a number of phenomena that seem to defy reason.
Some of them were closely linked to the Christian nature of the year-end holiday. For example this nativity scene set up in the street near Piazza Venezia:
Nothing odd about that — until you take a few steps back and get the bigger picture:
There was no room at the inn, so Joseph and Mary took shelter in the shovel of an earthmover at a construction site. Here we see the Three Wise Men bringing the newborn king symbolic gifts: concrete, drywall and his kickback money.
This next one, from the entryway of a building on Via Giulia, isn’t seasonal, but rather a permanent homage to one of Catholicism’s most revered saints:
What’s that on her head? Oh — it’s Our Lady of the Steering Wheel. Patron saint of parking spots and gasoline prices.
Other Romans seemed to have difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit. As evidenced by this trash that appeared downstairs from the place where I was staying on the afternoon of December 25:
I understand that someone with no family dinner to go to would get a takeout pizza on a holiday, but who spends Christmas Day in the Holy City of Rome at a target range? And, obviously, doesn’t like tomatoes?
There’s a lesson here for children: eat your vegetables, kids, or you’ll grow up to be a lonely sociopath who gets no Christmas presents and dreams of shooting people in the chest. And isn’t very good at it:
Still other Romans were doing what they could to express the joyful mood of the season, but, in my opinion, falling short:
This was the window display of an office supplies store in central Rome late last December. Christmas decorations! So far so good. But take a closer look at the equipment on view:
Who goes to the trouble of hanging a star and propping up a little Christmas tree but can’t be bothered to dust the actual display, which, judging from the quantity of accumulated filth, has been there since Easter?
My guess is that the store subcontracted their maintenance to the company that owns this truck:
Once again, a closer look is in order, this time at the logo:
Their slogan: “Made for not caring.”
And now, not that anyone asked, back to Paris. Where I recently received a notification from the government that they are doing a national census this year. Nothing inexplicable about that, but look at the envelope that the notice came in:
Why the hand-written phone number? I like to imagine the scene at the office:
“Okay — we’ve got all the census notices for every household in the country ready to mail!”
“Uh-oh! We forgot to put the helpline number in the letter!”
“No problem! Just have one of the interns write it by hand on every envelope.”
So the city might not win the Olympics, but as long as we have putzmeisters organizing the census, making up English slogans and losing their underwear in the street, as far as I’m concerned it’s a:
I love that this place is out of business. Spotted by reader Jake Dear.
Note: David Jaggard will be doing standup comedy on March 3 as part of the WTF Paris show at the SoGymnase Comedy Club, and on March 7 as part of the Comedy Square program at Le Paname Art Café. The next C’est Ironique will appear on March 8.
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is now available on Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.
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