moments of illumination in the city of light

007 : Kincaid at Ed supermarket, 13th arrondissement
Born in 20th century in USA, Kincaid currently works as Journalist / Artist Why Paris? do you have to ask? He digs the following Paris bits: 1. the Louvre 2. the super heros BD shop 3. Palais Royal 4. the 12eme 5. Sundays He is, however, a bit miffed by finding an apartment, the shower fixtures, Monoprix, the paperwork, and Sundays. For more info on Kincaid you should send an email.

image: badaude

“I felt a sense of relief as I experienced the rare soothing absence of fluorescent light”

It was also going to be my first meal of the day — spaghetti. I’d been counting my centimes[1] — not that I didn’t always go to Ed[2], but it really did seem like these were the last of them. The afternoon rush was on, and the grungy denizens of the supermarket were teeming with like minded penny-pinchers. I wasn’t in a hurry, but there’s something about an un-mopped grocery store that instills a sense of urgency in me. From the cereal/beer/whatever-else-comes-in-on-the-pallet aisle, I noticed that the queue had begun to grow, so I passed on the muesli and headed to the cashier. In front of me, two young teens slung insults at each other jokingly. In front of them, a large West African woman juggling two babies in her arms and a toddler at her feet, was trying to get her carte bleue[3] to work. The cashier said there was a problem with the computer.  Behind me, a Maghrebi man began aggressively commandeering the conveyor belt for his groceries, which revealed a pack of generic brand condoms hiding under a sack of potatoes. Further back, an old French couple expressed their exasperation at the queue with some loud sighs and tsk-tsking. The cashier, a tall, lanky young man with cornrows, smirked in agreement and gave the computer a brisk smack. Then the lights went out. I moaned in irritation. What now?

Then, for a few seconds, there was real, palpable silence. The rubber drumming of the conveyor belt, the spinning fans of the computers and even the burning buzz of the monitors were all gone. I felt a sense of relief as I experienced the rare soothing absence of fluorescent light. Instead, there were new things in the air. For the first time in my Parisian life, I became acutely aware of dialects. The cashier’s calm, sonorous Senegalese accent found the large West African woman’s similar rhythms as they complained about computers. The teenagers’ verlan{fn4} mocked the workers and owners of Ed; words snapped out into the air, curses but not curses, vulgar but not vulgar. The deep growl and hard “h’s” of Maghrebi French provided a perfect harmony to the shrill outrage of the old French couple as they shared a stern resolution: the three of them had had it with this store. As the blind frustrated clamor began to rise, the sudden outburst of children giggling put us all in check. The lights came back on, we eyed each other sheepishly, and restarted the checkout process.

[view full illustration]

referenced works

  1. One hundredth of a euro.

  2. A discount grocery store. See Super Pouvoir d’achat

  3. French debit card.

  4. French slang: certain words are pronounced backwards—à l’envers: L’ehn ver. Or: ver-lan.

location information

  • Name: Ed supermarket
  • Address: 50, rue Domrémy, 75013 PARIS
  • Time of story: Afternoon
  • Latitude: 48.830656
  • Longitude: 2.370129
  • Map: Google Maps



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