Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coming Up Short on Freaky Friday

On Friday, I found myself with some free time so I decided to go to the salon to see if I could get my hair cut and colored. Of course, I had not made an appointment, so I was at the mercy of the stylist and the colorist to "squeeze" me in. Since old habits are hard to break, I've always tipped them both, even though it is not customary to do so over here. It certainly paid off, as I was able to get a hair cut at 11:15 and then a color appointment at 3:15. [See, this whole customer service thing can take off in Brussels -- we just need to encourage a tipping society!]

A little after 11, I walked back into to the salon to find an older lady in the middle of a complete nervous breakdown. I'm talking tears, shaking, near hyperventilation, should we call a doctor breakdown. From what I could decipher (damn that lack of French!), she was upset about a man, a child, or, perhaps a man acting like a child. It wasn't clear -- to me. Everyone else in the salon was on top of it. They kept talking to her in these really nice voices and offering her comforting looks. I, on the other hand, had more pressing things on my mind, such as the fact that she was having this breakdown in the very chair that I was scheduled to occupy in a few short minutes. Call me superstitious, but I really don't think it is a good idea to have the appointment following the crazy person. My stylist is amazing, but I could tell by the way she was holding her scissors that she had completely had it with the lady in the chair. Would a "squeeze in" after a "breakdown" be too much for the stylist to handle? How bad was my hair gonna pay for this psychotic episode?

After about half a magnum of champagne, the lady calmed down enough to move to another chair. I then sat down in the hot seat, wondering if it would be too rude to suggest that my stylist might want to take a nip or two from that champagne bottle as well. You know, a little something to calm the scissors.

Just as I was explaining to my stylist that I only wanted a trim, the lady started with her second psychotic breakdown. All eyes, ears and champagne glasses were turned towards her, except mine. Instead, I did the only thing I knew to make the woman feel more comfortable, I read (okay, looked at the pictures) in the French Vogue and acted as if everything was completely normal. My charade of denial was working just fine until I glanced up and realized that over four inches of my hair was missing! Somehow "trim" turned into "bob". So, thanks to the crazy lady and the man/child/manchild, I am now sporting a much shorter do. (And, yes, it is still beige!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Love Those Cabs Taxi!

Before I get to the "old posts" from the summer when the blog turned Flemish, I thought I'd start right off the bat with today's little taxicab adventure.

I hailed a cab at the taxi stand in front of the Marriott. Usually I have a huge complex when it comes to telling the driver where I want to go, because, undoubtedly, I am mispronouncing the French name of the street. No, make that slaughtering the French name! Not today, no sirree. Today, I confidently told the driver the address where I wanted to go. I say, "confidently", because I was going to Avenue Franklin Roosevelt. American-easy.

We hit lots of traffic in the Sablon, something to do with a bus that was parked in the middle of the street while the driver was outside of his bus talking to a busdriver who was parked on the other side of the street. By the time we cleared party central, I knew I was going to be late for my 2:00 appointment, especially since the cab driver insisted on stopping at EVERY crosswalk, regardless of whether there was a light or even a person waiting to cross!

As we turned onto Ave Franklin Roosevelt, the cab driver verifies (again) the street number. In French, I told him 84 ("quatre-vingts quatre" to all you that have not had 30 hours studying the French alphabet and numbers!). Quatre-vingts quatre, he asks? Oui, huit -- quatre, I reply as he is pulling up in front of number 48. No, I say, huit quatre, non quatre huit.

The cab driver starts arguing with me and pointing to the building number, which, was only slightly less larger than the name on the building -- ULB. (ULB is one of the universities here in Brussels.) No matter how much I insisted that we were at 48, not 84, he just kept pointing at the building number and saying (louder and louder) "huit quatre". Irritated, late and approaching my breaking point, I mustered all remaining calm I had left in me and said, "Yes, there's a huit and there's a quatre, but it's NOT huit quatre!"

If nothing else, the cab driver was persistent. He just kept on pointing to that huge-ass 48 on the side of the building. At this point, I was pretty much yelling, "huit quatre, huit quatre", because, you have to admit, it is so much easier than yelling "quatre-vingts quatre, quatre-vingts quatre"! He just kept agreeing with me and pointing to the street number.

Finally, he pulled out a pad of paper and pen and asked me to write down the number. Now, the intelligent side of me realized that if his dyslexic ass couldn't decipher the number 48 when it was posted in pretty-much life-sized letters on the side of the building, then there was a better than average chance that me writing it on his little post-it note was not going to make the 48 an 84. I hate to be cruel, but, let's face it, if you suffer from dyslexia, I don't think a career that requires you to spot numbers and read street signs is the wisest career move. I could be wrong.

So, I took his pen and his pad of paper and I wrote "84" and then under that, I wrote "48" and pointed to the building. The driver pulls away from the curb and starts to make a U-turn, all the while saying "oui, huit-quatre." Yep, just another normal day in the life of The Belgian Years!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sorry About the MIA

In case any of you have noticed, I have been missing in action in the blogosphere! Rest assured, my absence has nothing to do with a lack of bizarre experiences that have come my way over the past couple of months (stay tuned for posts about the "ice emergency" and the "trip to the tailor gone bad"). Rather, in a pathetic reflection on my linguistic abilities, for the past couple of months, my blog has been speaking Flemish -- another language which I have not yet mastered!

Thanks to V-grrl ( for giving me the heads-up on how to FINALLY get my blog back to English!