This morning I stopped in the jewelry store in Saint-Aignan because I needed a new battery in my watch. The watch I wear these days is a Swiss Army model that was part of my five-year gift award at Apple back in 1997. Five years is a long stretch to put in at a Silicon Valley company, or was back then.
When I arrived at the jeweler's shop, a French couple was there buying a big digital clock that showed the time, the temperature, and the day of the week on its display. The woman behind the counter was explaining to the man and woman, who must have been in their late 60s or early 70s, how the clock worked.
The abbreviation for the day of the week was displayed in English. The woman buying the clock said she guessed they could get used to seeing SAT, SUN, MON, etc. on the clock display and learn what those abbreviations meant. "I don't know why we resist learning English, but we do," she said to the saleswoman. "I know," the saleswoman answered, "we are really behind the times." All this conversation took place in French, of course; I'm translating.
The saleswoman then pulled the user's manual for the clock out of the box. "Oh, it's in French," she said, surprised. "Sometimes the instructions are only in English. Then you are in a fix," she said with a smile.
I felt like saying to the saleswoman and the customers that they should put up some resistance. Don't buy products that are not localized — that do not display information in the language of the country where they are sold, in other words. Why couldn't the manufacturer of the clock put out a model that displayed the days as SAM, DIM, LUN, etc., in French?
Oh well. At least the manual had been translated. I didn't notice whether the temperature was displayed in ºC or ºF. Probably ºC.
A long discussion of the upside of knowing some English ensued. All the participants, including a couple of other customers, looked a little sheepish when admitting that their English was only rudimentary. Several people glanced at me, but I don't know if they realized I was American. I didn't say anything.
The older couple bought the clock and said they would try it out. The saleswoman encouraged them to bring it back after they'd tried it for a few days, if they weren't completely satisfied.
When my turn came, the jeweler told me he couldn't change the battery in my watch because he didn't have the tool he needed to take the back off of it. I thought that was bizarre, and said so, because I was convinced they had changed the battery in that watch last year or the year before. Maybe I was mistaken. I hope they didn't think I was rude.
Now I have to go back and have a battery put in a different watch, because I need a watch. Since I quit work and moved here, often I don't really know what day of the week it is. Having the bread lady come to the house on LUN, MAR, JEU, VEN, and SAM helps me keep my bearings. But I still feel the need to wear a watch most days.
I'll have to apologize to the jewelry store staff and tell them I must have been mistaken about getting a new battery from them for the Swiss Army watch.