Recent Work By Rebecca Adler

PARIS, FRANCE-

I was pulled over by the French police today.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before it happened.

Every time I see the police here I actually physically cringe because I’m so afraid of them.

But this morning I didn’t see them. I didn’t know they were there.

I also didn’t know I’d done anything wrong.

Frenchpolice

I had just gone through a yellow light, only to go about one car length to the next yellow light where I stopped.

Yes, there were two stop lights one after the other. About 10 meters (yards) apart, if that.

So I’m sitting here at the light when I see a cop walking toward me.

My stomach sinks. I begin replaying the last scene in my head. Was the light red? Did I forget to signal? Was I driving too fast? What’s he doing?

Oh no! He’s knocking on my window.

He doesn’t even wait for me to finish unrolling my window before he demands that I pull over across the street.

“OK,” I say.

But I continue to wait at the red light because I have to do a u-turn to pull over to the spot he’s pointing to.

“You ran a red light back there. Did you see all the other cars stop? Why did you keep going?” he asks me (in French of course).

“Oh. I didn’t realize it was red. I thought it was a yellow light.”

Yellowlight

“Are you trying to be smart with me?! If you’re going to get smart with me I can be a real asshole! Is that what you want?”

“Erm. No. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult.”

“Well, why are you driving if you don’t know your colors. If you can’t tell the difference between green and red you shouldn’t be driving. Now pull over across the street.”

“I am. I mean, I’m going to. I’m just waiting for the light. Oh, there it is.”

So I pull over across the street where he had indicated. And at this point I have absolutely no idea what I said to upset him so much. My hands are shaking and my eyes are tearing up.

Once I’m pulled over he starts in on me again.

“Garbly, garble, blah, blah, garble, the bus … récoule.”

“What? I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult but I really don’t understand.”

“Garb-ly, gar-ble, BLAH, BLAH, GAR-BLE, THE BUS … RE-COULE!” he says it slower and louder, as though I’m in some kind of comedy show where they’re making fun of people who do this. Saying it louder does not help me to know what the words mean, it just scares me.

Now I’m really crying. I have no idea what he’s asking me to do. I pulled over where he asked me to. I don’t see a bus in my rearview mirror.

I am parked in a bus stop area though, so maybe he wants me to back up? Yes. Let’s try that.

I begin backing up and I say, “Like this?”

OUI!

He instructs me to continue backing up. When I finally am told to stop, he asks me for my license and registration, which I give him.

The registration cards here are in fancy little plastic blue billfolds and I didn’t know I needed to take it out for him.

He throws it back through the window and demands that I take it out of the plastic, which I do, hands shaking.

Everything I do seems to only make this situation worse. I know I’m not trying to be difficult, but for some reason he’s convinced that I am.

Traffictree

He looks at my license and asks me where I’m from.

I look at him confused. Did he really just ask me where I’m from? Or did I hear him wrong? Because it says right on my license in all caps: CALIFORNIA.

“Erm.”

Again, with the slow loud talking, he asks me where I’m from.

“California, is that it?!” he asks.

Oui. Je viens de Californie.

At this point a second officer comes and I think I’m saved. He must be here to translate for me.

The first cop turns his back to me and speaks in the direction of the translator cop.

Il faut faire attention ici,” he says.

Il faut vraiment faire attention ici,” translator cop repeats.

Il y a des piétons partout ici, et les véhicules d’urgences aussi.”

And again translator cop repeats IN FRENCH.

Trafficlight

At this point I’m really beginning to feel as though I’m on candid camera or something.

This looks like a comic sketch.

It goes on for several minutes: The first cop lecturing me, and the second cop repeating the lecture word for word, translating it from French into … French … as though hearing it twice will suddenly make me understand French better.

The imaginary bus I left space for should drive up right about now and hit both of them. Or maybe someone will come running down the street with pies for me to shove in their faces.

Are they going to break into song and dance next? I wonder.

“Is this really happening right now?” I’m thinking, when suddenly something translator cop says catches my attention.

Meme si le feu est orange il faut arrêter.

LIGHT BULB! Ah, so the first cop thought I was being smart because I called it a yellow light. Well, how was I supposed to know it was called an orange light here? Aren’t orange and yellow pretty much the same anyway?

“Sorry officer. I didn’t realize I had to stop for orange lights as well,” I say through my tears.

“Well, driving in Paris isn’t like driving in Provence. There you may be able to do that, but here it’s much more dangerous,” says translator cop, who is the only one talking anymore.

The first cop hands me back my papers and license.

Then translator cop smiles and says, “This isn’t the United States. We aren’t as severe as the police in the U.S., are we?”

In my head I say, “Well, in all the times I’ve been pulled over at home I’ve never been yelled at by a police officer, nor have I cried.”

But I say, “Erm. I don’t know.”

“No, we’re not so bad,” he says.

And then they take a few steps back from my car and begin pointedly ignoring me.

What is going on here? Does this mean I get to go?

“Can I go then?” I ask.

“Go ahead.” they say. “Just make a left at the next street and a left at the following light and you’ll end up back where you were headed.”

“OK. Thanks.”

I wipe away my tears and begin slowly driving away, unsure whether they’d suddenly change their minds and begin running madcap after my car, holding onto the bumper as I drag them behind me.

P.S. I looked for the word “recouler” in the dictionary when I got home and it wasn’t in there. I guess it means “to roll back” but I can’t be certain. I do know it doesn’t mean, literally translated, “to back up,” nor does it mean “to move in reverse.”

PARIS, FRANCE-

California is fairly notorious for having really aggressive drivers and a lot of traffic.

But after three weeks of driving in Paris I have to say, Californians are sissy drivers by comparison.

Our problem: We’re too law-abiding.

It’s not so much a problem really. I rather enjoyed the comparably chaos-free driving I experienced in California. There weren’t horns honking at 6 a.m., waking up the entire neighborhood because a moving van is double-parked in the middle of an already barely wide enough one way street.

You never have to worry that if you go down a street you’ll find it blocked and be forced to drive in reverse down the entire length of the street and look for another route to your desired destination.

But in Paris these things happen more often than anyone would believe.

Emergency lights here are not used for real emergencies. They’re used instead as the “Hi, I know I’m not supposed to park here, but I’m going to anyway so please don’t give me a ticket” lights.

I asked a French friend about all the cars double parked on the streets, telling them that it’s illegal in the U.S. to double park like that because it causes too many traffic problems. Not only that, but it blocks in whoever you’re parked next to.

She said it’s illegal here too, just nobody cares. And, when getting my official Paris driving lessons, I was instructed to double park if I can’t find other parking.

So, what I guess I’m saying is that the French, or at least Parisians, don’t take Traffic Laws to heart really. They look at them more as a kind of loose guideline, only to be followed in exemplary driving conditions, or when they aren’t in a hurry.

To illustrate, here’s a diagram of the street in front of the school I have to go to each day:

Diagram

A. The no parking sign.
B. The “We’re serious, don’t park here or we’ll tow you sign.”
C. The car illegally parked in front of the no parking sign, with emergency lights on of course.
D. My car, also illegally parked with emergency lights flashing.
E. The guy who parked legally and paid for parking, but is now blocked in by cars C and D.
F. A school bus parked in the middle of the street, now blocking all oncoming traffic, because the whole row of cars in front of me have parked illegally in front of the school.


Since I’ve been here I’ve double parked nearly every day, I’ve blocked intersections regularly, I’ve purposely driven the wrong way down a one-way street, and I’ve driven in reverse down an entire street after the moving van guy told me he’d be there for at least another half an hour and had no intention of moving.

I’ve also seen quite a few accidents involving cars and motorcycles. Because if cars have no traffic laws, motorcycles really don’t have any traffic laws here.

I think another part of the problem is the lack of dividing lines. There are lines right at the stop light to kind of divide up the traffic, but they disappear as you begin driving up the road. This means people are left to decide whether they want to have two lanes or three. And they will make their own lane whether you like it or not.

They will also park dangerously close to your car, so that you’re stuck in a reverse-forward-reverse-forward mess for about fifteen minutes trying to get out of the space.

Look_at_how_close_they_park

I don’t know how they do it. It’s almost as though Parisian cars are an extension of the driver. Somehow they’re able to park as close as possible to anything without actually hitting it. I don’t think I’ll ever master this though. I’m constantly driving in circles looking for a larger parking space.

I was looking forward to continuing my car-free lifestyle here in Paris, but I’m getting used to the idea of driving here now. It’s unfortunate because I feel like it takes away from my experience of the city. Suddenly Paris doesn’t seem quite so huge. And I’m learning my way around much quicker than I did before.

But one thing to be said about it is that driving makes me feel more at home here. It’s making Paris familiar in a way it never was before. I have a routine of taking the children to school and picking them up from school everyday, which includes a dangerous trek through the Charles de Gaulle Etoile, famous for car accidents and having L’Arc de Triomphe at its center. But this week I went through it without even holding my breath or saying, “We made it,” to the boys afterward.

I haven’t decided whether I’m glad or disappointed about this development. It’s growing on me though.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

For the first time in my life I’m leaving without running away.

It’s making me a bit nervous actually.

Most of my traveling has been panic-driven.

“I hate my life. I have to get out of here,” I’d say.

Then I’d begin a frantic search for the cheapest flight to anywhere.

Failing that, I’d jump in my car and drive. Drive 12 hours to Vancouver for the weekend. Head north on Interstate 5, stopping only when the panic subsided.

For years I blamed my unhappiness on this city.

I’d tell myself it was all because I was stuck here in Sacramento. It gave me that small-town feeling. The there’s-nothing-to-do-in-this-town, I’m-going-nowhere-with-my-life, I-have-to-get-out-of-here feeling.

I was one of those people who thought escaping this town meant escaping my life.

What I learned is that I needed a better life before I could be anywhere without looking for my next escape route.

Sacramento wasn’t the problem. And I only know that now because for the last couple of years I’ve been really happy here.

How do I know?

Because now when it’s time to leave I ask, “Why do I have to leave? What made me decide to do this?”

I’m nervous about going now because I don’t have dreams about finding something bigger and better somewhere else. I’m not romanticizing my trip the way I would have before.

People keep saying, “Moving to France? Wow, aren’t you so excited?” And I want to say yes, but the truth is I’m really anxious. I feel like I’m making a big mistake. What if I’m leaving something really great and I end up being miserable there? I’ve never had these types of what-ifs before. It’s giving me a nervous stomach.

“I’m sure everything will be fine.” This is my new mantra.

The more I think about it, the more I think it will be great, really.

It will be. I know it. Because this time I’m going without the idea that Paris will save me from myself.

Besides, if Paris sucks I know Sacramento will be waiting right here where I left her.

Leaving3


Rebecca Adler is moving to Paris this week. There she will continue to write while posing as an au pair. She can be reached on myspace or on the comment board.


SACRAMENTO, CA-

There was a time when my little sister, Kati, and I were practically inseparable.

Kati loved coming to my house because she got all of the attention. There weren’t seven other kids battling for love and affection. Just her and me.

Rebeccaadler34

Kati spent holidays at my house. I made here green eggs and green milk for St. Patrick’s Day. Donald and I would make Easter egg hunts just for her. She had her own Christmas stocking hanging up at our house.

It wasn’t that my parents didn’t want Kati around. Kati just didn’t want to be around them. My family’s house was always in turmoil. My parents were always fighting. The kids were constantly battling against each other. And Kati, being the smallest, was often lost in the fray.

There were more than a few times when Kati asked if Donald and I would adopt her, but I always declined. I told her she wouldn’t have as much fun with us if we were her real parents because I’d make her do her homework and go to bed early.

No, it was much better this way. I got to be the fun big sister who dressed up like a ballerina with her (sorry no pictures). I stayed up late making her ice cream sundaes and reading her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I wouldn’t let her watch the movie until after we’d read the book).

One other thing I remember about my years hanging out with Kati was her birthdays.

Rebeccaadler34c

Our family has never been big on birthdays. My mom always said if she let one of us have a birthday party then all of us would want a birthday party. And in my house that amounted to a birthday party almost every month, sometimes twice in one month.

It just wasn’t happening.

But Kati always got a special birthday when I was around. For her third birthday I invited all of my friends out to dinner as though it was my own birthday. We just went to some little diner and I didn’t expect it to be too big of a deal.

But it was. Everybody brought her gifts and balloons and cards. And the waitress brought here a huge sundae with sparklers. And everybody sang Happy Birthday to her.

I don’t know if she even remembers that now. It was quite a long time ago.

The last birthday I got to spend with her was her ninth birthday (the one pictured above).

I had returned from France just three days prior. But I had promised Kati I’d make her birthday special. I got my other sister, Jess, in on the plan. We decorated my apartment. Set up a karaoke machine and invited both Kati’s and my friends over to celebrate. It wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped, but I think Kati still had fun.

About a year later my family moved to Idaho, taking Kati with them. Every year after I’ve told Kati I’ll come visit her for her birthday, but I’ve never been able to make it. I’ve missed three of her birthdays now.

Kati and I had grown apart a bit anyway. I’d been gone in France for eight months and I think she felt a bit abandoned. Also, I stopped having her over as often because my parents blamed me for Kati’s not being baptized.

In the Mormon religion children don’t get baptized until they’re eight years old, ostensibly because they want people to make their own decision as to whether they believe and want to be a member of the church.

As you’ll soon see, this isn’t actually the case.

Kati had put hers off for the first year, saying she wanted to wait until I got home from France. It was a good strategy for her. She got to deflect the attention to me. My dad called me up in Paris and said, “Kati isn’t getting baptized because of you.”

That’s what he said.

He asked me to talk to her, to plead with her to get baptized before she turned nine. I told him it wasn’t that big of a deal and he could schedule it for the month I returned.

I thought Kati really did want to get baptized. I thought she just wanted to wait until I was there for it.

But several months later Kati still wasn’t baptized.


I thought it was just my parents being irresponsible as usual. After all, I wasn’t baptized until I was almost nine too. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my parents just never bothered to schedule it and send out the invitations.

So why were my parents so concerned this time?

Well, it turns out that Kati flat out told them no. She said she wasn’t getting baptized.

Now the pressure was on.

One Sunday evening I went to raid my parents pantry for groceries. When I arrived I was surprised to find my dad and Kati in the living room with two missionaries while the rest of the family seemed to be hiding out in the kitchen.

“What’s Kati doing in there with the missionaries?” I asked.

“They’re trying to make her get baptized.” my brother told me.

“What do you mean? Of course she’s going to get baptized,” I said.

“No, she won’t,” my brother said. “They come here nearly every week and every week she tells them no.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep.”

At this point I went searching for my mom, who was hiding out like everyone else.

She told me the missionaries came twice a month, but Kati wasn’t budging.

People, this is a nine-year-old kid. Children do not tell adults no. They do what everyone else does. And in our family and our circle of friends, everyone else gets baptized.

After this I was intrigued by my sister and her strength to stand up for what she, in this case, doesn’t believe.

Of course, although my heart was swelling with pride, I didn’t tell her that. It would for sure be my fault if I encouraged her on this path.

Moving on…

Today Kati is 12 years old. She’s made it more than four years without getting baptized, even after my parents moved her to Utah last summer.

The missionaries continued to come while they lived in Idaho.

And Kati continued to tell them no.

Every so often, when I called my mother, and trying to not sound eager, I would inquire about Kati and the missionaries.

Exasperated, my mom would say, “The missionaries still come on Sundays. Your dad won’t tell them to leave her alone.”

This week though two of my sisters came to visit and I found out that my mom finally put her foot down.

The story as relayed to me by my sister:

The bishop of their new ward came to my parents with Kati’s church records.

“There seems to be a problem with your daughter’s records,” he said.

“No, there’s no problem,” my mom said.

“Well, it says here that she’s not baptized yet,” he persists.

“Yes. That’s not a mistake,” my mom says.

“Oh, well…”

“No. That’s the way she wants it and that’s the way it’s going to stay. If you send even one missionary to our house I’m going to leave the church for good. I will not allow any of my children to step foot in this church again. Got it?”

And the missionaries have stopped coming.


UPDATE, November 2009: I just learned, via Facebook, that Kati is getting baptized. Apparently all the church had to do was give her some space.

SACRAMENTO, CA

Have you been feeling like there’s no hope in finding a thinner you?

Are you tired of eating rabbit food in an effort to feel better about yourself?

Do you work out daily, but find that your pants are still fitting tight?

Rebeccaadler34

If you answered yes to any of these questions, and even if you didn’t, I have the answer for you.

Sure, there are thousands of diet schemes out there promising you results, but this one is a sure-fire solution for all people, regardless of their shape or size.

In just one day, with little effort, no dieting and no exercise on your part, you can look and feel better!

Don’t believe me? Well, just look at the pictures below. Both were taken of me today!


Rebeccaadler34a

 

That’s right I went from feeling like I’d never lose these extra twenty pounds to feeling like it doesn’t matter because I look good anyway.

No longer do I look in my closet and cry because none of my clothes fit me. The days of feeling fat and hopeless are over and all it took was one simple step.

And I’m going to share that secret with you today folks.

Are you ready for it?

Do you think you can handle it?

I think you can. And I think you’ll thank me.

So, without further ado, here it is:

WEAR CLOTHES THAT FIT YOU!

It’s as simple as that folks. If you look at these two pictures again, you’ll see that I’m wearing two different pairs of pants. One pair is a size 6, and is about four years old. The other pair is a size 10 and are brand spankin’ new!

Rebeccaadler34b

No, I’m not holding in my gut. There are no camera tricks at work here. What I’ve done is as easy for everyone as it was for me. Just go down to your local shopping mall and buy a couple of t-shirts and jeans in a slightly larger size and I guarantee you’ll see results. And you’ll feel better when you look in the mirror!

So get out there and buy some clothes that fit today. Say “Goodbye” to your muffin top and “Hello” to the new gorgeous you!

Rebecca Adler is a freelance journalist and photographer, living in Sacramento, Calif. After tiring of feeling overweight and ugly she thought about exercising and eating right. Instead, she finally broke down and bought new jeans, forever shirking her size 4 for a more suitable size 10, and she feels fab! She can be reached on myspace or on the comment board.