Earlier this summer I met my friend Paulo at the Vide Grenier to keep him company while he worked his booth. A Vide Grenier, which actually means “emptying the attic”, is like a giant yard sale minus the daunting task of having to clean your garage first. Rather than having the sale in their yards, people rent space at these markets, which occur all summer in various towns and on different weekends. It’s a village event and I try to go to them whenever I can.
Paulo is an Irish barman and thus tends to work in bars where English speakers congregate. Because we have such a high student and transient population in Aix, people are constantly packing, cleaning house, throwing things away, leaving things behind in an attempt to stay within the airline weight limits, and moving on. Because Paulo likes to read, he has become the recipient of a huge collection of books.
As a result he is now selling the more than 600, mostly-in-English, books that he has accumulated. They are novels, schoolbooks, books on economics, art and religion, paperbacks and hardbacks and the most amazing thing about Paulo, is that he has read every single one of them and remembers them all. It was amazing to watch him sell them. Every potential customer who stopped to peruse the collection would be asked what sort of book they enjoyed and the recommendation process would begin. The guy is a born salesman!
I have become a collector of travel leave-behinds as well. However, books are not what I'm accumulating. I am the gatherer of personal products. I realized the extent of my collection while I was cleaning the bathroom after my friend Jeanmarie left to return to Boston. I spent an inordinate amount of time lifting items, washing them off, cleaning under them and returning them to their rightful but congested place. My bathroom is being taken over by shower gels, shampoos, facial masks and bath salts. Mind you, I'm not complaining. It's like a smorgasbord for the body. I am now able to slough dead skin, eliminate white heads, save the color in my hair, tighten my facial skin and wash my private parts safely (how have I lived 50 years without that little item?). I have medication for infections, cream for rashes, and some pretty powerful sleeping drugs. I have shampoo for men (the directions are in Swedish and I will save it in case a tall, beautiful, Swedish man ever shows up at my door), I have baby oil (one of these would not be so welcome), lotion for psoriasis (ditto on the last comment) and my underarms will now smell like baby powder or white flowers depending upon my mood.
My hair doesn't know if it is blond or brunette, male or female, or if it is supposed to become tangle-free or less sun damaged. My skin isn't sure if it's over 50, under 19, or in need of a prescription. And I'm sure if I should ever need a medication (which is rare but I’m a good girl scout and try to be prepared), that once I get through the directions in every language but English, I will either get well or get dead in a flash.
I am unable to throw any of these things away. I get a certain satisfaction out of using every last drop of these potions and then tossing the bottle or jar. However, my skin has discovered it is, in fact, not 19 and I really haven’t seen a whitehead in years. My hair can't remember what it's original color is and if I’m not careful, my face is just going to peel away and then I won’t need any of this stuff. But hey, all in the interest of curiosity and frugality!
Jeanmarie left this morning. She left behind the remains of what must be a 50-gallon drum of Metamucil (I could float a pontoon boat on four of these empty, plastic bottles). She needed to make room for wine, olive oil and lavender honey in her luggage. I really don’t need the stuff but am thinking perhaps it will mix well with Pastis (the anise flavored drink of Provence). Or perhaps I could use it to remove any remaining dead skin on my body. It also might make a fine bathtub scrub...like Comet. Or maybe when the Swedish man shows up, a single woman with no face, a bucket of orange flavored Metamucil and some Swedish-shampoo-for-men will be exactly what he’s been looking for!