Tonight was the meeting of our syndic, or co-op committee that runs our building. The manager and all the copropriétaires were there, except for the single renter, and one downstairs neighbor, the apoplectic doctor, and one upstairs neighbor, a boxing entrepreneur known for some reason to every delivery man.
We met around the dining room table in the gorgeous apartment of our syndic president, a kindhearted lawyer. As everyone pored over the details of the charges for the year (our wonderful American tenants turn out to have been profligate with their water and electricity, as you might expect), my gray-haired neighbor Madame L de M whispered in my ear, "Numbers are not my strong point."
"Mine either," I whispered back.
The president of the syndic asked everyone whether they had cable or used the building's antenna. To my shame, I didn't even know. I have literally not turned on the television since moving back to Paris in early October. However a family member is watching TV at this very instant, so I know we have something....
For some reason the subject of Chinese channels came up and our syndic president said that he gets CCTV, Chinese Central Television (the main overseas station of mainland China).
"Je n'aime pas les chinois," my older neighbor whispered in my ear out of the blue. [I don't like the Chinese.]
Has she ever even met a Chinese person? I wondered. I said, "What makes you say that? I know lots of wonderful Chinese people."
"I don't know," she shrugged. "I just don't like them. They're bad. Especially the Paris Chinese. The ones in China, that's different-- they're exquises!" You know," she went, "it's extraordinary. When my parents had a New Year's party, every year, they would invite a foreigner! Every year! It was remarkable! One year, they even invited a Chinese couple! Imagine, back then! Ça n'existait pas!"
I told her that I have a Japanese-American in-law. You could see her withdrawing into her carapace. "Ah, les japonais, c'est différent!" she said defensively. "Charming people!" She turned away.
I wonder what she would have said if I told her that not only do we have Asian-Americans in the family, but also blacks, American Indians and Jews? Typical Americans!