Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pipi de Chat...

Ok, for those of you French speakers out there, I know you laughed immediately when you saw the post title. Now, let's clue in the non-French speakers as to what it means.

It's Wednesday and since I'm in a good mood, it's time once again for a brand new comedy post. It's an old story, but it's new here to the Sophomore.

Ready? Here we go!

Let's set the way back clock for seven years ago. I was living in Montreal, everything around me was in French and let's face it, I was far from home, bored and very lonely. My only joy in life was doting on the ex-husband. From his favorite wine (Pinot Noir) to a new pair of obnoxious argyle socks, I had fun trying to surprise him with cute little gifts.

On a blustery September afternoon all those years ago, I was faced with a quandary, what was I going to give the ex for his 40th birthday? I went through all of the mountaineering shops (because he was a mountaineering nut, he has climbed Orizaba in Mexico four times) and couldn't find anything there, then it was off to the clothing stores and of course, nothing came in the right size to fit his 36 inch waist and inseam. Remember, most inhabitants of Quebec are 5'5, if they hit six feet they're gigantic and with the ex being 6'4, he might as well have had a tattoo on his forehead that read "Freak of Nature." So, after a very depressing trip to the mall, still nothing.

So, I decided to get a little avant garde with my gift. He loved wine, so why not get him a wine tasting kit? I must have scoured every single specialty store in Montreal and after a week of searching, I found his gift.

It looked like this:

Cute, right? Here's the description that comes with it:

The Wine Discovery is an illustrated tasting method with 40 wine aromas and 50 tasting sheets that helps any wine lover discover the vintage, region of origin or the appellation of a wine.

Included in the kit were instructions on how to appropriately use the kit, what different kinds of flavors and scents to look for, even down to describing the imperfections in a glass of wine. For instance, if you can smell a hint of leather, that's an imperfection. Remember though, everything has little imperfections, that's what gives it character and makes it memorable. Also in the kit were 40 different scents that you can pick out in almost any bottle of wine.

So, with gift in tow, I got on the subway, made my way home, wrapped the gift, then commenced decorating our apartment for the ex's birthday party.

Being as he was turning 40, I figured I'd go all out. I had the great gift picked out and I had spent a whole week planning the party. I turned our apartment into Everest Base Camp with a sign on our front door that read: 

Welcome to Mount "Ex"
Elevation: 40,000 ft. 

Along with the mass of mountaineering gear that put people in the mood for the party, I also decorated the doors, inside and out of the apartment with cute little national parks signs. My office, which was the smoker's lounge, was marked with a fire symbol and named "The Fire Pit", the bathroom had the men's and women's bathroom signs on it, the kitchen had a sign posted with a knife and fork on it and designated "The Mess Hall" and our bedroom was marked "out of bounds". However, the living room was marked The Ex's Nickname Base Camp, Elevation: 6'4.

I had moved the furniture around so that in the corner of our living room had his single person tent set up, all of his ropes, his crampons (not to be confused with tampons, crampons are actually used for ice climbing, you attach them to your shoes and you get an instant set of spikes on the bottom of your mountaineering boot that let you traverse ice...), I found his ice axe, lantern, cooking stove, you name it, if it was in his mountaineering gear, it decorated the apartment.

We packed that little apartment to the gills with 20 people including his sister and her boyfriend, his two best friends and their girlfriends, his brother and brother's wife, his criminal buddy, his personal training partner, two marathon running buddies and a slew of other folks.

The ex and I had been working hard in the kitchen while everyone was arriving, we made lots of food for everyone to nibble on while they were hanging out and we had a great little dinner party (which included several of my specialties along with my famous Crab and Hearts of Palm salad.)

After we finished eating, then came the gifts. New mountaineering books, movies, gear, you name it, all of his friends brought him something wonderful, and as a cherry on the proverbial cake, his pal Mike gave him a bottle of 21-year-old scotch.

Then came my gift. The ex smiled at me when he opened it and I was thrilled he liked it because it gave us something to do together. Trust me, when you have no one else, you try to find interesting activities for the two of you to do together...if I hadn't, he would have just ignored me as usual....but enough of all that, let's get into more details.

When he unwrapped the gift, he immediately went into looking at all of the neat little scent pots, the instruction manual and everyone got into more conversation while sniffing at all of the different scents in the kit. Well, back then, I was new to the French language. I knew hello, goodbye and a few numbers along with all of the swear words. You know that's how it works right? When you learn a new language, you always learn the cuss words first. So at seeing that all of the scents were labeled in French, I immediately knew that this would be a good way to learn new words.

Here's the list of scents (in French) that are in the kit:

  • Ambre 
  • Pommes 
  • Abricot 
  • Banane 
  • Cassis 
  • Beurre 
  • Caramel 
  • Pipi de chat 
  • Chocolat 
  • Cannelle 
  • Liège 
  • Détersif 
  • Figue 
  • Baisse de fruit 
  • Pamplemousse 
  • Foin 
  • vert de paprika 
  • Noisette 
  • Miel 
  • Chèvrefeuille 
  • Cuir 
  • Citron 
  • Réglisse 
  • Litchi 
  • Moule 
  • Champignon 
  • Pêche 
  • Poivre 
  • Arbre de pin 
  • Pruneau 
  • Coing 
  • Framboise 
  • Rose 
  • Fraise 
  • Soufre 
  • Thé 
  • Tabac 
  • Truffe
  • Vanille 
  • Violet
Ok, so already you can see some that are easily decipherable..."Banane" is Banana, "Vanille" is Vanilla, and so on. Well, there were some I didn't recognize and didn't know, so I went through and tried to figure them out at the same time as learning new words...I sat with the box opening vials and muttering to myself, "'Champignon' is Mushroom. 'Thé' is Tea. 'Poivre' is Pepper. 'Vert de paprika' is Green Bell Pepper," and so on.

But then came one that I sat completely perplexed by, the label read "Pipi de chat." The ex was heavily involved in conversation with his two pals, and every other French speaker in the room was focused on each other, so I was left on my own, odd man out as usual. Trust me, when you live in a foreign country and don't speak the language, you get used to being the odd man out. So, looking at the vial, I figured I'd do what I had been doing, open up the vial, take a whiff and figure it out. 

When I opened the vial, the reaction was instantaneous. I lifted the lid and immediately closed it with a yelp of "OMG." Everyone stopped dead in their tracks to find out what I had freaked out about. My ex looked at me and said, "What's the matter Sher...," I looked at him and handed him the vial saying, "What does that mean?" You could tell he was doing everything he could not to laugh saying, "Sher, 'pipi de chat' means 'cat pee'."

My mouth hung open. I looked at him and said, "What? Why the hell is that in there? Who puts cat pee in wine?" Everyone started laughing at that point. But here's where it gets really funny.

I get an out, I didn't have the dimmest notion what a lot of those labels said or meant, but sure enough, all of the people who DID know what it meant insisted on opening that dang jar of "pipi de chat" and smelling it. What I did was on accident, what they did was intentional.

Do you think they would have known better? I sure as heck would have avoided it if I would have known what it was...but that dang vial of "pipi de chat" went around to all 20 noses in that room. Forget the raspberry, apple or peach, oh no, they just had to get their hands on the "pipi de chat."

Some friends and I were talking about blooper reels yesterday and how when accidents happen, people just HAVE to stop and look. Well, to illustrate my point, I got onto YouTube and found one of the great morbid fascination moments of all time, the skier wiping out in the old "ABC Wide World of Sports" openings. Here, take a look:

Do you know I went through 5 of those ABC WWoS openers and EVERY SINGLE ONE had the ski jumper as "The Agony of Defeat."

Upon further research...I found this on Wikipedia...

Bogataj's mishap is also commemorated in Rich Hall's book Sniglets as "agonosis," which is defined as "The syndrome of tuning in on Wide World of Sports every weekend just to watch the skier rack himself."

It was the same damn thing with that vial of "pipi de chat." People just couldn't avert themselves from it. They would open the vial, take a whiff, have a reaction of revulsion, then pass it to the next person to do the same thing! I sat there thinking to myself, "These French people are really screwed up," but then I thought for a moment, it wasn't just those wacky Montrealers, no no, it was a human reaction.

I now can say I know about morbid fascination first the end of the evening of my ex's birthday party, the entire apartment smelled like cat pee and we didn't even own a cat!

Yeah, and I thought I had come up with a great gift for my ex...

Just FYI, the English names for those scents were:

Amber, Apple, Apricot, Banana, Black Currant, Butter, Caramel, Cat Pee,  Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cork, Detergent, Fig, Fruit Drop, Grapefruit, Green Bell Pepper, Hay, Hazelnut, Honey, Honeysuckle, Leather, Lemon, Liquorice, Lychee, Mold, Mushroom, Peach, Pepper, Pine Tree, Prune, Quince, Raspberry, Rose, Strawberry, Sulphur, Tea, Tobacco, Truffle, Vanilla, Violet.

If I would have only had that list to begin with...

Happy Wednesday everyone!

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