Saturday, March 08, 2008

Getting Settled

I've hit the two week mark now. One week that I've been in my apartment. Things are starting to fall into place.

I can pretty much do my commute half asleep now. Which is good, considering I have a knack for nodding off on trains.

I know where to go for almost everything I need. Case in point: The pharmacy. Unlike the US, I can't just stroll into the grocery store to buy two of my bathroom staples: Listerine & Neosporin. Despite my anti-antibacterial stance (I'm squarely in the camp that blames so-called "superbugs" on an overuse of antibacterial products from wipes to hand cleaners to dish soap), I cannot live without the two aforementioned products. The first to keep my mouth clean, the second for everything from cuts to pimples to aftershave. Yes, that's right, I use Neosporin as aftershave. So what of it?

These two products do pose a bit of a problem here. A tiny bottle of Listerine costs 5€90. After the conversion, that's about $1 short of ridiculous. And Neosporin? Non-existent. Luckily, I was able to squeeze out just enough French to tell the pharmacist that I want a cream or ointment for cuts. He rang up - without telling me the price - a box of "wound cream," or at least, that's how I translated it. 6€20 for what turned out to be a little box with tiny little packets of first aid ointment...

I brought it home and tried it out. It's less gooey than Neosporin, and doesn't leave the areas shiny. That's a plus. We'll see if my jawline breaks out tomorrow, but so far I've done the math and realized that - for once - gram for gram, this stuff costs a lot less than antiseptic ointments at home. SCORE!!

I also finally got my Métro pass in order. It took a while, but I finally found a photo booth that actually wanted to accept my money, as well as had the right amount in more-or-less correct change to feed one of the few automated ticket booths that accepts cash. Long story short, I now have a Carte Orange Mensuelle loaded up on my Carte Navigo, and will no longer look like a bumbling tourist looking for my Métro tickets when I get on the train. Instead, I just swipe my card over the sensor and off I go! I've got one of these bad boys (called "Oyster") for London, as well. Why the hell is the US lagging so far behind in these affairs?

Last but not least, I walked over to an SFR store. While I'm not a big fan of UK's Vodafone (who own SFR, and half of the bow-down-to-the-Bush-administration Verizon in the US), their pre-paid phones and plans seemed a much better value than those offered by France Telecom's Orange. Though I usually do my political voting with my pocketbook, I'm still in scrimp n' save mode, which means I occasionally have to sacrifice my principles.

And scrimp and save, I shall. Despite going for the cheaper option, I'll only marginally be saving money over my overseas roaming rate on my US cell phone... the big savings come in SMS messages, which thankfully have caught on like wildfire back home in the last year or two. So unlike everyone else in Paris, I will not be walking around yakking on my mobile anytime I'm not eating, drinking, or heatedly "discussing" politics. Nay, I'll be the cheapskate guarding his airtime, actually looking up to take in the beauty, sights, and sounds of the city.

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