petite anglaise

January 10, 2005


Filed under: misc, working girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:23 am

As I trudged up the stairs to our office this morning at 9.07 am, wearing my habitual pre-espresso blank expression and grunting at colleagues who unwisely attempted to engage me in conversation, for some reason I was reminded of My Most Embarassing Office Moment.

Rewind to a couple of years ago, when I had been working for my current employer for six months or so. Our office is in an old Haussmannien building in an historic, chic part of town close to the Louvre and the old Opéra Garnier. It consists of two floors which were originally separate offices, linked by a staircase which was added by our company. The staircase looks perfectly normal: carpeted stairs with a metal lip (a nez de marche in French, although I am unclear about what noses have to do with anything), with a 180° turn at the halfway point and some triangular steps around the corners.

Despite their innocuous appearance I have watched and heard many people fall up and down these stairs. Most just stumble noisily, often as they run up too fast. Quite how anyone can muster enough enthusiasm to run anywhere whilst at work is beyond me. Unless an announcement has just been made that there is cake or chocolate to be found in the upstairs kitchen. My desk looks directly onto the staircase, so I am often to be found trying (and failing) to supress a snigger as yet another colleague falls flat on his/her face.

One fateful day, when I was wearing rather high heels and was asked to take some documents down to a meeting on the floor below, I too fell victim to the curse of the stairs. I think I missed one step altogether, and I found myself plunging forwards in slow motion. For some reason my instincts were not all about self preservation, because instead of dropping the papers and using my hands to grab a bannister, I hung onto the papers for dear life and just fell headlong. The documents, unsurprisingly, did not break my fall. Result: two shins gashed open on the metal stair edges before I came to a halt on a wide triangular stair. Although I don’t remember hitting my head, I fainted and was out cold for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, a gallant colleague had rushed to my aid and it was his face I saw as I came to my senses and started pulled at my skirt, my first thought being that I might be flashing my knickers. And I couldn’t remember which pair I had on.

I was half carried downstairs to the kitchen where sweet tea was administered and a doctor called to take a look at my legs. The senior partner popped in to see me, but whilst he was talking to me I became I aware that his gaze was drifting under the table. Apparently it wasn’t the gash on my leg he was inspecting, it was my frivolous choice of footwear. Just in case I might be contemplating suing the firm on account of their dodgy staircase, he was assessing the unsuitableness of my shoes. I was on the verge of asking him if he wanted a photograph, but decided against it.

The next month was spent filling in forms and bouncing back letters from the French Sécurité Sociale, because even though I was only signed off work for a measly half day, the fact that it was an accident de travail meant that a particular protocol had to be followed. I was supposed to see a doctor just after the event, and another to pronounce that I was fit to work again. Which clearly I didn’t do, as I could hardly summon over two doctors in the space of one afternoon.

It’s not difficult to see why the French social security system is billions of euros in the red. I was bombarded with letters from an over-zealous fonctionnaire (civil servant) for six months because that missing piece of paper from the doctor’s visit I didn’t make was preventing her from closing her file.

You may be wondering why this episode qualifies for the prestigious title of Most Embarassing Office Moment. Well, the following day, upon returning to the office, it became apparent that my knight in shining armour was not so gallant after all.

He had kindly made public the fact that for the entire duration of the two minutes I was out for the count, I was snoring. Rather loudly.


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And don’t forget to go here before Friday 14 January to support Vitriolica and Vivi in the BOBs! That’s an order.


  1. Snorting! LOL. I snort sometimes. :oops:


    Michele Sent Me.

    Comment by annette — January 10, 2005 @ 11:47 am

  2. Ooops… just saw that you wrote ‘snoring’ not ‘snorting’ – Oh well. I still snort though.


    Comment by annette — January 10, 2005 @ 11:49 am

  3. I feel your pain. Once I managed to fall down the flight of stairs that lead to my basement. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt beyond a few nasty black and blues. I thought that was humiliating and I only fell in front of my immediate family.

    P.S.- Michele sent moi.:)

    Comment by Janet — January 10, 2005 @ 12:14 pm

  4. Salut, petite anglaise.
    Et voilá, je suis revenue sur votre blog.

    Ah, I wish I would remember more of my French, but it has been so long since high school.

    Anyway, I’ve been here before, but today I came here mostly because (I guess you know it…) Michele sent me!

    So, à bientôt, Jamie.

    Comment by Jamie — January 10, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  5. The only falling down the stairs story that I can particularly remember of my own was when I was just out of college and living with some friends in New York City. We had been out drinking, and as I am wont to do when I’ve had a little too much to drink, I had waxed loquacious. As we walked down the stairs to the subway, I didn’t notice that one of the tiles wasn’t where it should be. I stepped, found nothing there and went down.

    I’m not sure exactly maneuver I enacted on my fall. My friend referred to it as a one and a half gainer in the pike position. Whatever I did, my heel found its footing several steps lower and I was upright again, continuing to walk down the stairs as if noting had happened, and more importantly, without missing a beat in the long story I was telling.

    This was in New York City, and people walking up the stairs looked, and then glanced around to see if it was a scene for some moving being filmed, or something like that. Then they, as well as my friend and I, all went our own separate ways.

    Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I don’t surf the web looking for blog entries about falling down stairs so I can post my little story in the comments. In fact, Michele sent me.

    Comment by Aldon Hynes — January 10, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  6. Michele sent me, and I am glad she did! Definately bloglining you ;-) See you soon!

    Comment by Nicky — January 10, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

  7. This is a fantastic post. So evocative – the office boredom, the embarassment, the indifferent boss, the byzantine French bureaucracy. The stairs in that photo look positively vertical! It woul probably b safer to rappel down the wall.

    Keep up the great work – I’ll be back to read soon.

    By the way, Michele sent me.

    Comment by BHR — January 10, 2005 @ 12:58 pm

  8. Hello….Michelle sent me!

    Snorers unite!!!

    Comment by andrena — January 10, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

  9. Oh, when his gaze was straying southward, I thought he was going to be checking out your frivolous choice of underwear while you were out cold. Eep!

    Michele didn’t send me. :( She never sends me anything, whoever she is.

    Comment by srah — January 10, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

  10. Once, I was coming down the stairs in my apartment block and noticed my tall, dashing, ground floor neighbour as I made my descent. I waited for his gaze to fall upon me as I sashayed down the final few steps…

    … and fell flat on my face right in front of him.

    Comment by witho — January 10, 2005 @ 1:42 pm

  11. I thought you were going to say he’d taken a picture of you in all your splendor I was considering blogging about one of my most embarassing moments…Now, I think I will… someday :)

    I got Micheled the other day; isn’t it fun! Yes, she sent me.

    Comment by Amber — January 10, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

  12. And that’s why I don’t wear heels anymore. I can’t navigate cobblestones streets, let alone harmless flights of stairs. I guess I’ll have to suck it up if/when I find a job, but until then, it’s ankle boots all the way!

    And I’m extremely flattered by the support! Thanks PA! :)

    Comment by ViVi — January 10, 2005 @ 2:19 pm

  13. Hello! Michele sent me.

    I like your site design.

    Comment by Dakota Pundit — January 10, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

  14. :lol:

    Hello, Michele sent me.

    Comment by SueZ — January 10, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

  15. :grin: Hi. Michele sent me.

    Comment by Easy — January 10, 2005 @ 2:37 pm

  16. thankyou dp!

    The banner is the view from my balcony and the layout is my own work, after hours of fiddling and teaching myself css, based on the gemini two column template in wordpress.

    Comment by petite — January 10, 2005 @ 2:38 pm

  17. Lovely place you have here! Michele sent me.
    I’m sorry to hear your colleague was not so gallant as you’d believed him to be. One should never overestimate the gallantry of one’s associates.

    Comment by Isabella — January 10, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

  18. He… told everyone? And people say men don’t gossip. They are soooo wrong! Michele sent me here too.

    Comment by Sol — January 10, 2005 @ 3:11 pm

  19. Oh No! SO public. At least he wasn’t commenting on your knickers.

    And, Michele sent me :)

    Comment by Catt — January 10, 2005 @ 3:24 pm

  20. I, too, was sent my Michele. This is my first sending by Michele and I am impressed. I would love to someday be ‘Michelled,’ but, alas, I doubt I am witty enough for the honor!

    I shall return. I’ve read through several of your posts and enjoyed them immensely! Consider yourself blog rolled!

    Comment by Kathy — January 10, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

  21. Hello, Michele sent me! I’m glad she did.

    Comment by Suzanne — January 10, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  22. Ahahahah, oh my goodness, you poor thing. :lol:
    Hey there, Michele sent me! Awesome place you have here. :)

    Comment by Tricia — January 10, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  23. By googleous serendipity, the click after your posting took me here… :twisted:

    From your balcony photo I guess you’re in the 18th. I lived by Pernety (14eme) for 7 years.

    Comment by Ria — January 10, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

  24. Hi Ria

    The 19th actually. You weren’t far off! I look from the Buttes Chaumont down on Beaubourg, the Panthéon and Notre Dame, but the Eiffel Tower is obscured by the block of flats opposite.

    Comment by petite — January 10, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  25. Lovely site! Michele sent me! :wink:

    Comment by Garnet — January 10, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  26. I fell UP some stairs this weekend–at a playground, no less. Luckily it’s winter, so the bruise is covered up for now.

    P.S. Bonjour, Michele m’a envoye’!

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — January 10, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  27. Michele sent me!

    I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself too badly. Love your blog!

    Comment by Kimi — January 10, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

  28. Hi, Michele sent me. I’ve fallen in front of the post office but not at work. I’m blaming the curb for my fall. It’s too high. At least, that’s my story.

    Comment by mulligan — January 10, 2005 @ 5:32 pm

  29. Hello, Michele sent me. I hope it wasn’t because someone asked her to send me a message about my snoring!!

    I had to take my truck to the shop for service (a very long story) on Thursday and during my 3 hour wait in the lounge, most of it was spent listening to two other customers sound asleep and snoring very, very loudly.

    Hey, it happens — and it’s the reason I don’t like to sleep on airplanes, because I know that I’m a snorer, too!

    Comment by Dave Diamond — January 10, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

  30. Hello Michele sent me and
    :razz: yess I did like your site.

    Men are awful gossips for sure

    Comment by Jen — January 10, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  31. let’s be real … this is the reason i refuse to work in a regular job! i can picture this kind of thing happening to me (and worse!) all the time, and so i avoid “regular” jobs like the plague!

    btw, michelle sent me and told me to say hey!!!

    Comment by robyn — January 10, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  32. I am forever falling or tripping or bumping my head. I dented my aunt’s shelf on Christmas morning just running into it with my hard head. I am quite convinced I would be one of those coworkers tripping up and down the staircase on a regular basis. I am impressed though. I’ve never ever fainted. Just not lady-like and delicate enough for it I guess. (I envy the fainters! It’s a trial being built like a horse.)

    Oh and Michele sent me, but I often surf through your site and read with interest your experiences in France.

    Comment by sleepingmommy — January 10, 2005 @ 6:07 pm

  33. Better to trip on a stairway than to trip up in the everyday events we call life. Tripping on a stairway is an event, gone after a few moments.

    Tripping up in life, however, is an experience- the lingering memories do stay with us, our faux pas forever emblazoned in our identities.

    As for snoring, well, that is harmless. There remains no evidence of the event, save an accusation, easily deniable.

    To inaugurate my de-lurking, let me just say, Michele sent me.

    Comment by sigmund, carl and alfred — January 10, 2005 @ 6:28 pm

  34. Bonjour,

    Je suis venue at the behest of Michelle.

    Ici a Montreal on parle franglais.

    Comment by jen — January 10, 2005 @ 6:32 pm

  35. Hi Michele sent me…..

    Comment by Chaos — January 10, 2005 @ 7:11 pm

  36. Glad to see you survived to tell the tale. Also, you’ll be shocked to learn that Michele sent me.

    Comment by Kevin — January 10, 2005 @ 8:02 pm

  37. All of the other commenters are liars. Michele didn’t send them or me for that matter.

    That’s a pretty funny story. I’ve got a better one (at least I think it is). This was about 4 years ago. I’m an engineer working in R&D for a large company. I head to the Men’s room one day to take care of some business. I’m in the stall undoing my belt when the bulging disc, which I didn’t know I had, in my lower back decides to bulge just a little but more and in doing pinched a nerve and sent me into unbearble spasms. Almost immediately I was face down on the floor. Movement of any type was excruciating. I managed to get my pants back on properly before anyone heard my cries of pain and came to my aid. Ultimately, an ambulance had to be called and I was strapped to a stretcher and taken to the ER where I was give some really strong drugs in order to stop the spasms. Needless to say, when I returned to work a week later, everyone had a good laugh on me.

    Comment by Hot Karl — January 10, 2005 @ 8:22 pm

  38. My specialty is falling Up stairs. But I have had the pleasure of being a pro at both up and down.

    Michele sent me.

    Comment by Jazzy — January 10, 2005 @ 8:23 pm

  39. Hello, Michele sent me! And I’m so very happy she did because I am loving your site and look forward to coming back.

    Comment by Maura — January 10, 2005 @ 8:59 pm

  40. hello..michele sent me

    Comment by tommy — January 10, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

  41. A friend and I were just saying today there should be some kind of anti-klutz programme available somewhere. I caught the toe of one boot in the hem of the other trouser leg and fell *up* the stairs at work this morning. Bummer!

    Oh, and Michele sent me, too.

    Comment by Bubbly Red — January 10, 2005 @ 10:30 pm

  42. Falling is one of the most humilitating things isn’t it, also painful. Oh, and Michele sent me also. Have a good day!

    Comment by rebeka — January 10, 2005 @ 10:31 pm

  43. I got my first job by tripping over the doorsill and somersaulting across the room to the personnel manager’s desk. I was the only applicant he remembered, and I got the job. I was young, and still wore pretty underwear. Now, it would only cause a massive Richter Scale fright. Oh, and Michele sent me. But I’ll be back all on my own.

    Comment by Mamacita — January 10, 2005 @ 11:51 pm

  44. Hello, Michele sent me!

    Personally, I find that tripping up the stairs is a particular talent of mine. :D

    Comment by aka_monty — January 10, 2005 @ 11:55 pm

  45. Hi, Michele sent me.

    Comment by Tim — January 11, 2005 @ 12:23 am

  46. Yes, Michele sent me, too. Just wanted to say that I’ve gone head over heels down the stairs at work, too, and it really is more hurtful for my pride than anything else. Last time it happened, my mom’s only question was: did you have nice undies on? Gah!

    Comment by Denise — January 11, 2005 @ 12:24 am

  47. Michele sent me.

    Everyone else has said what I wanted to say, so ditto!

    Comment by Amy — January 11, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  48. Although I have never actually fallen like that, I can totally relate to the banged up shins. I slipped on some stairs and gashed both shins as a child and the mere mention still makes me cringe!

    Ps – Michele sent me!

    Comment by Soleil — January 11, 2005 @ 2:49 am

  49. Personally, I usually fall DOWN the stairs. But, you didn’t say, were the shoes ok? Just kidding. Fell down stairs last fall and dislocated my kneecap. Yuck. But at least I didn’t have an audience! Oh, yeah, Michele sent me!

    Comment by Kathy — January 11, 2005 @ 3:05 am

  50. Michele sent me, very amusing story and nice blog :-)

    Comment by Nina — January 11, 2005 @ 3:07 am

  51. Guess who sent me?

    I love your blog, and now I have a reason to brush up on my high school French!

    Comment by Becka — January 11, 2005 @ 3:32 am

  52. Michele sent me, but I’m going to come back all on my own!

    Au Revoir

    Comment by Jennifer — January 11, 2005 @ 3:39 am

  53. Hi, Michele sent me ::waving:: You have a nice site.

    Comment by Les — January 11, 2005 @ 4:41 am

  54. Allo, petite! Michele sent me.

    The little trim pieces – metal or otherwise – at the front of stairs are called ‘nosings’ in English (or at least in American). Why that is, I don’t know. Triangular steps where a stair turns 180 degrees are accidents just waiting to happen. They’re not allowed, or strongly restricted, in many places.

    Elegant site! I will be back to visit again.

    Comment by Kimberly — January 11, 2005 @ 6:13 am

  55. Ouch! See it *is* important to wear clean underwear, lest you have an accident.

    Really enjoying reading your blog, which I found without Michele’s help.

    Comment by Vicky — January 11, 2005 @ 7:35 am

  56. Ouch! Well it could have been worse…You could have been wearing huge underwear of the grandmotherly persuasion….:oops:

    Michele Sent Me by the way.

    Comment by That Chick From Texas — January 11, 2005 @ 8:20 am

  57. So who’s this Michele?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — January 11, 2005 @ 9:31 am

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