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Wipers? Optional (With the Right Attitude)

“Okay, let’s goooo! Wait. Where did I put the keys?”

It’s 1:30 p.m. and we are actually fairly on time since we were supposed to take off at 1 p.m. There is no set schedule anyway—it’s just the five of us, my parents, Feng, Mark and me driving to the seaside. Somehow, we managed to fit in the tiny old “white car” that belongs to my father’s parents—my dad and his siblings all borrow it and no one fills it up, fixes it or performs maintenance on it. I checked the manual to estimate how old was the car, but it didn’t say. However, it specifies “printed in Germany” and since it doesn’t add “Western/Eastern Germany”, I can only guess it’s post-1989.

We’ll make it. It’s a short 45-minute drive, which is just as well because I’m stuck between Feng and Mark on the back seat, and my sister’s cat—who has been living with my parents for a while now—isn’t too happy to be part of the trip.

“Well, you definitely had them since you drove the car to the end of the parking lot… you helped us load the trunk. Did you check your pockets, papa?”

“Not there. Shit. They must be in the trunk.”

My mom and I exchange a knowing look. Been there, done that.

“Oh, fuck. We need the keys to open it.”

“Nah, wait… we can lift the top from… Mark, get out of the car, thank you. What does the keychain looks like?”

“It’s a giant knotted lanyard—a scoubidou.”

“I know Scooby-Doo, mommy!”

“Ah, here there are! I put them on the trottinette! Okay, let’s go. For real, this time.”

“Turn on the radio!”

“Which station?”

“Cherie FM?”

“You’ve got a radio station named ‘Cherie FM’?” Feng pipes in.

“Yep. Oh, Bob Marley… I’m so freaking sick of Could you be loved or No woman no cry—these songs reminds me of hostel life. There’s always a dude playing Bob Marley as if listening to reggae could turn a dirty ten-bed dorm into an epically cool experience. That and Alpha Blondy.”

“Do you know what a reggae fan says when he hears Bob Marley first thing in the morning, before he had the chance to light up a spliff?”


“’What’s that shitty music?’”

“Ah, good one dad.”

“Oh, it’s raining.”

“Meh, we knew it was coming. Aren’t the wipers working?”

“They should… this button? Nope. Shit, they aren’t working. That’s fine, it’s not raining that much. Damn. It’s raining quite a bit now. I’m gonna pull over when I can and figure it out.”

“Were the wipers working before?” my mom asks.

“Mmmm… I don’t remember them not working. But I don’t remember driving in the rain with this car either.”

“Didn’t your brother or sister mention this issue?”

My dad shrugs. “I’ll call my sister.”

We stop in Vue, a tiny village halfway between Nantes and Saint-Michel—ironically, “Vue” means “sight” in French but not only we drove through hundreds of times without stopping, by the time my dad parks, we can’t see anything through the windshield.

Vue is the epitome of your typical French village with a church on the main square, a closed bakery, a bar/newsstands/convenience store and a haircut salon that probably caters to the handful of old ladies living there.

My dad calls his sister. “Huh huh… glove box? Yeah? Okay.”

“She says the car’s manual is in the glove box.”

My mom and I burst out laughing. “Yeah. That’s gonna help.”

“She also said something about a fuse and the comodo.”

“What’s a comodo?”

“No idea.”

Feng gets off the car and I follow him.

“What are you doing?”

“Taking a picture of this lovely French village I never had a chance to visit. And also documenting a major failure from a Ford Fiesta. Totally gonna tweet about it—maybe Ford will exchange the car for the newest model?” I joke.

“Let’s go!”

“Did you figure it out?”

“Nope. But it stopped raining.”

I love the way we tackle issues in my family.

We make it to Saint-Michel. I hated rainy days at the beach when I was a kid but somehow, this time, I don’t mind the weather too much. This is not a downpour but just a fine misty rain and while it’s too cold to swim, it’s not freezing either.

I volunteer to go to the other town buy bread and I stop by the supermarket on the way back. I wanted to take pictures at the Saint-Michel cookie store but it’s jam-packed with bored tourists who couldn’t go to the beach. I grab a quick coffee to go, and I drink it on my way home.

Then we go to the beachfront with Mark—I’m looking for a creperie to buy some galettes we’ll fill with eggs, ham and veggies at home tonight. He rides his trottinette all the way to the next town, two kilometres further, where we paused to eat an ice cream at the local famous ice-cream place.

Then he speeds back along the waterfront, looking for snails we spotted earlier—“I want to check on them again!” he claims.

Despite the weather, what could have been a really shitty day turned out pretty good.

I guess you don’t always need wipers—it’s just a matter of timing and attitude.

My mum’s face when told to read the car’s manual
My parents trying to get the wipers working
The church in Vue
Snail spotted in Saint-Michel
Snail spotted in Saint-Michel
Snail spotted in Saint-Michel
Snail spotted in Saint-Michel
Saint-Michel’s harbour
Flag of Brittany hung on a balcony in Saint-Michel
Along the waterfront
Along the waterfront
Along the waterfront
Ice-Cream break in Tharon
Ice-Cream break in Tharon
Ice-Cream break in Tharon
Ice-Cream break in Tharon (picture taken by Mark)
Band getting ready to play on the waterfront
Details of a house in Saint-Michel
Saint-Michel on a rainy day
Saint-Michel on a rainy day
Breton identity sticker on a car
Tharon beach on a rainy day

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