WELCOME to The Not So Amazing Race. The first part of the Joneses’ challenge is to gain access to an apartment for their stay in Paris. The Jones family comprises of husband and wife, Jason and Simone, and three-year-old Jessica.*
None of the Jones family will speak French on this leg of the race. The final challenge is teamwork. Will Jason and Simone make it to the end as a married couple? Their prize is a month’s use of the apartment that has cost an exorbitant amount to rent. Plus, Jason and Simone win a lifelong commitment, although this is optional, and they may prefer to donate each other to the charities of their choice.
ROUND ONE: Members of the jet-lagged Jones family wearily approach their Parisian apartment building in the sweltering summer heat. Although Jason has lost his wallet twice since leaving Australia, as part of the challenge he has been entrusted with responsibility of the apartment keys. “They were in here somewhere,” he says, frantically pulling coins and scraps of paper out of his pockets.
After calling the rental agency, the answering service informs Jason that the office doesn’t open until Monday morning. It’s Saturday afternoon. A French family buzz themselves into the building. They smile sympathetically and hold the door open for the irritated couple.
In the apartment foyer Jason and Simone argue, also known as using the detour card. Simone suggests a hotel with air-conditioning and cocktails until Monday. Instead, Jason consults their bemused neighbours – without a word of French. Is he arranging for the spare key? Maybe he has promised Jessica in exchange for the apartment.
Alors, Jason has organised to have the ancient lock removed entirely!
The locksmith eventually saunters in and orders Simone downstairs to stand guard over his Renault, which is illegally parked on the footpath. After enduring snotty stares from the locals at the flustered foreign woman standing by the grotty vehicle, Simone eventually gives up on the locksmith’s request in a desperate bid to remind Jason of his failings as a human being. However, on the way up to the apartment Jessica has gripped on to the side of the lift and the only way she will retreat is with the bribe of a lollipop. While Simone regrets giving her cherub a sticky sweet in a confined space, she notices the coffin-sized lift is Jason’s size. She ponders on the symbolism of this.
Arriving outside the apartment, Simone steps over their opened luggage, scattered about the floor. Sawdust produced from two hours of drilling is interspersed with their belongings. Not daring to ask why her personals are on display or even for an ETA on entry into the apartment, she retreats into that special place in her head, where they would change to the hotel option: “Mr Locksmith, I believe we have made a terrible mistake and we’re actually staying at the Marriott on the Champs-Elysees.”
“Oui, Madame. But let us replenish ourselves first, my lovely” says the buffed locksmith unbuttoning his shirt and setting out wine and cheese on a picnic blanket.
ROUND TWO: Simone returns to reality and leaves the building in a flurry, taking Jessica. After power-walking the pram for an hour, she returns and notices the locksmith’s car is gone. Rushing into the building, she hears the lift descending. Just as it reaches the ground, it becomes jammed. Jason peers through the glass. Simone again considers checking in to the Marriott. But the lift wobbles and she gets butterflies at the possibility that the cord holding the lift might break. Then she remembers Jason is only 1m from the ground.
Simone hears Jason’s muffled voice through the glass: “Help!” She approaches and he’s dangling the illusive apartment keys. Simone pushes the button outside the lift; her husband returns safely to ground level.
CONGRATULATIONS Jason, Simone and Jessica you have completed your first challenge. Report back tomorrow for your next adventure.
*The names of the individuals have been changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent.
Published in The Australian Newspaper February 2007