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ATP Tennis Open 13 – Marseille

The company I work for mostly uses FedEx to receive our inbound packages and to ship our products out. Now, I definitely have had my share of the not-so-great experiences (I even wrote about one here and here) with FedEx, but for the most part we’ve had a pretty great relationship and due to the amount of packages we send out every week, I’d say their track record is really good.

I’ve meet with our account representative several times and we get along really great. She has sent me some very nice personal emails and we’ve chatted a good deal about our families.

Apparently she likes me cuz last week I got a personal invitation from her to see the ATP Tennis match that was being held in Marseille. She let me know that she had two tickets available for Friday, 24 February and if I would like to go. The tickets were the super awesome VIP kind which meant that we would get to have lunch with her and some of the other account reps and a few other invitees and we would get to sit in the VIP seats of the FedEx box right down in front next to the court.

Well, me being a huge tennis fan, took no time in responding to her with a resounding “Oui, avec plaisir!”  All Dude and I had to do was show up at the appropriate time and show our ID and we were in like Flynn.

When Friday came around Dude and I hit the highway about 9:30am since it takes a while to get to Marseille from our house. Amazingly, I took the day off of work and told everyone that I would not be available by phone or email. This was the first time I have ever done this since working for this company! In the whole time I’ve been there, I’ve never taken a day off of work and put my out of office assistant on. I did work on the house during the summer months for a couple of days during the week, but I always had my computer on and my email constantly streaming so I was always available to work. Believe it or not, I am bit nervous about people not being able to get in touch with me when it comes to work. I’m sort of a work-a-holic and a day off or vacation days seems a bit stressful cuz I’m always worried that inevitably something will go wrong that ONE or several days that I’m gone.

This time around I just said “screw it”, I would be at the match and there wasn’t anything I could do about someone trying to get a hold of me and I would just answer all my emails in the evening! For a little bit of the morning I was stressed, but I got over it by the time we arrived at the courts. I just kept telling myself that it was Friday and no one in Europe works on a Friday 🙂

Once Dude and I arrived at the Palais des Sports in Marseille and parked the car, we proceeded to the entry that said VIP and went to the desk to get our tickets. We followed the runway into the underground area where the ATP Tennis association had spruced it all up with a restaurant, bars, France Bleu Provence radio station area, and all sorts of stands for goodies. I was even able to watch a guy string a new racket for one of the guest. That was fascinating since I had never seen that in person before.

Lunch was at noon and Dude and I arrived about 30 minutes before that so we just took a tour around the facility. I was amazed at all the old wooden tennis rackets they had on display and the wall paper they had made of photos of old tennis magazines. It brought back memories of my childhood when my mom would watch the tennis matches on television of the great players of decades ago. They had photos of Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Arthur Ashe, and Bjorn Borg among others. My mom was a fantastic tennis player in her youth. She played on a team and was the proud owner of many trophies. As a result of her love of tennis it became a very intricate part of my childhood. I didn’t appreciate it growing up, but as I became a teenager I remember practicing with my wooden racket hitting the ball against our wooden garage door. I had forgotten about that until I saw those old wooden rackets and those memories all flooded back to me. Especially the ones where my friend Carmen and I would tell her little sister Melanie to run across the front of the garage while we hit the ball! Bad kids 🙂 Just so you know, she never really got hurt badly….well, maybe once or twice.

Around noon my account rep, Joelle, turned up with Audrey a co-worker who came down from Lyon for the day to enjoy the match. Here is a photo of me and Joelle.

We were also greeted by Benjamin who is another co-worker of Joelle’s. While we were waiting for the other guests to arrive Dude and I conversed with the FedEx people and got to know them a bit better. Benjamin was hilarious and at one point he was telling us about this cool game he had on his IPhone where you do a shoot-out. He demonstrated how you take your phone out of your pocket and whip it out in front of you mimicking a gun and then you point and shoot your opponent. He showed us a couple of times how it worked and in the process actually whipped the phone out and it literally flew out of its case, twirled a couple of times in mid air as it flew across the table and almost landed in the bowl of ice. It was completely hysterical and all of us started cracking up. I asked him if he had spare phones cuz of this game and he said “Yes, 3 of them!” Apparently this app from IPhone can be a bit expensive to play!

Once the other guest arrived our lunch was served. Audrey, who happened to sit next to me, explained to me what everything was. I asked her to do so since I don’t like fish and wanted to avoid anything of that nature.

The first course was a crème brulee with foie gras. This was very tasty and it actually enhanced the flavor when I dipped my bread into it and used it as more of a spread then just eating it straight out of the bowl like everyone else.

Next up we were served a red pepper cut and stuffed with fish placed on a disk of olives with some ratatouille. I loved the olives and the ratatouille but left the fish, of course. For some reason this part of the meal was of particular interest to Benjamin as he got on the subject of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He didn’t know the word for dwarf so he, Joelle, and Audrey proceeded to ask me what we called very small people in English. Mind you, before they asked the question, I was not aware of why they were asking it so you can imagine the look of confusion on my face when it came up! It seems that Benjamin thought that the cut pepper stuffed with fish resembled the hat that the dwarfs wore in the movie and he wanted to make this point but didn’t know how to tell me in English since he didn’t know what the word was. Once I knew where he was going with this, I was able to tell him (although none of them could say the word cuz I guess it’s one of the more difficult words for the French to say). Later on Dude told me that he was super uncomfortable with the conversation cuz it just so happened that Audrey was extremely tiny. In fact, she is probably one of the tiniest French people I’ve met. This being the case Dude didn’t really want to talk about small people in front of her. Although see didn’t seem to mind very much when she brought up the fact that she hated those little garden gnomes cuz they scared her! It was by far the strangest conversation that lasted about 10 minutes all because of what this particular item of food looked like!

Next up was the main course. This happened to be some more fish (which I politely left on my plate) along with some delicious vegetables. All this was served with a wonderful red wine, a 2009 Bouches-du-Rhone 45. I’m not really a wine drinker, but I gave it a go and to my surprise it was excellent. I made sure I ate heartily since I’m a bit of a light weight. I wouldn’t want to be sliding out of my seat during the game!

Last, but not least, was the delicious dessert. It was a lemon and coconut cake served with a side of sorbet. Dude couldn’t even finish it cuz he said it was too sugary. I soooo didn’t have a problem with that!

Lunch was concluded around 2pm and the match was due to begin so off we went to our VIP box seats. I was totally delighted when I saw that our seats were right down in front and we were going to have a terrific view of the game.

The first match was between two Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. I was not familiar Roger-Vasselin, but I had seen Tsonga play before so I was rooting for him. The game turned out to be pretty exciting with Roger-Vasselin being a fair opponent. I was able to get some good shots of both players while they were serving and also in between games. In the end Tsonga beat out Roger-Vasselin  2-0.

This particular tennis tournament was using the scoring of best two out of three sets to determine the winner of the match. I prefer that type of scoring as oppose to best three out of five. Then you’re able to stick around for a possible second match given that the first match will usually last anywhere from 1 and ½ to 2 hours.

There was about a 30 minutes intermission between the first match and the second. Right before the second match began we were all treated to a disco sort of show. They turned down the lights, turned on the strobes, blared music and had a pretty groovy television screen show of multi-colors and advertisements for the tournament. It was all in good fun and woke us all up after sitting around for so long eating, drinking and watching the first match. Towards the end of this little “1/2 time” show they introduced the next two players who were going to be in the second match, they both happened to be French, as well.

I shot a little video of the “half time” show. It was really more exciting than what the video shows, though.

I had never heard of Michael Llodra or Albano Olivetti, but these two players sure did put on a good match for us. It was Olivetti’s first appearance at this match and I tell you this guy has got a serve that would knock you out. He was hitting some top speeds for someone who was there for the first time and he even took out a referee during one of his serves! It got to the point that the audience would cringe as the ball came hurling towards them during his service and they all were hoping that Llodra would be able to return the shot! This guy’s serves almost took out some of the ball boys and girls, too. They were darting around like it was dodge ball. It was actually quite humorous and the camera men started to put up instant replays of the cringing audience after Olivetti served! In the end, though, it was Llodra that won two sets out of three and took the match. Though Olivetti was great at serving he seemed to fall short on returns and didn’t have too much stamina. I will be watching him closely as he is only around 22 and could have a good career ahead of him.

After this match a little boy of about 11 years of age from the local tennis club was invited to play against Llodra. This kid was great! He had Llodra running around the court a couple of times and really played well. After about 10 minutes of fun he was rewarded with an interview and his picture taken for the news. It was really delightful to see this young boy make some terrific plays on the guy who just won the match!

Once concluded that was the end for Dude and I. We were escorted out since the next game was for new ticket holders. I thanked Joelle for inviting Dude and I and let her know we had a really terrific time. I would sure like to be able to go again some time. This was a first for me and Dude and it’s nice to enjoy a little “perk from work” every now and then.

Since it was about 5:45pm and high traffic time on the freeways leaving Marseille, Dude and I headed over to one of our favorite and very missed spots, Starbucks at the Vieux Port. We hung out for a while, chatted and relaxed with a snack and REAL BIG coffee and waited for the traffic to die down. We headed home around 8pm (since that’s when Starbucks closes and they kick you out). Totally lame, I know! Who goes home at 8pm on a Friday night! Starbucks seriously needs to get their priorities straight!

Off we went happy that we had a super fun day and great experience at the tennis match and totally buzzed out on Starbucks coffee! Friday was definitely and excellent day in my book 🙂

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Dude the Assistant

At the company I work for, we need to have polystyrene boxes to ship out our items. After months of searching we finally found a new vendor. Our old vendor decided to never email, call, or acknowledge the fact that we had placed an order with them, even after 3 months of attempts to get a hold of them by the girls in the office. When we finally did find someone new, a very difficult feat, they told us it would take about a month before delivery. In the meantime, we began to get very low on the inventory of these boxes.

One week before delivery we got a call from the vendor to let us know that they would be at our office in a week. One of the girls in the office reminded them that the driver needed to have a small truck because he would not be able to fit into the entrance of our complex. Also, they needed to have a lift gate due to the fact that we were receiving 8 pallets. They said, “Got it!”

The big day finally arrived. The driver called to alert us that he was on his way. The girl in the office wanted to be sure that the truck he was driving was small enough to fit into the entrance and the parking lot. The driver replied “I am driving a large truck. No one told me”. Yah-I knew that would happen.

About 30 minutes later the driver arrived. He parked his truck way out front and wanted to be sure he was in the right place before attempting the delivery. We assured him he was and he was thoroughly confused on why his hommies didn’t inform him of the restrictions of our complex. He also said that he was not informed that we were on the 3rd floor of the building and he could only get the pallets to the elevator because his contract said so. Really??

He then leaves and tries to maneuver his truck into the gate. While doing this he ends up blocking the entire street out front because he thought it was easier to back into the complex and leave driving forward than the other way around. I’ll give him that.

As he proceeds into the gate, he realizes that some guy has parked his Maserati right in the middle of the one lane in and out of the place. Homeboy was about ready to take it out! Awesome! He then has to go around and find out what dummy would park his “belle voiture” in such a dumb spot. He finally finds the guy who, of course, runs out to move his car and then proceeds to continue his way backing into the complex. Hommie did good. I was really proud of him. He actually made it through the gate with just inches to spare on both sides and backed in all the way to our building. He was even able to leave some space for other cars to get by since across the parking lot is hotel. The guest would not have been too happy if they couldn’t leave for their day’s outing.

As we watch him park and open his roll door, we notice that he doesn’t have a lift gate. What commercial truck the size of a ship doesn’t have a lift gate? He, Dude and I just stood there for a minute confused and wondering how things are always so messed up and full of nonsense here.

Well, end result, now he and Dude have to lift out and lower, by hand, all 8 pallets.

They start with the first one and when they get to the elevator we realize that it is too narrow and we can’t even fit the pallets in there. So I go and get a razor blade knife so we can down size the pallets and get rid of them. As Dude and hommie start bringing in the pallets one of them gets knocked over in the truck and an entire side of the boxes are now all black. Great, I can’t send them to my customers like that! Now what are we gonna do, wash all the boxes in the bathroom? Not to mention that some of the lids broke.

As the guys get about half way through, hommie looks like he is gonna die from all the strenuous work! He seriously looked like he had never done physical work in his life! He was sweating and wheezing something awful. By the end he was in the bathroom practically taking a shower to feel better.

Once the 8 pallets were in the entry way, we had to get really busy breaking them apart because, guess what? It is now lunch time and the mad dash to leave the building is on. Lesson-do not mess with French people and lunch. You will not win. People start coming out of the stairwell and elevator like there is no tomorrow and land right into an entry way full from floor to ceiling with boxes. Boy, the looks we got. What, no one has ever seen and entire area filled with boxes. Geesh!

So as we are trying to get around the lunch crowd and use the elevator both Dude and I are sweating like pigs. Now it’s only us two, cuz remember, hommie goes just to the elevator (his contract and all). It’s hot and humid and we are in a building that has no air condition. Thank goodness the Mistrals were blowing that day, cuz even though the wind was warm we still got a breeze every now and then!

As we are trying to break up the pallets Dude is getting in the elevator with as much boxes as possible to take up to our office to hand to one of the girls in the office to start stacking them in some sort of orderly fashion. Now the game of pass the buck and Tetris is on.

I am down on the ground floor doing disassembly then I hand off to Dude who takes the ride in the elevator with them, then hands them to the girl who stacks them up. We had a pretty good assembly line going there. All in all it took about 2 hours to just get some stupid boxes into the office. The whole thing should have taken 30 minutes!

Once all the boxes were in the office, it was time for clean up. We had wooden pallets to put in the garage, and all kinds of trash in the office from the wrapping around the boxes.

I have no idea what we would have done if Dude wasn’t the assistant helper for the day. Us girls would have had a heck of a time!  Now our boxes were all neatly stacked and I was really anxious to make an igloo or some kind of cool tunnel that we can go through when entering the office outta them. They were just stacked in the corner begging to be played with!

It would be hilarious to make all our couriers walk through a box tunnel before entering the office area! What a photo op 🙂 I am sure cute Fedex guy would do it. He has a great sense of humor.

For now, being the professional I am, the boxes are still in the corner. Every once in a while, I look over at them and want to play, though.

Fedex is on Holiday-Gimme a break!

Just when I thought all was good and the lasting effects of the Fedex strike were over, I find out that they now have a holiday on Monday June 13, which means my shipping time frame is once more behind schedule!

All was looking really great today when the cute FedEx guy showed up with my packages.

ON TIME, mind you!!

This was the first time in a month since the strike began that I actually received everything on the day I am supposed to. All my stuff went straight to Paris (not diverted to Germany as they had been these past several weeks) and I was feeling really good about FedEx being back on track.

That warm glowy feeling lasted all of 5 seconds.

My colleague goes and springs it on me that Fedex is on holiday next Monday and they will be closed! This time it is for Pentecost. I don’t know about your company, but mine has to work that day. We’re starting again with these religious holidays and not playing by the rules of separation of church and state. Fine, okay, historical stuff and all that which means I am not going to diss them. I’m mad because this time I am not reaping the benefits of a day off PLUS my packages are going to be late again. Double wammy = not happy today.

When is this going to end??

I vote that they should have to work that day to make up for their “days off” they took when they held the strike. I think that’s fair.

Make it so Number One!

This Time It’s FedEx and Volcanoes

FedEx has gone and done it again. They have totally pissed me off. I was told that the strikes had ended last week and all was good. We even got some packages delivered at the end of the week. Well, this week they decided, “Nope, strike again!”  Now I am sitting around waiting for some time sensitive material and they don’t even care.  As punishment, I did not ship with them this week. That’ll teach ‘em to mess with me.

I can hear them now during negotiations, “If Ashley doesn’t ship using FedEx, our company can’t survive! Get her done!” Well, I hear that in my own kingdom, anyway.

So negotiations are on and in the mean time my packages were diverted to Germany. That diversion costs me a whole day!

Now, I not only have FedEx to deal with, but also the volcano in Iceland. Granted it is not as bad as last year and the ash clouds have not reached us, but they should be in France by the end of the week. No shipments thanks to possible airport closures.

I am on pins and needles (literally) to see what awaits me for the rest of the week!

But the worst is that due to no packages arriving, that cute FedEx guy didn’t make a trip to see me. I guess next week should be super special for me then!

Is The Fedex Strike Really Over?

Happily, the FedEx strike, here in France, seems to be over. So they tell me. I finally received all my packages today. Maybe these guys got wise and just gave their workers what they want.

Even though the many strikes that occur in France are such a pain in the butt for us commoners who can’t seem to get a dang thing done when one goes on, I must say, they are effective. I really do love that the French have the right to strike and make their presence and wants known. I confess that while the strikes are going on I am completely irritated, but I do try to look at it (once they are over and my life is back to normal) with an “outside the box” perspective. They have the right to exercise their rights!

I am, for sure, happier than I was yesterday (and the day before). Plus, le FedEx dude that delivers my packages is super cute. I guess it is hard to stay mad for too long when he comes in with a smiley face and delivers my stuff!

FedEx and Allergies

Today has not been so kind to me. Stupid FedEx is on strike here in France and I can’t get my six packages that are stuck in Paris. There is no telling when this strike will be over. All these guys want is a measly 1% raise, about 3 more Euros a day for lunch and to get more that 1 weekend a month off.  I say “FedEx, just give it to ‘em so I can get my dang packages delivered!”. Seriously, I don’t think what they are asking for is over the top. Now I know, depending on how many employees a company has, what they are asking could add up to a whole buttload of money, but if these guys stay on strike for a couple of weeks (very possible-this IS France) then Fedex is going to lose a heck of a lot more dinero. Come on, this is France. These people are experts at striking and they know how to drag it out. This could get down-right dirty, in my opinion. Tomorrow I will get the news whether or not my packages get to see the light of day.

Also, thanks to the 50km/hr winds yesterday with gusts of up to 75km/hr, my allergies are acting up. I personally made sure to take care of myself and cover up my face and mouth before walking out the front door yesterday. I would have thought that would have been enough. But no, these dang winds are kickin’ up all the dust and pollen you could imagine. I guess I should have gotten a clue, when I kept seeing yellow pollen flying everywhere and eventually settling on me. Denial is an ugly thing folks. Let me tell ya. I sure am paying the price now. I even took some allergy meds and they just aren’t doing the job. So far, I have gone through 2 rolls of toilet paper (the tissues ran out a long time ago)! Tomorrow when I wake up, I will be investing in Auchan. They are the company who makes the toilet paper and tissues I have been using. I figure I should make some money off of the misery I am currently living in. That would make me feel a whole lot better.

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