08:09:49 pmCategories: Fieldwork, Distinctions

La concierge, Parisian overture part 2

This terrible and expensive mess I created during a tenth of a second’s inattentiveness and a draught from the balcony doors would never have happened if it weren’t for the French holidays. But now the holidays are over and the house has got back its gardienne (a warden, an occupation formerly known as a concierge before it became a derogatory), and then everything falls into place. She probably knows most of what goes on in the apartment block and so she knows when someone needs a plumber, electrician, carpenter or locksmith, and he can recommend them one. So she’s got a whole estate backing up her negotiating power with the local providers of practical jobs, and negotiate she can! I’ve never lived in a building with a concierge before so I’ve never had the chance to see how they excel in their work. And by golly, that was something! Here, I get to my point. Or, I’m not really sure yet what this has got to do with my fieldwork and research, but I have a feeling that to see a concierge work means to see an essential element in how this society works.

The way she negotiated over the phone for a better price and super fast accomplishment with a locksmith she knew, at the same time as she answered all the inhabitants who greeted her en passant for work after her holidays, and intermittently sort of put in place the Jeunet drunkard (who only had tried to help us, but who shrunk a little anyway as he knows he stinks of alcohol probably), called up carpenters in her own flat and gently told them off, commanded Leo and the bird dog not to get to close and so on, all in a firm but sort of generous way. Her charisma was that of a school teacher whom you just know you must behave your very best with, and if you do, things will go your way. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bourdieu have written extensively on la concierge in the French version of The Distinction, because her position in the French class hierarchy must be quite peculiar. I’ve heard a very nice documentary series on these kind of wardens on France Culture a while ago, but now I’ve seen one in action and I definitely want one for my block back in Oslo. (But of course we’ll never get a concierge, we’ve only got this shitty neoliberal caretaker service business providers who call themselves things like economical solutions and who might change a bulb after a week but never ever greet you and make sure that everything is all right).

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