The Paris Code


Living in Paris, amongst many other skills (language proficiency, fashion know-how, thick skinned-ness), requires an excellent memory for numbers.

On an ordinary day, I need to remember all of the following:

– The entrance code for my building
– The classroom door codes for my office building
– The code for the photocopier at aforementioned office
– Three different numeric passwords for the office computers
– The door code for the language lab I run on Thursdays at Porte de la Villette
– The two door codes for the language lab I run on Wednesdays at Montreuil (which change monthly)
– Four computer codes for both language lab computers (which are of course, different to each other)
– My pin code
– My telephone number

Door code

For someone who makes a living from being good with words, this number business sends me into a tailspin. So much so that in my attempts to keep all of this information swirling in my head at once, I forget much more basic things. Like that I need to buy a baguette, or that I live at number 43, not number 41 (in my defence, the doors are remarkably similar in appearance).

The telephone number is proving the most challenging, and unfortunately, is perhaps one of the more crucial number sets to know by heart.

In France, you can choose between three possible phone numbers when you sign up for a contract. French phone numbers are pronounced in pairs.

E.g: 06 57 43 54 32 would be pronounced as zero-six fifty-seven forty-three etc…

With this in mind, I chose the only one that had no pesky ‘96’ or ‘99’ type digits in it (since my head can’t get itself around saying quatre-vingt-seize/ quatre-vingt-dix-neuf in a hurry).

Mobile Phone

Bad move. Even if I can’t remember the number, an extraordinary amount of other people seem to be able to.

You see it seems that at one point or another, my phone number belonged to:

a) A doctor’s office
b) A drug dealer
c) Somebody’s mistress
d) Who were possibly all the same person

Which means that 90% of the time when the phone rings, it isn’t actually for me, and when I explain this, people either:

a) Get angry, as if it’s my fault
b) Think I’m trying to cheat them out of their money
c) Playing hard to get
d) Possibly all at once

It also means that frequently I awake with my alarm to discover a raft of suspicious-looking texts that have been delivered overnight. A recent example:

‘Toujours ton numero? Le chat.’

Which roughly translates as ‘Still your number? The cat. ;)’

(The wink is implied in the French version).

This one could be intended for either the mistress or the drug dealer, but either way, doesn’t appear wonderful to my husband.

Digicode image courtesy of drip&ju on Flickr.
Door code image courtesy of when i was a bird on Flickr.
Mobile phone image courtesy of Milica Sekulic on Flickr.


2 thoughts on “The Paris Code

  1. LOL. This post is great! Ha. There are many numbers to remember in France indeed. I can still remember my cell phone number in perfect French to this day. I said it so many times. But pronouncing ’99’ in French is such a pain. They need to invent smaller words for it.
    Bon courage!

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