Contagion, Corrievorrie, and Amandine

Though we’re all familiar with the delicate balancing act required to manage a corriedoo without becoming a corriemuchloch, or, upon being confronted with a corriemoillie situation recall times we’ve chosen instead of corrievorrie to implement corriecravie, or worse, a reverse kind of corriearklet, let me share with you a little piece of advice.


Corrievorrie – implemented correctly and genuinely – might just be the secret to saving the world.  No, I’m not bonkers, or not entirely.  Yet.

In struggling to cut through the digital detritus which clutters modern communication, we’ve developed strategies and techniques to survive.  We filter.  We skip over the small spammy bits and go for the meat.  The trouble is that our online filters have extended into our real lives and now I think we’re in danger of missing the important small bits too.

I know it sounds weird, but visiting the local déchèterie – recycling station – is one of my favourite activities of the week.  Firstly, it’s recycling and that’s really satisfying and consumer-guilt-assuaging.  Secondly, everyone there is happy.  And friendly.  And it’s not just because they too are participating in the collective smugness of the recently consumer-guilt-assuaged, it’s because of Amandine.


Amandine is the hostess of the déchèterie in Mies, and despite being surrounded by other people’s rubbish day after day, she works in the happiest place in the village.  The first time we visited she knew who we were – the foreigners renting Valérie’s house – and she always greets everyone by name.  Just before Christmas, stressed from packing and cleaning and trying to get organised for the holidays, we found her in the wee hut serving vin chaud and cake.  And smiling.  With or without the wine, recycling and smugness, people leave smiling.  And they talk to one another, because Amandine talks to everyone.  Those smiles are just as contagious as they walk down the street, or get into their cars to drive away.  Small talk, small smiles, small acknowledgements of existence are an important and disappearing art.

I think there’s an innate invitation in how we behave.  If you’ve ever spoken to someone with a certain manner or accented speech, and found yourself copying it, you’ll know what I mean.  Echolalia (imitating vocal tics and accents) and echopraxia (imitating physical mannerisms) are experienced in varying degrees by everyone.  Laughter especially is hopelessly contagious, as exploited beautifully in the video below.

We are our own advertisements for the communities and world we want.  We are the statements of how we think others should be.  And, as with anything, if shown an advertisement for something you don’t want, you always have the option not to buy it – you could always show them yours instead.  If you scowl at someone, they’ll frown back.  If you raise your voice, you invite them to raise theirs.  If you speak calmly into chaos, you’re really asking others to join you there; you’re saying you’re not willing to join them in whatever it is which is not calm at present.  This, among so many other reasons, is why “fighting for peace” is nonsense.

It’s important to realise that Amandine has not always worked in the happiest place in Mies.  She has made it so with her wonderfully simple, totes-sharable-and-virally-likeable invitation – a smile.  So the next time you find yourself facing corridoo, I hope you avoid the corriecravie and plump whole-heartedly for the corrievorrie.  After all, it just might save the world.


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