Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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The bane of my current life

I answer the phone and, right away, accusations.

“I’m where your office is supposed to be and you’re not here!”

I try to take charge of the situation before it spins wildly out of my control.

“Where are you right now ma’am? What do you see?”

“I’m right on Line X where you said you’d be and you’re not here! I asked everybody and they said that I *am* on Line X, but you’re not! And I am!”

This woman is irrationally angry and she is now 100% my problem.

“Which station on Line X are you near? Can you see any signs — street signs, restaurant signs — anything at all?”

“Whadya mean ‘station’? I’m on Line X! Where are you?!”

Sigh. Really, people are the worst.

“Ma’am, Line X is a subway line that goes across the whole city of Paris. There is no one geographical point that is Line X. There are multiple stops, or stations, along its length. You are probably near some station of Line X, but until you give me some more information about your location, I can’t give you directions. Now, please stop walking, take a deep breath, and tell me what businesses you see around you.”

Sullen silence on the other end of the phone. I wait.

“There’s a bank called LCL.”

I shake my head since the wall is too far away for me to pound it against.

“Ma’am, there are hundreds of banks in Paris, please give me the name of a restaurant or a street so that I can help you.”

“There’s a restaurant called tear-ass. It’s spelled t-e-r-r-a-s-s-e. Do you know where I am now?”

I do not know where she is, but I am sure now that I am in hell.

She could have been almost ANYWHERE here.

She could have been almost ANYWHERE here.

Really, why did you even leave the house?

Telling a co-worker about this insane lady and her complete lack of street smarts, she commented that there are tourists and there are travelers, a turn of phrase I’d never come across before. The difference is that travelers embrace new experiences and are armed with (at least) basic navigational skills. Tourists are idiots who somehow managed to leave the house with a passport, get on a plane and arrive in another country, demanding that everything be just like back home.

I need to rewatch William Hurt and (Oscar-winning) Geena Davis in THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST again to see how she cures him of being an ignoramus. Till then, I’ll be giving creative directions to all manner of lost people all over the Paris area.

You needn’t be so burdened though, so you should check out this list of 21 quotes about the wonders of seeing the world.

Forrest


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Word Mystery: go / ir / aller

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

go forrest goChalk this up to another Word Mystery I should have gotten to a lot sooner, but I am most likely to miss things that are obvious, so it’s not that surprising. What may be a surprise is the end result. Hey! Ho! Let’s go!

EN → go —move from one place or point to another; travel. ORIGIN Old English gān related to Dutch gaan and German gehen; the form “went” was originally the past tense of “wend.”

ES → ir —Moverse de un lugar hacia otro apartado de quien usa el verbo ir y de quien ejecuta el movimiento. [Move oneself from one place to another, the verb is used by the person executing the movement.] ORIGIN Latin ire [flow, go, walk].

FR → aller — Se mouvoir d’un lieu vers un autre, s’y rendre. [Move oneself from one place to another, go there.] ORIGIN Low Latin allare from Classic Latin ambulare [take oneself for a walk].

General note: it seems incredibly unfair to me that the most basic verbs are frequently irregular. It’s like languages don’t even want people to have a fighting chance!

English note: I like crazy conjugation stories. Also, you do not want to know how many trigger words and phrases (definitely hundreds, possibly more) make me think of FORREST GUMP. It’s my #1 movie that I don’t like that I know by heart.

French note: So, aller is basically an early form of flâner? Yes, please.

Today’s Winner: Clearly, French, not just ‘cause it gave me the most trouble when I was learning it for the first time as a wee lass, but ‘cause it’s the least driven, which makes it ironic in a way.


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Invisible Tattoo Relief

It’s nuts that I feel relief that I never got that invisible tattoo. If I had, over here in Europe it would have become a conversation starter which is the exact opposite thing I would want.

Buttes-ChaumontI thought of this on a recent not-good day that I was trying to salvage by taking a book to the park to read for a while. I was very engrossed in the book when a guy came up beside me and asked very politely if I was Laura. Being the idiot that I am, I took him at his word, assuming that he was meeting someone named Laura. When I told him that I wasn’t Laura, he said, “That’s okay. What’s your name?”

I gave him my best you’ve-got-to-be-shitting-me look, but since I was wearing sunglasses, a lot of the subtleties were lost. “I’m not Laura and I’m not interested,” I said, in what I thought was a terse tone. “Yeah, that’s okay, but I want to know your name,” he insisted.

This is apparently a common French pick-up method, and I must say that I am against it. Many expat females of my acquaintance met their significant others when the guy persistently talked to them while the girls sat at a cafe with a book. It’s possible that men here think they are too charming to resist and don’t understand that in some foreign cultures, “no means no” but that with me, no definitely, always means “I will never want to talk to you ever.”

If anyone has a suggestion on how to definitely repel people, please let me know since I really, really, really don’t like strangers and I’d rather drive 100% of people away than have to deal with one unwanted come on (and they are all unwanted).

Learn two things

Invisible tattoos are actually things that exist (though they’re really just scar tissue). I first heard about them on ELEMENTARY, the recent modern US TV version of the Sherlock Holmes stories. (This is where I mention that despite not being a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, I’ve read all the original stories and know that “Elementary, my dear Watson” is a phrase invented for the movies.)

The above story took place in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont which I call “Charming Butts Park” because that amuses me. The English wiki page says the name came from what the area was called before Haussmann decided to make it a park, a “chauve-mont” [bare hill], but the French wiki is mum on the origin of the name. I’ll dig around some boxes and see if any of my books can shed light on the tale either way. (I trust books more than internets.)

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