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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INT. PLACE OF BUSINESS, PARIS — DAY

GIRL is at work. The PHONE rings. She grabs it, answering the call.

GIRL

Blah, Blah and Co. This is Girl.

SILENCE on the other end of the line. GIRL is annoyed. Recently, she’s been getting a lot of breathers on the phone.

GIRL

Heh-low?

There is a long pause, but GIRL hears someone there, hitching their breath tentatively.

GIRL

Hello?

A WOMAN responds in French.

WOMAN

Oui? Allo?

GIRL

Bonjour, madame. Je peux vous aider?

The rest of the conversation continues in French.

WOMAN

But! But you speak French!

GIRL

Yes, of course. Can I help you?

WOMAN

Well, why did you answer in English?!

GIRL

You’ve called an American company, ma’am. Our clientele speaks English therefore so do we. How can I help you?

WOMAN

But! Well, where are you?!

GIRL

I am in Paris. And you?

WOMAN

*I* am in Paris!

GIRL

Excellent. As this is the case, I may be able to help. Were you calling to get information about the services this company provides?

WOMAN

This is all very confusing. You speak French, you are in Paris and yet you answer the telephone in English. It’s all very irregular.

GIRL regrets that she was annoyed at the possibility of another person just breathing down the line at her. The day has just begun and there are so many hours yet to work.


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EXT. INNER COURTYARD PASSAGEWAY, PARIS — DAY

Reference for the location scout.

Reference for the location scout.

GIRL heads down an outdoor corridor between one of the buildings in her complex and the covered tennis court next door. There are THREE PEOPLE at the far end: a NANNY, a LITTLE BOY and a LITTLE GIRL. They are speaking in English. GIRL can’t help but listen to their conversation as she approaches them.

LITTLE BOY

It is here. He said it is here.

NANNY

I don’t know what to tell you. He’s not here and we don’t even know where he lives, so we can’t go looking.

LITTLE BOY

But he is here! He said!

NANNY

If you had told me before, I would have gotten his mom’s phone number but I don’t even know who he is.

The LITTLE GIRL is in her own world, slowly spinning in circles, making the extra length on the straps of her backpack flit around her.

LITTLE BOY
(determined)

He is here. It is here.

GIRL is within speaking distance and addresses the group in English.

GIRL

Can I help you guys?

NANNY
(relieved)

Yes! We’re looking for his friend, but he’s not here. We were supposed to meet him half an hour ago so he probably went home.

GIRL
(to LITTLE BOY)

If you know your friend’s name, we can look for it in the directory.

LITTLE BOY

He is called Ludo.

GIRL
(smiles)

What about his other name? Does he have a second name?

LITTLE BOY

I only know it in French!

GIRL
(smiles even wider)

I bet we can find it, even if it’s in French. What is it?

LITTLE BOY gives her a last name and GIRL scrolls through the resident directory located on the entry keypad. SHE finds the name and buzzes. SOMEONE picks up and LITTLE BOY starts yelling happily,

LITTLE BOY

Ludo ! Ludo ! C’est moi !

The door BUZZES and NANNY, LITTLE BOY and LITTLE GIRL enter the building. GIRL continues on her initial trajectory.


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EXT. PLACE SAINTE-OPPORTUNE, DAY

GIRL enters the Place Sainte-Opportune (aka the one with the Pizza Hut near Les Halles). She is hungry but knows that eating before a three-hour long movie is not advisable.

La Place Sainte-Opportune on the very day our story takes place. The Bagel Factory has a red awning and is to the right of center.

La Place Sainte-Opportune on the very day our story takes place. Bagel Factory is red and to the right of center.

GIRL

Christ, I could really go for a smoothie right about now.

GIRL scans the Place and her eyes light on a newish awning that says, incredibly, “Smoothies.” SHE heads towards the establishment.

INT. BAGEL FACTORY, DAY

GIRL enters the shop and sees FOUR YOUNGER GIRLS already in line. The YOUNGER GIRLS have never had a bagel and the OWNER and his ASSISTANT are walking them through the steps of ordering. They are taking forever. GIRL looks at her watch, carefully calculating how many minutes she has to spare before she must leave so that she can be first in line to get into the theater. There aren’t many.

Finally, the YOUNGER GIRLS finish their order and sit at a table. GIRL moves to the front of the counter.

GIRL

What fruits are available today?

OWNER

I’m so sorry. The smoothie machine is in the basement. It’s new and hasn’t been installed yet.

GIRL

Oh no!

OWNER

Yes, it’s true. We have fruit cups —

GIRL

(realizing how hungry she really is)

No, that’s fine. I’ll have a bagel.

GIRL quickly orders a sandwich off the menu. It takes her two seconds to do so.

The OWNER and ASSISTANT begin to prepare all five bagels at the same time. They do not have a routine established and are making lots of mistakes. GIRL, a former professional sandwich-maker at many mid- to high-end eating establishments, silently judges them, tsk-tsking away in her head.

The minutes tick by.

And then —

Over the RADIO, the familiar opening notes of Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” begin to play. The YOUNGER GIRLS all quickly look at each other over the table. The OWNER and the ASSISTANT begin to sway slightly behind the counter to the music.

And then —

ALL OF THEM start singing.

EVERYONE
(together)

Shhhhh.
Shhhhh.
It’s — oh — so — quiet.
Shhhhh.
Shhhhh.
Shhhhh.
It’s — oh — so — still.

Not realizing that no one else knows the words, GIRL continues to sing

GIRL

You’re all alone —
And so peace-ful un-til
BAH NAH NAH-NAH

The YOUNGER GIRLS, OWNER and ASSISTANT all look at the GIRL. There is a noticeable pause, like the space between a lightning strike and a thunder-clap. GIRL is wide-eyed, her ears pulled back, awaiting response.

EVERYONE except GIRL begins giggling and picking up where she left off, joining GIRL singing, mumbling to the song as best they can. Smiles all around as bagels are distributed.

GIRL heads across the Place, ready to face the line at the box office.


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Too short for the Star Wars universe

Well, I always knew I was too short for a storm trooper, but I’m apparently too short to talk STAR WARS with French nerds too.

Star Wars hostess job

First “qualification”: must be over 1,68 m tall (5 foot, 6 inches).

This is kind of a bummer because I’d actually really like to see what a bunch of French sci-fi fans are like but would only attend such a gathering if I was working.

On not actually being a nerd

My parents didn’t love me so I never had any STAR WARS toys growing up. I am a child of the 80s though, so I love me some Degobah system references and was one of those people who saw THE PHANTOM MENACE multiple times in the theater because I couldn’t believe that what I’d seen the first time was the actual movie.

UNA!

UNA!

In college, I met whole communities of nerds while working at a video store and learned that they’re generally very nice, socially awkward guys with whom I share a lot of interests. But I am missing that elusive characteristic (obsession? total immersion? loneliness?) that makes a true nerd, so I have to content myself with just being really, really into stuff (like ASOIAF).

I am the right size to be Salacious Crumb though, so that’s something.


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A lovely day in the park — wait, what?

Walking through the Bois de Vincennes, Paris’s biggest park, I had one of those moments that sometimes happen when you just take a deep breath and think, “Falling leaves and crisp air and the sounds of a pétanque game are so wonderful. This is a nice moment.”

And then you realize that you’re in France and that there’s a guy pissing right in front of you.

IMG_2362

Sigh.