Friday, September 28, 2007

A Very French Moment of Inattention

Last night I ended up staying out again after work, sharing a couple margaritas with a new friend in a nifty Mexican bar in the Marais neighborhood, followed by a couple platefuls of nachos and quesadillas. Haven't had food like that in ages! So it was well worth it, albeit completely unexpected. I had already been out the night before, 'til all hours, cavorting with several gal friends at the Burlesque Revue hosted by Gentry Lane, where I also met some other much more well-known Paris bloggers. But my intention after work yesterday was to touch base on some volunteer work I'm going to be doing for a children's book writer and illustrator organization (SCBWI France) in the coming months. I'm trying to tackle some of this work right now, and I'm just a bit nervous about the whole gig, because I don't want to let anyone down and I want to do a good job -- I just hope I'm going to be able to focus and buckle down when the time comes. But this is the kind of organization I've been wanting to get involved with for a while, so it can only be a good thing, right? Right. I just hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew...

Ahem, so the meeting was set up to touch base with a couple other gals involved in the process, and I was just meant to meet them and chat for a bit. But as they were super-busy and up to their gills in work, they didn't have time to talk logistics. So we decided to save that for another time in the near future, and my friend and I headed out to find a nearby bar to unwind after our respective long days at work (her hopping around town on a Velib' from one assignment to another, me chained to my desk...). A drink turned into a couple drinks, like I said above, and then some nibbles, which resulted in a full-fledged meal. So I didn't make it to the métro station 'til after 10:00. Not a problem under any normal circumstances, but I was really starting to feel the fatigue. I took my normal route home, with a correspondance at Charles-de-Gaulle Etoile for the RER train... And found, once again -- for the second time in less than two weeks -- that the interconnexion at Nanterre-Préfecture was down as some construction work is going on at the Nanterre-Université station. Basically this means that I'm in commuter hell, because I have to turn back around on my tracks and trudge on over to the other side of the station, take the train back in the other direction, make my way over to the Gare St. Lazare, and then take an SNCF suburb train home. Which is just fine and dandy -- when I'm not WIPED OUT and READY TO CRAWL INTO BED. I know, I know: after all, I'm the one who chose to go out, so you're not going to feel sorry for me. But this was the last thing I needed...

So after taking the alternate route back through the train system, as I finally approached St. Lazare on foot from nearby métro Havre-Caumartin, I found myself half-asleep and somewhat distracted by the bright street lamps. My attention was momentarily diverted by the Printemps department store windows, and as I swung my head to the right in that split second, I made the huge mistake of not watching where I was going -- I became a walking hypocrite! Because, in fact, this is a crime that I have found Parisians guilty of on more than one occasion, and it drives me off my rocker... And there I was, becoming the perfect example of what I can't stand. That's right: in that split second, I rammed into a poor unsuspecting woman walking in the opposite direction. Now, I say "poor, unsuspecting" because I feel for her -- I honestly felt bad for my moment of distraction! I felt terrible... But her response shocked me even more: before I could even mumble out an apology or an explanation, she had screeched "Il faut regarder où vous allez... ou changer de lunettes !!!" And when I say screeched, I seriously mean she put a lot of volume into those two lines. I was flummoxed, and it all happened so fast, I didn't even get a chance to respond. Now, again, I know I was in the wrong -- I was perfectly ready to recognize it -- but I honestly thought that this was just a wee bit uncalled-for... Over-react much?! I didn't even get a good look at the lady, but let's just say that she walked so quickly out of my line of vision that I can only assume she was about three feet tall...

When commuting, I go out of my way to follow Paris protocol: I step off the trains to allow other passengers to get off, even when it's not yet my stop, and I do my best to be respectful of others' space. I walk quickly, but I don't push (this is particularly grating, when people shove up behind you to get off at a station). I stand when the trains are crowded, allowing the strapontins to flip back up and free up some more space. But of course I'm not perfect, and every once in a while I find myself guilty of a commuting transgression. But this was totally unlike me -- and again, it was probably a result of my long day.

In any case, in that moment I realized how much I'm becoming more and more "French". Yes, my friends, say what you will, the French are well-known for walking quickly in one direction and looking in another at the same time. I've observed this phenomenon in more than one train station over the years, as well as on the streets, so the fact that I committed this cardinal sin makes me feel even worse. I've also been complaining more and more, a sign of the one of the French culture's favorite pastimes: râler.

But oh well, you never know what the end of an evening will bring you... It didn't tarnish my soirée, not entirely, but I was too tired at that point to dwell on it. I honestly believe that fatigue played a role in my distraction as well, so I'm trying not to feel too bad about it. After all, I'm sure that that particular dame didn't even give the incident a second thought...

16 comments:

Megan said...

I got yelled at by an old lady last week. She was rambling along, and I walked past her with my caddy full of groceries. She must have stubbed her toe, because I heard an ooph/ow sound. I said Excusez-moi. She either didn't hear it or it wasn't enough, because she started yelling "You don't even say pardon!?" I faced her and said "I said 'Excusez-moi'". Mais quand meme! And she huffed off... later following me around the store and glaring at me. I should have said "I said 'Excusez-moi' you fat old salope.."

Katia said...

I find myself cricitising others under my breath like a crazy lady about them not getting out of the way and stuff, then it's always just at those moments of fatigue that I end up doing exactly what I cricitise others for doing - stepping on people's heels, not getting out of the way fast enough... Big city rules, big city attitude, we just have to do our best, and sometimes we all just have off days :)
What's the address of the mexican in the marais?! I'm looking for a new mexican!

Andrea said...

I'd love to know the address of the restaurant too. I've been craving good Mexican food for a while now.

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh, I can relate Megan -- even when you say Pardon they don't always hear it! And the thing is, when they aren't looking where they're going and run into you, usually they stare you down and look at you indignantly like it was your fault, even when it wasn't!

Katia -- yep, that's exactly how I am! Grumbling to myself about people's lack of attention when getting in and out of trains, and then finding myself guilty of inattention or distraction in moments like this. Ah, we're only human, right? We all have our moments of weakness... Oh, Andrea, you're absolutely going to kill me, but I can't remember the address now -- let me check on that and get back to you!

Ah -- just found it on my tiquet CB. It's La Perla Bar, 26 rue François Miron. Voilà ! I don't know how officially authentic the cuisine was, but the waitresses were definitely Spanish-speaking, and the guacomole was pretty yummy!

Poppy Fields said...

Yeah, you are becoming french when you "rale" right back at those kind of people.

Devon Ellington said...

I think you'll do a good job because you're conscientious enough to care about doing a good job. Are you freelancing in France? I'm new to your blog, so forgive me if it takes awhile to get up to speed.

I lived one block off Times Square in NYC for 13 years, have been in a suburb for the past few, and (although I'm in the city again this week) househunting in rural Massachusetts because I've just had it!

Today, hauling my suitcase through the streets, I realized how sick I am of the rudeness in NYC -- and the thing is, most of it is from tourists, not New Yorkers.

You're a guest in my home, gosh darn it, behave!

Best wishes to you.

Devon
Ink in My Coffee

l'embrouillamini said...

I LOVE assimmilating to Parisian protocol! I've even starting swearing at crazy drivers in French! And of course, that shrug is starting to creep into my body language...

I've walked past La Perla a couple of times; there's always a great atmosphere in there.

If you'd like to meet up one day, just let me know. I think there is a tray of chocolat special flores with our names on it...
Cath xx

Anonymous said...

Oh I feel your pain...a while back I was dancing in a club and I accidently stepped on a woman's foot...I was just about to say sorry...when she let out this enormous scream (someone would have thought I came at her with a axe, how much she screamed!!! hehe). En tout cas, it turns out that she was recovering from foot surgery...which of course made me feel bad...(although I wasn't too keen on her making me out to the devil's spawn!)...but this begs the question, if you are recovering from foot surgery, what are you doing in a crowded club dancng?
delphine

Anonymous said...

oopps....sorry my post is missing words...letters...grammar etc...sorry...i guess i am a bit off today. :)
delphine

The Late Bloomer said...

L'embrouillamini, would love to take you up on that!! I can't remember the last time I went to Café de Flores... Sometime in the '90s probably! And a cup of hot chocolate from there would be ever so enticing... After the business of fashion week, we can try to set a date and time!

Delphine, no worries on the grammar/spelling -- I often comment and ramble on terribly, then forget to preview or doublecheck before confirming. Happens to all of us! And seriously, what WAS that gal doing out dancing after foot surgery?! Strange idea of recovery, huh?! ;-)

Scribbit said...

Becoming French? Even with an evening of nachos? :)

Riana Lagarde said...

oh lordie, I dont miss that Paris commute. I feel for ya! Nachos though.... yummmm.

Wendz said...

I think it's great that you're 'becoming' French! When in Rome, etc ....

We all occasionally do those things we criticise other people of...nobody is perfect. The thing is, you're aware of it and most people aren't and don't realise how freaking anoying they are.

Anonymous said...

oh Alice..had to laugh..Louise and I were just talking about this same topic 2 weeks ago! My gripe is no matter what age the french person is coming the other way (mostly women) they don't give you your share of the footpath...so I have decided to test it...even when I am with Jean Luc...and sure enough - BANG! and I just kept walking..but it upsets me more that it has to come to this..ohh I know..this is my new town..big city..big attitude..so live with it..hope to catch you soon..Narelle x

The Late Bloomer said...

Michelle, thanks for stopping by -- I'm far behind in my reading of everyone's blogs, and I hope you'll forgive me if I haven't commented on Scribbit in a while -- I haven't forgotten about you, I promise!

Riana, trust me, if I could get rid of the commuting part, I WOULD in a SECOND! My boy is fed up with living in la région parisienne, to be honest, and if we could figure out a pragmatic solution, we would move to la province in a heartbeat! We have to work on that.

Wendy, yes, it's good to know that I'm not alone in this domain, and I realize that yes, we are all human -- especially in the most stressful or exhausting of times!

Narelle! It's so sweet of you to stop by my blog and leave a comment. I hope you and your boyfriend are both doing well. I was really disappointed not to be able to make it to Louise's going-away party, but my invite arrived a bit late and I was outside of the city that day. I miss Louise already, even if we didn't get to see each other as often as I would have liked.

I hope you and I will get a chance to catch up soon as well! BISES!

Alison said...

Gentry's cool. :-)