Friday, January 11, 2008


I knew instinctively the moment it came out that I shouldn't have done it. I felt the ice form in my stomach and the inevitable doomed feeling one has when one knows that in just a few short moments, one will be facing a public humiliation followed by a possible execution.

PLACE: a very busy Monoprix at rush hour (the grocery store).
CHARACTERS: American girl pretending to be Parisian
Young French woman cashier/executioner
15 witnesses/angry mob

I don't really know what made me do it. Maybe it was the cocky feeling I had having just come from the bakery, successfully ordering a baguette and giving the right amount of change this time. Or maybe it was my cute black trench coat and my stylish boots click clacking their way down a Parisian street. The sun shining, baguette in hand, I waltzed into the Monoprix to pick up some groceries. Confidently click clacking my way to the counter, the cashier is in an animated conversation with a young man who also works there. He leaves and she continues the conversation with me, sharing the joke they just had. Without a moments thought, I burst into laughter as well. "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" I exclaim loudly. I have a naturally loud and distinctive laugh which I knew the moment it departed my lips, had just risked everything on the flip of a dime and some overblown confidence.

It was just enough to send her into a deep suspicion as her smile faded, her eyes narrowed and her pace of scanning my items slowed down to a mere crawl. My heart raced and panic set in as my face froze in a desperate cry for a stay of execution. Inside I was begging her to PLEEEEASE just let me go, my lesson is learned, I vowed never ever EVER again to pretend I understand if only I could get out that door that now seemed a mile and a half away.

And then....just like that....she did it. Holding up an orange to me, looking me square in the eye, she icily asked "hmpf jeshmdnfjsd something something ghgmjsdh l'orange sjdhfmg something fhgfkdjg?"

Silence. Panic.

OK OK OK OK OK. It's a direct question involving an orange. I know it's a question because her inflection went up and her eyes are challenging mine for an answer. My mind races with possibilities. Uh, type of orange? Uh, weight of orange? Uh, do I like oranges? Uh, have I ever tried orange juice?

I know immediately she has gone for the jugular and this is not a simple YES or NO question. I scan my short list of words I know which takes all of three seconds and decide upon the worst possible answer. My face admits defeat as I mutter "uhhhhhh....uuuummmmmm". Instead of claiming a quiet gracious victory, she repeats the question loudly and slowly as if talking to a moron so the 15 people in line behind me can bask in the glory of a French battle well won.


Riding out the downward spiral, I repeat my eloquent response but flip it to "yyyyeah....uhhhhh...ummmmmm". My face now bright red, I nervously look behind me, grasping at straws and hoping to magically see a translator appear. Seeing only an annoyed angry mob, I look at her with a "ok, you won, NOW can I PLEEASE go?" as she briskly drops the orange into the bag and completes my order in total silence. I sheepishly give her a 50 euro bill (the only bill I have left) to which she rolls her eyes and delivers my change succinctly and with a heavy sigh, she announces loudly and slowly "MEEERRRCCCIII MAAAADDDAAAAMMMME".

I hide my head and clonk clunk my way out the door.

Two points France.
You win.

1 comment:

jessica said...

and i thought my ho-hum mumbling meant to be i'm-in-hurry-or-else-i'd-totally-respond-with-words-comments when they spent a long time examining the new 2008 sugar dispenser was awkward .... you are brave my dear!