Tiresome TouristsOctober 18, 2006 at 3:37 pm | Posted in food, vie quotidienne | 15 Comments
A few minutes ago, I decided to dash down to the corner bakery to get a baguette for my lunch. Of course, it being lunch time, there was a huge line. And up at the front of the line was a girl, about my age, trying to order in English.
Okay, lest I sound entirely unsympathetic to the monolingual, one really doesn’t need to know a whole lot of French to order in a bakery. Une baguette is really all you need to say, and you can add s’il vous plait if you want to be treated nicely. Even if you want to order something a little more complicated — a religieuse au cafe, say, or a tartelette aux abricots — everything is labeled. Just sound it out as best you can while pointing, and you should be able to convey your desire.
But this girl was not employing this technique. Instead, she launched into complete English sentences (“Give me one of those over there, and would you mind heating that?”), as if she expected every boulangère in Paris to be perfectly fluent in English!
But that wasn’t bad enough. Having gotten her pastry, this girl then asked the poor boulangère (in English, of course) where she might find the Catacombes. Although everyone tried to be helpful, no one had any idea what she was talking about (the man behind her in line helpfully suggested, “France télécom?”). All I could do was cringe.
I have very little patience for tourists who don’t even make a small effort to speak a word or two of the local language, but I have even less patience for stalled bakery lines when I am starving. Even though I knew it would mean revealing my secret identity as an American, I stepped forward: “I can help you,” I told the girl in clear English, as I tried to apologize on her behalf to the crowd with my eyes.
I indicated that she should step outside with me (losing my place in line), and I pulled out my map, metro plan, and L’Officiel des Spectacles (I never leave home without them — she, on the other hand, didn’t have so much as a guide book). After a few seconds’ research, I gave her the address, the nearest metro stop, and pointed her in the right direction. She thanked me for my efforts, then complained, “No one around here has even heard of the catacombs.”
“They’ve heard of them,” I told her through clenched teeth. “They just can’t understand your accent.”
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