One of the best aspects to living in a different country is that almost everything is new and different. ….our senses are constantly widened at the new smells, colors, architecture, and language. These differences, while endlessly beneficial to my mind, sometimes come at the expense of my spirit.
Julien left Monday morning for Nyons, 2 hours south of Tournon, for a 5 day internship at an olive farm. His last words to me before leaving was “Profite de ta liberte” meaning “Enjoy your freedom.” Taking his advice, and my own wont to move, yesterday I decided to ride my bike around town aimlessly, with a few errands intermittently added to the agenda. One of them was to mail a few letters from the post office, and the other to buy some materials for an art project I’ve begun (which remains a secret until I finish). It was a wonderful day for a bicycle ride, the sky was sunny, and so was my mood.
First stop: post office. Nothing special there. I must remind you that, I used to have reservations while speaking to strangers, especially strangers in a strange language. I’ve gotten to the point with my French where I’m much more confident while speaking , and my comprehension has progressed at a surprisingly quick rate. It’s a wonderful feeling, like when as a little girl, I finally learned how to braid hair. So, back to the post office, 2 Euros 87 centimes for 3 stamps, everything great, bonnee journee Madame et back on my bike. I rode until the road stopped.Lost somewhere among unfamiliar vineyards, it was just me, the bare vines, and a lone municipal worker tarring the cement with a cigarette hanging from his lips.
With nowhere to go I decided to take full advantage of the basket on my borrowed bike and stop for my art supplies. Another lifelong hobby of mine, looking through every color paint, paper and pen either until my eyes hurt or the salesperson grows suspicious of me. Something about art supplies revive me and yesterday, added to my freedom, I had extra pep in my step as I approached the hyper-tanned cashier.
Without saying hello, Mr. Cashier mumbled, ” D’accord, 2 & 4 6.”
I must of thought I missed something so I ask “Excuse me, I didn’t hear well. How much?” To which he responded ” 2 et 4 6.” (2 and 4 6) None of this made sense, he wasn’t saying a price, he was counting in twos. So, I him again to repeat himself, this time with a bit of a timid, embarrassed smile.
And the monsieur repeats with a strong, spittled pronunciation “Deuhhhh et Kateuhh Seeeeseuh”
Did he fry his brain in the tanning booth?! At this point, I was still just as angry as confused, so I just began pulling out change from my wallet, american and european. ’ WTF? Two and Four Six is not a price!!!! Does he mean 2 Euros and 46 centimes?’ Refusing to let this exchange last any longer, I just grabbed all the change I have and put it on the counter for him to figure out..
The orange-faced Monsieur Cashier, obviously aggravated: ”SEEEEESEUH!” “SIXXXXX!!”
Me: “Ohhhhh, pardonnez-moi, j’ai malcompris” (Ohhh, excuse me, I misunderstood) as I pick up three 2Euro coins from the pile.
In reality though, I didn’t misunderstand. Rather than saying “6 Euros flat” like he could have, he decided to count out loud in twos multiple times. Unlike the Madame at the post office who smiled as she spoke to me in correct syntax, he failed with flying colors my Employee of the Month nomination. Not only did he infuriate me by his attitude and his fake and baked skin, I let him embarrass me, which only infuriated me more.
It may take some time for me to be accustomed to everything new and different in France, a fact that excites me as much as it scares me, but I do take comfort in knowing that terrible customer service exists here, too. And with a fake tan to boot.