Saturday, November 16, 2002

A rude American in Paris

Last weekend I went to Paris again to play with Yolande and Nathan (Yolande’s friend who is also a BYU student here in France as an assistant). Yolande and I were getting ready to leave a Canadian restaurant when some British girls asked if they could have our table. They asked Yolande if she was Canadian, and she said that she was. They then asked if it was true that Canadians didn’t like Americans. I would have loved to hear what else those girls were going to say because what kind of question is that? That definitely isn’t one of the top 10 “I’m meeting you for the first time” questions. However, Yolande pointed to me and said, “She’s American”, and that was kind of the end of the conversation.

Yep, that was me the whole weekend…the American. But then I found out that calling myself “American” is kind of a conceited thing to do, so I don’t really know what I am anymore. You know, Canadians and Bolivians are Americans, too, but I know that I’m neither Canadian nor Bolivian. What were the founding fathers thinking when they named our country?! Well, they were founding or finding or putting into place our state of mind…that we would be a superior country; therefore, we would have cause to have such conceit and call ourselves Americans. There…I feel better.

So it was a very North American-centered weekend. We frequented, and attempted to frequent some more, this Canadian restaurant. It is Canadian in that it serves Canadian beer, has Canadian hockey stuff on the walls, has maple leaves painted everywhere, obliges you to say “eh” after everything, and serves poutine, a specialty found in Quebec. It is French fries smothered in brown gravy and cheese. And it is soooo good!

We were at this restaurant again Sunday for brunch, and this was a CANADIAN brunch because there was real maple syrup to cover all of the food. That was also very good. You know, I like my French yogurt and bread for breakfast, but that has nothing next to a good ole Canadian breakfast.

I’m realizing that most of my stories reveal a very important detail about Yolande and me. We are always eating. Almost everything interesting that happened last weekend happened around food. For example, we went to “Les Deux Magots” (pronounced /ma go/ not maggots, although saying “Les deux maggots” is pretty amusing.) for breakfast Friday morning. This is an expensive place to eat because of the history of the joint. “Les Deux Magots” is a famous hangout for artists and writers…which doesn’t make a lot of sense since artists and writers are generally poor.

Anyway, we were sitting drinking our hot chocolate, when two girls walked in and just stood at the door as if waiting to be seated. In France, you seat yourself, so we knew immediately that they were Americans. They eventually sat down right next to us. Nathan joined us after the girls had walked in and right about the time we were being served. As I was taking a bite of my expensive, but delicious, omelet, I swallowed a big puff of smoke from one of the girls who had just lit her cigarette. So I put down my fork, and said, rather loudly, “I just love tasting someone’s cigarette when I’m eating breakfast!” Nathan leaned over and said, “They speak English.” I said, “I know. We could see that the moment they walked through the door.” The rude American, or United Statian (or whatever I am), had been unleashed.

I hope there is no doubt in your mind about my opinion on smoking. I think it is disgusting, and I don’t understand why anyone does it. If someone can give me one, good, logical reason why people smoke, I will shut up forever on the subject. But I doubt one such reason exists. Smoking can’t taste good. It makes everyone smell nasty, and worse, it’s killing everyone. Seriously, when I get home from this séjour, I’m going to put together a book of my experiences, and it’s going to be called “Get your butt out of my face!” because I have at least one thing to say every week about smokers. It is one of the defining characteristics of my time here…well, that and eating.

Saturday, Yolande and I decided to go to an internet café to check our email. We walked in and waited in a senseless line to buy a ticket from a machine. I say “senseless” because how hard is it to use a machine in which you put money, push a button and get a ticket? That’s all you do! Not difficult, right? So I was in this line that WAS NOT moving because I don’t know why, so I said, kind of loud, (I am also assuming that SOMEONE in line speaks English. I’m not so egotistical to think no one in France speaks English. Were I about to say something that I really didn’t want anyone to hear, I would have whispered…for example, I would have whispered, “I have a wedgie.”) Anyway, so I said, “What is the problem here? Put your money in the machine and get your ticket.” I believe this is a reasonable thing to say when waiting in such a dumb line. However, this man in front of me, who was wearing a 49ers jacket and a Yankees cap, but who was clearly not American because no American would have clashed sports and teams so carelessly, said, “Don’t be a rude American.”

Well, that was the theme of my weekend. Here I am in the Kingdom of the Franks (not a coincidence they have that name, for the French are quite frank) and I’m being told not to be rude. Hey, I was just being frank, but since I am American, perhaps I’m not allowed to be frank…only rude. Whatever!

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