Friday, February 07, 2003

Loud Americans in Paris

I think that if all French people were deaf, they’d be a perfectly happy people. I mean cities impose noise hours, which are very short indeed compared to the length of a day, but I’ve talked about this before. You remember. Some places even go as far as getting the police out with a magic wand thingy that measures how many decibels your wind-up car or motorcycle/scooter puts out (because people only drive one of those 2-3 things). Do cops not have anything better to do here? They’d get more money if they went and gave tickets to people smoking in places where they shouldn’t be, which I’m slowly learning includes most public places, but quiet anarchy rules here.

Anyway...deaf French people...And has anyone ever met a French person that actually listens to you? Because I haven’t. Well, okay, there’s that one...okay two...well, three if I count that one friend who claims citizenship in every country in which she has ever stepped foot. So there are 2-3 French people that listen to what you say. I need to qualify that a little more. One of those 2-3 only sometimes listens to what you are saying, and all 2-3 of them listen only to what SOME people say. Do you know what I’m saying? Probably not because all French people are nightmares, and you’ll remember that I wrote about this last week.

They’d certainly be less cranky if they were deaf because a) they wouldn’t have to listen to anyone, like I said, so it would make, say, a bank teller’s day a little more pleasant because they wouldn’t have to listen to people shouting at them when they do a crappy job, which is habitual; and b) they wouldn’t have to hear anyone either. Now you may look at “hear” and “listen” as synonym’s, but that is simply not so. “Hearing” Americans on their turf makes a Frenchman’s stomach turn. For example, I was sitting in the Paris KFC with my friends, Nathan and Elodie. We were being loud and speaking a mixture of English and French. A guy came by wiping off tables, and we heard him mumble, “Rabble rabble rabble Bush rabble rabble...” We looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders, and I stifled a laugh because “Was that a sentence, or was he rapping?” But he came back by with a smug look on his face and asked, “So you like Bush?”, and then he gave a grunt/laugh like he just said something really biting. Nathan said, “Maybe. You?” He retorted, “No, I hate. Bush is a wicked...” Well he said several mean things and walked off. But his day was ruined by a couple of Americans. (Elodie is French and one of the 2-3 that listens to some people.)

My reason for going to Paris this time was to go to a concert, which ended a nine month concert drought. And going to a concert means that I have an unhealthy addiction to that artist or group for at least two months after. This time I went to see Tori Amos. She rocks the piano, and I love listening to her. It’s a good thing she has seven CDs so I don’t get bored. Attending this concert had me thinking that French people actually were deaf because they didn’t even move or sing or anything. They just sat there very sedate with their legs crossed and their nose in the air. Any yelling, dancing, jumping, cheering, pot-smoking was done by the Americans in the crowd. Tori’s voice was strong, and her piano was very loud, which must have really annoyed the French people that were there because she is an American, and she was clearly out of the bounds of the noise hours. She sang until 11:30.

I got back to my village Wednesday night so I could teach yesterday. I love my afternoon class, but they don’t hear or listen because no matter how many times I say, “Shut the window” or “Don’t set fire to the blinds,” they keep trying to do those things. I’m going to start chopping off fingers starting with thumbs so they can’t partake in those activities. It seems to me that not setting fire to the blinds is a given, but apparently their mom never taught them or they didn’t listen. And she surely taught them that.

But seriously...I love this place.


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