06 October 2009

Bien Sur

Yesterday afternoon I was back at Lidle (France's version of a Quick-E-Mart, with Walmart prices) picking up a red pepper, a zucchini, and some cheese (which grows on trees here . . . or at least one would think it does).  Anyway (sorry, by now you should know my inability to tell a short story . . . although, I can when I have to tell it in French . . . see, there are positives to having a small vocabulary!!) . . . okay, where was I??

Oh, right . . . in Lidle.  Well, you may remember a post from a few days ago about the security guard approaching me and my friend about our good pronounciation and obvious progress.  Turns out, I think he was just talking to her! 

Okay, before I progress with the story, you need a little snap shot of an aspect of French culture: it is to be expected that one will spend the majority of one's time in a shop standing (patiently) in the queue waiting to approach the till in order to pay.  Here in France, we not only bring our own bags, we also bag the items ourselves.  Which is no big deal.  The problem comes, that the line moves at a snail's pace (again, everyone waits patiently!) until it is your turn at the till.  Doesn't matter who you are, it is understood that the patience of the person after you runs out as soon as your items are being scanned.  At that point, the race begins . . . he who bags his items (in an orderly and efficient manner) and pay the clerk the fastest wins!  BUT if you cannot manage this simple multitask before the person behind you begins, it's off to madame guillotine!  Okay, not really, but it certainly feels that way!

So, now you understand the significant pressure that comes with standing in line at a shop (not to mention the clerk is speaking in French . . . and I still have trouble remembering if vingt-deux euros quatre-vingt quinze is 22 euros 95 or 34 euros 86 . . . and then they speak so fast . . . OY!).

BACK TO THE STORY: so there I was, standing in the queue waiting (patiently) in 4th.  As I moved into 3rd, I got ready . . . I want to merge into French culture as much as possible, so I got my impatient face on, ready for my part as number 2.  Next thing I know as I transition into the one at the till, the security guard smiles.  Bonjour! I said politely.  He responded.  UHHH . . . OH NO . . . HE'S SPEAKING TO ME IN FRENCH!!  I SHOULD BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND HIM . . . BUT I DON'T!!  OH CRAP!!!  HE'S REPEATING IT . . . OH NO, ALL MY ITEMS HAVE BEEN SCANNED . . . I HAVE TO PAY . . . BUT HE'S SPEAKING TO ME . . . WHAT DID HE SAY?????  OH NO, 2ND PERSON IS GETTING IMPATIENT!!!  Pardon, je ne comprend pas (I don't understand), I managed to say.  Vous allez bien? he repeated.  UH . . . VOUS ALLEZ . . . THINK DEB. YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS!!  IT'S AN EASY ONE . . . VOUS ALLEZ . . . YOU USE THIS EVERYDAY! 

I stood there paralized.  Not only could I not remember vous allez (you, polite, are going) but I couldn't pay or bag my few things.  I just stood there mute and pathetic.

Graciously (and I think to prevent a riot from all those in line who should have already been rightly moved into the 2nd position), he switched to English.  "Here in France, we have many ways of saying 'How are you doing today'."  "Oh!!!  BIEN SUR! (OF COURSE!)"

DUH!!  (how do you say that in French!!)  He encouraged me that it will come and that I really am doing well.  But oh man . . . I felt like such francophonic moron!  I clearly need MUCH more work on my auditory comprehension!! 

2 comments:

The Marsh Family said...

I can remember trying out my first tonal question at the NAPA auto parts store in Sherbrooke. Nothing too difficult... Vous parlez anglais? A little lilt at the end, nothing to it. Practiced it all the way through the line, beads of sweat pooling in my hairline. Walked up, smiled and said, "Poo varlez".

Let us draw a curtain on this sad little drama.

The Marsh Family said...

I can remember trying out my first tonal question at the NAPA auto parts store in Sherbrooke. Nothing too difficult... Vous parlez anglais? A little lilt at the end, nothing to it. Practiced it all the way through the line, beads of sweat pooling in my hairline. Walked up, smiled and said, "Poo varlez".

Let us draw a curtain on this sad little drama.