18 November 2009

Free Lesson #274: How to Make a Fool of Yourself In France

Today's free lesson comes as a three part series.  I hope you laugh as much as I did (because the French people involved didn't find it nearly as amusing as I did).

Part I: Today is Tuesday, which means an evening of tutoring with T. in English and tea with his mom in French.  I had already prepared some activities for us to work on, and I still had time to kill (as it's not cultural to be early or even right on time here).  So, since T. lives near the library, I thought I'd finally stop there to pick up a few kids books to read . . . since I'm not even yet at a pre-school reading level. 

I found five: two little stories, two books on the origin of some random French words, and a third on the differences between similar phonetic sounds.  Now, I hadn't been to this library since September when we got our cards, so I had forgotten some of the rules.  Each section of the library has it's own circulation desk . . . was I supposed to check-out the books at the section desk, and return them front desk downstairs . . . or do I return them to the section desk and check them out at the front desk.  And since I was already upstairs, 5 feet from the circulation desk, I stopped there first. 

I had pulled my library card from my wallet and stuck it in my pocket prior to coming in.  So I placed my books on the desk with my card on top.  Bon soir (good evening), I said to the librarian.  Bon soir, madame . . . which was then followed by a string of French sentences that I couldn't understand.  Désolée? (Sorry?)  She looked at my stack of books and library card on the desk and repeated herself.  I got nothing.  Je parle un peu français (I speak a little bit of French).  She looked at my card a little closer.  She got a friend.  Quelle lange? (Which language do you speak?) Anglais.  Her friend replied: What you want? You want borrow?  I stood there for a second, a bit confused.  This is a LIBRARY after all . . . what else would I possibly be wanting to do?  That's my LIBRARY CARD, not my credit card, I'm not looking to make a purchase . . . I'm coiming to BORROW . . . isn't that what you do at a library??  Hmm.  Oui. I answered.  Downstairs. She said.  OH!!  Désolée!!  Oui, merci beaucoup! Désolée!  (I'm pretty sure I heard a few snickers on my way out the door . . . surely at my expense . . . what a dummy, not only can she NOT speak French, but she's reading children's books, and she doesn't know how to check them out of the library!)

Part II:  I go downstairs to check out the even-at-this-level-over-my-head tomes.  I place my stack on the desk, with my library card on top.  Bon soir, madame (I managed to remember the madame that time).  Bon soir she said, with a puzzled look on her face.  She said something in French.  Désolée? (Sorry? . . . as you can tell, this is on my Top 25 Most Utilized French Words and Phrases, along with Ce n'est pas grave [it's not that bad] and je ne sais pas [I don't know] and je ne comprend pas [I don't understand]).  She repeated herself.  Before I could even tell her that "I only speak a little French" she read it on my face and picked up what all this time I had thought was my library card and said Ce n'est pas pour la bibliotechque, c'est la carte de Cora!  IT WASN'T MY LIBRARY CARD . . . IT WAS THE DISCOUNT CARD FOR MY LOCAL GROCERY STORE!!!

Let's just say I found this VERY funny, but she didn't.  Maybe it's a cultural thing.

Part III: Once my books were checked out I made a dash for the exit.  Feeling like a complete idiot makes one want to get out of Dodge.  I shoved the door marked sortie (exit).  It didn't budge.  I pulled.  Nothing.  I pushed the other door.  Nothing.  I pulled the other door.  Still nothing.  I tried the entrance doors.  Same thing.  I went back and tried the first door again.  I turned to find the woman who had refused my Cora card as appropriate means of trade staring at me.  Excusez-moi, s'il vous plaît?? (Excuse me . . . please [help])  She threw more French at me.  I stared pathetically at her.  She slung some more.  Désolée!!  Je ne parle pas le français!  (SORRY, I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH).  She responded in French . . . but this time I heard bouton (button).  I looked back at the door.  There was a silver knob under each of the door handles.  Bien sûr! (Of course!)  I tried the knob . . . I turned it to the right, then the left, then up and down and even tried pulling it out.  NOTHING.  I turned, even more pathetically now, and looked back for more help. 

She walked up to me, gave me a very condescending look, and pushed the button on the WALL.  Voila!  The doors swung open.  I was free!  Stripped of all my pride, but free!

6 comments:

M.S. said...

Deb, you are absolutely incredible. No tears? I would have been beet red and bawling. I love that you pulled out your Cora card and had no idea what the problem was. Oh, poor Deb. So funny.

Deborah said...

Actually, Meg, despite being able to laugh at the humor of the whole thing, it was very hard to have so much difficulty communicating. I walked out into Place de France and wanted to start crying. I gave myself a few moments to feel like a complete moron and then I prayed that God would take away my pride and help me be child-like in this process.

Anonymous said...

Don't despair....here's how to make a fool of yourself in the Villages, USA and I speak the language ---
Went out with Rocky in the golf cart to plot my course to the dentist so that I could arrive on time for my appt the next day. I pulled over to use the cell phone and then couldn't start the cart!
Five different carts stopped (all at once) to ask if I needed help.
I told them I couldn't start my cart. In one of the carts were two elderly ladies carefully watching what I was doing....one of them finally said quietly, "dear, if you turn the key to the right, the cart usually starts." Duh! I hadn't switched the key to off (in the left position) so I kept turning the key to the left to try to start and naturally, it wouldn't! I thanked them after my face turned beet red and then I started to laugh! They must have all thought I was nuts! I laughed all the way home! xxooxoxo Mom

Phil said...

ROTFLM[B]O!!!! *wipes away tear*

Anonymous said...

Don't despair....here's how to make a fool of yourself in the Villages, USA and I speak the language ---
Went out with Rocky in the golf cart to plot my course to the dentist so that I could arrive on time for my appt the next day. I pulled over to use the cell phone and then couldn't start the cart!
Five different carts stopped (all at once) to ask if I needed help.
I told them I couldn't start my cart. In one of the carts were two elderly ladies carefully watching what I was doing....one of them finally said quietly, "dear, if you turn the key to the right, the cart usually starts." Duh! I hadn't switched the key to off (in the left position) so I kept turning the key to the left to try to start and naturally, it wouldn't! I thanked them after my face turned beet red and then I started to laugh! They must have all thought I was nuts! I laughed all the way home! xxooxoxo Mom

Phil said...

ROTFLM[B]O!!!! *wipes away tear*