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!