Thursday, March 17, 2005

Two Stories

I've been meaning to post these for a bit, but haven't had the time to write them down.

Story #1

A few days back I had to walk home from my French lesson due to the tram workers being on strike. As I walked, I pondered the peculiarity of the way in which French workers strike. In the US the mere talk of a strike can get action. Whenever union workers actually do strike it is often a long, brutal affair. Days, weeks, even months roll by while workers and managers bicker over the terms of an agreement. In France, a group of workers will often strike for one day only. Since I have been here, the Post Office, the university clerks, and now the tram workers have gone on strike for a day. Sometimes there are longer strikes, but it seems it is a normal practice for workers to have these short strikes periodically. It is like a way to show the managers what they are capable of doing. The workers tend to congregate downtown airing their grievances to whomever will listen. I digress. As I was walking home, these were the thoughts I was having.

On a long stretch of road, two college aged girls crossed my path. One of them stopped and spoke directly to me. Being lost in thought I didn't catch a single word. Something on my face must have registered this fact and the girl repeated what she said. Having spent the last 5 months not understanding a word any stranger spoke to me, I prepared my sentences explaining that I was a foreigner and didn't understand French. Yet to my astoundment, I actually understood what she was asking. She needed to know where Place de Etoile was located. It was as a light from Heaven broke through the clouds and shone a ray on my head. I could almost hear the angels sing "Hallelujah." I understood!

I managed to say a couple of words in my excitement and point towards the city square they were looking for a couple of blocks over. They understood my words as well and thanked me for my time.

My elation was held short though. That very evening we received a telephone call. I managed to understand who was calling (the mother of the girl we are sub-letting the apartment from) and why she was calling (to thank us for sending some money we owed her), but she continued to speak with a fast tongue, and I quickly got lost in the shuffle. I tried to ask her to hold on one moment and let me catch my mental breath. But she didn't understand and kept speaking. Finally, deflated, I gave up and handed the phone to Amy.

Story 2

A different day I was performing the same action as in the previous story: walking home from my French lesson. This time no person stopped to chat, but a car did stop in the middle of the road. He was parking himself a few feet from a rather busy intersection. He was on the busy end of the street, and though it was passed the rush hour, traffic was still quite heavy. I could see the passenger door open and a woman was partially outside the door. At first I thought that there must have been a breakdown of sorts, and they were in the process of looking for its source. As I walked closer I realized this was not the case. The driver was simply dropping off the passenger, and she was reluctant to leave. Instead she was engaging him in conversation, In the middle of a highway, with loads of traffic surrounding them, they were having a chat. I walked slowly in order to see how long they were going to do this. After about 5 minutes of me watching this situation, the car drove away.

To add to this obnoxiousness, there was a pull off but a few feet in front of the car. Instead of parking his car a few feet forward, and remain out of the way of oncoming traffic, this joker decided to stop there, in the middle of the street.

I suppose they chalk this up to libertè. The French fought very hard for their right to ignore laws that don't suit their taste for the moment. This guy was just using his God given right to thumb his nose at everything and enjoy one last moment with his girl.

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