It’s only fair that I justify my lament of The French, Not France.
While on the umpteenth train en route from Venice, we were on a high-speed train from Nice to Paris.
Famished from running around all day, the dining car opened and we bee-lined.
Looking at the menu and trying to be courteous* we approached the French Lunch Lady (FLL).
I ordered, in French, a salad combo. All of the items were prepackaged. The combo was a salad, choice of side, choice of beverage and choice of dessert. Having requested an animal-free salad, fruit cup, mousse and lemonade, I felt good to go.
FLL, however, had other ideas. Shouting over the rail noise, she informed me, a francais, there were no salads, only club sandwiches.
In French, I agreed.
In French, she tells me they have no fruit cups. I can have two desserts.
In French, I agree and opt for the apple crisp and mousse.
At our seat, I remark to Steve, “You k now what would make this sandwich AWESOME? MUSTARD.”
“Well, go up and get some.”
Meanwhile, FLL is in a tizzy and had garnered the attention of one of the conductors.
In French, she asks if she can help me.
“Moo-stard?” I ask, racking the memory bank for French-for-mustard.
“Moo-stard? Um, Dijon?”, I ask, nodding.
She claps her hands, in understanding, and pulls out some salt and pepper.
“Non.”, I shake my head. “Moo-stard, dijoin, ketchup et…”
Once again, she acts like she knows what I’m talking about. She approaches me with a large brown bag and picks out…. a roll. And hands it to me, as in “take it! take it!”
Retreating to my seat, Steve asks just how I ended up with a roll.
“Well, did you pay for it?”
“You should probably check to make sure you don’t have to.”
So back up to FLL I go.
“Excuse-moi? Un pain, c’est gratis?”… damnit, What’s French-for-Free….
She tells me, in French, that the bathrooms are free and through the doors.
“Non non. Un, um, baguette… c’est baguette.. c’est gratis?”, I ask her.
In French, she tells me that we overpaid for our sandwiches.
“The bread you gave me. Is it free?”, I ask in English, just to be sure.
“Que?” (French for “what?”)
At this point, I knew she was Fucking With The Tourist and I go sit down.
Steve goes up and while ordering beer (ewwwww, 1664!) asks, in French, if we owe for the the roll and he gets the same treatment
*1) you’re in someone else’s country, the least you can do is try to speak their language.
2) Even our elementary level French should allow us to order the essentials: Food, beer, hotel room.