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metro musings: all americans parlent français.

 Brooklyn speaks French?
Ha!
Tell that to the homies on the stoop of my old building.

Anyway, before we get into that, I'm here to report that winter has officially begun here in Paris, and all I have to say is, holy effing brr! Ciao, ciao to those semi-mild (albeit overcast) days, and hello to that biting chill, and the mist/rain that render umbrellas useless making even the shortest walk to the metro seem like such a fucking chore.  

Although I'm kick-starting some goals and plans I have prepared for the new year, January has and will always been a month to hibernate and recuperate. Aside from the weather not being terribly inviting, social engagements are also on hiatus in order to recover both physically and financially from the indulgences of the holiday season. A steady diet of champagne, oysters, foie gras and fancy wine from Nicolas wasn't exactly a pauper's feast.

As you can all tell, my only source of interaction with Parisian living outside of my apartment has been on the metro. Yesterday's adventure starred a 30-something-year-old male teacher who was unmistakably exhausted by the pack of eight-year-old students who were currently in his custody.

They all boarded the train at Pyramides, where the children immediately dispersed like marbles spilling out of a bag onto the floor, rolling in different directions. I admired this teacher's projected confidence that his kids were not all contained in one spot of the subway car, as well as his bravery for even taking them on the metro. It was once suggested to me to take my kids on a "little trip" that would have naturally involved going underground. As far as I'm concerned, we have everything we need right where we are: a nearby park, DVD player, markers, and glitter. What do we need the metro for? What? To go to another park? N'importe quoi. 

One of the students squeezed past me and took the window seat to my left. The class wise-ass is always pretty easy to spot. His name was Maxime. Little Maxime barely acknowledged this request of his teacher who told him to behave and thought it best to crawl on the floor to pick up a dirty and stepped on Direct Matin - the free metro newspaper offered to early morning commuters. Maxime flipped through the newspaper reading select words and chopped up sentences, displaying to me and everyone around us that he could read. Good for him. Maxime eventually grew bored of the newspaper and found a new subject to take interest in.

"Madame?" I heard a little voice to my left say. 

I put my book down and turned to find a little pair of blue eyes peering back at me with pale blonde curls that dusted over his eyelids. 

"Oui monsieur," I responded.

Surprised that I had actually responded to him sincerely, for a moment Maxime looked a bit befuddled. Ah ha, he had met his match. I too used to talk to people on the New York City subway expecting them to talk down to me, all while laughing under my breath that the joke was really on them. I was onto his game.

"Oui monsieur?" I stared back at Maxime expectantly, waiting patiently for what he had to say. Nervous, he began flipping through the Direct Matin for content to present to me, his new captive audience.

"What's your sign?" he finally asked as he opened to the horoscopes.

"I'm a Virgo, what about you?" I asked, leaning forward to actually read my horoscope. Maxime then offered that he was a Libra. "I'm a pretty good decision maker," he boasted, and with that he turned away to wistfully look out the window.

Our conversation quickly captured interest as the chatter among the other passengers thinned out, and all eyes were on the musings of my mini friend. The teacher looked over to me concerned that I was being disturbed, and I gave him a reassuring nod that Maxime was fine.

"Did you know that Virgos and Libras make very good friends?" I informed him.

"Bah, non!" he contested with a mini French huff and puff, "Virgos are always girls and only girls! C'est pas possible!"

"Well that's not always true."

"Si!" he shouted with clenched fists that he slammed on his lap.

Okay, okay, si! There is and never will be a male Virgo, Maxime. There was no point in trying to drive my point to an 8-year-old. It's like when I tell my students that roosters also say cock-a-doodle doo, they completely flip out screaming that roosters only say cocorico (the French translation to cock-a-doodle-doo), which to me will always sound like the acquired name of strip club owner in Fort Lauderdale. Not that cock-a-doodle-doo is any less sleazy.

Recovering from our heated Virgo debate, Maxime then wanted to know where I was from, surely a question that was ignited by my accent. "I'm from New York, which is in the United States." 

Maxime took a second to absorb this information.

"Oh," he said while leaning back all-knowingly, "So that's why you speak French. All Americans speak French." 

Maxime's grand declaration of America's official language got a loud chuckle from the other passengers, including his teacher who was inching closer, possibly suspicious as to why some weird lady was  taking such an interest in one of his students. 

Perhaps Maxime was just speaking to speak, or his assumption came from the fact that most French children watch American films that have been dubbed over in French. Why wouldn't they think that we all speak French? According to these films, Reese Witherspoon drives around Beverly Hills speaking French. Macaulay Culkin gets left behind at his parents house in Chicago while speaking French. And Will Smith, well he saves New York City from aliens...again, in French. It makes me wonder how many other French children think that all Americans speak French?

The inevitable parting between me and Maxime had arrived once we pulled into Gare de L'Est. As I got up to leave, he wished me a bonne journée and waved to me from the window until the train disappeared into the tunnel. 

That afternoon I told my students that they needed to seriously increase their level of cuteness, witty comments, and thought-provoking insight because after my trip with Maxime, these little count munchulas have some big shoes to fill.

Per usual, they just back stared at me and said, "quoi?"

30 comments:

  1. Your metro adventures are becoming material to write a mini book: "Tales dans le métro de Paris"

    How great at least this time it was a nicer experience...
    :)
    Sylvia S.

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    1. Hahaha! Yeah! Great idea! There's enough material down there, that's for sure. I think I'm more aware these days because I don't listen to my iPod on the train anymore. Mostly because I'm bored of my music and also I figured it would probably be safer.

      This kid was absolutely adorable. I wanted to steal him! : )

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  2. When you are ready, you are going to be a fantastic Mom!

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    1. Thank you so much! That's really sweet of you to say. Kids of my own! AH! We'll see, we'll see...

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  3. That was awesome. I think there's some kind of quota on how much foreign television gets translated into French. I heard that at a French dinner party. Btw, I just learned this - and I cannot believe I learned this after 3 years of living here - is it true that French kids have Wednesdays off?! As in, they have school Mon, Tue, then they need to take a "pause" as it's a lot of school (as the French person who told me this promptly noted), then back to school for another stressful 2 days? I laughed.

    Milsters

    (http://www.littlepiecesoflight.com/)

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    1. It's totally true. But trust me, French school is stressful!

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    2. The Wednesdays off is true, but funny enough that's my long day. I teach English all day (broken up into 3 sessions) to kids who would much rather have the day off. Wednesdays are tough because these kids (they're much older) hate me. I hate Wednesdays! Did you know they get vacation every six weeks? This is the part I love because their vacation means MY vacation!

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  4. "oui monsieur"...love that...

    if you don't have ice and snow on the ground it can't be that bad a walk to the metro...just saying...:)

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    1. I guess I just get depressed in January, it doesn't really matter where I am. It's just the month. But I think snow is on its way! I sure hope so. Paris is so beautiful sous la neige.

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  5. Ella and Maxime sitting in a tree. J/K. Very insightful of you ms coquine. I always think that about animals - specifically dogs. When I moved here I realized that the dogs in France don't understand English and that was just weird to me. Clearly my level of insight is less than Maxime's. This was a great post... I loved the Ft Lauderdale strip club as cock-oh-doodle-do. Fantastic! X

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    1. Thank you!

      Isn't that funny about animals? There's all of these little things that only living abroad would make you aware of.

      As a test, I trained Charlotte in French to see if it would work and it did. My mom is so annoyed because the plan was to take her to Paris but she's still in NY and she doesn't respond to English, so picture my Long Island mom screaming "Viens manger!" It's a riot.

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  6. funny that.

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  7. Beautiful story about your interaction with an 8 year old on the metro- written so eloquently! I never really thought about it; the fact that French kids think Americans speak French due to the dubbing. I can't help but laugh with Maxime's "I can't be friends with girls!" statement! You are so cute with kids and sound like a great teacher! Lucky students!

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    1. Awww, thanks Dana! I'd like to think that I'm good teacher but don't get me wrong, I also torture the hell out of them. They sometimes make it too easy. :) !

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  8. Tut, fancy the wee ones not taking heed of their need to entertain you more! It's okay, I'm sure Franc will pull something out of the bag soon ;o)

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    1. Oh Franc already did. God, I love that little guy. He's really going to be a teenage terror!

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  9. The Maximes of this world need to meet more people like you!

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    1. Hahaha aww thank you so much! His teacher seemed less entertained by him than I was. What a shame!

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  10. Franschhoek FabJanuary 10, 2013

    Love this,such a cute story which made me chuckle.As you enter "proper "winter we are in an extremely hot summer.No need to feel jealous as our summer holiday is over and I am back at work:-(

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the story as much I did living and writing it! : )

      Ooooh a hot summer sounds fantastic. I'm not complaining though, it will be warm here soon enough.

      Bonne rentree back to work!

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  11. Ha, what a fun conversation! Kids always have the best logic.

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    1. They really do. Working with my kids is like watching television. I never know what's going to come out of their mouth next. It makes me wonder what I used to say when I was young. I can only imagine!

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  12. Wonderful post! I was laughing out loud. I'm a new reader, and definitely looking forward to more!

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    1. Hi Karene and welcome!!!

      Thank you for commenting and I look forward to keeping you laughing! : )

      Thank you again.

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  13. Good for you for not talking down to Maxime when he so obviously wants to be taken seriously! I've never thought about how French (or any other) kids view Americans but I bet you're right that they think that Americans go around speaking French all the time. Thanks for the insight. I can't wait until I can corner a French kid to question them about this -- maybe I'll even be lucky enough to encounter Maxim on the metro! I only seem to get the quiet ones near me.

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    1. Yes, please do ask a little Frenchling should you come across one. I'm curious to know. I tried to ask my three year olds today and they gave me a response that was completely off topic, which was that they think that I live in New York and I commute everyday, which then launched into a discussion about not talking to loud on the plane because babies are sleeping. You should see my face during all of these dialogues. I'm thoroughly entertained.

      I would just love it if you crossed paths with Maxime! He deserves another blog post! If we were in LA, an agent would have popped out of nowhere to get him signed.

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  14. A lot of Americans seem to think all Canadians speak French... trust me, it ain't the case;)

    I wonder if your little friend thinks that only girls can be Virgo because "vierge" is feminine in French?

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  15. Maxime sounds perfectly precocious.I loved picturing his junior huff and puff.
    And man oh man, how I wish all Americans spoke French, that sure would make life a whole lot easier :)

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  16. Virgos and Libras DO make great friends!!!

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