Tuesday, March 31, 2009

30 Minutes in Paris

I leave babysitting around 8 p.m. I'm hungry but don't feel like going through the trouble of the grocery store and lugging things all up the stairs and messing around in the kitchen. So I head towards the street of a million falafels, a street in the old Jewish neighborhood that has seven or so restaurants specializing my new favorite food.

To order the best falafel in Paris would mean to wait a long time in line, and I am hungry now, so I go to a place that is maybe not as good, but pretty good. One falafel à emporter, but please not with those red vegetables. I don't even know what they're called in English. Maybe they're beets. I should probably learn the French word regardless, so I don't sound so ignorant.

Falafel in hand, so I walk towards the nearest metro station, but don't enter. Eating in the deep dark depths of a filthy, smelly, mouse-infested tube does not appeal to me. Instead I sit on a bench next to a woman also eating falafel.

She is very French, and I am not. She has removed one leather glove to aid in the eating of her sandwich. She is wearing these shoes, these Victorian-era laced high heels that are very popular amoung the chic French ladies. She does not spill falafel on her red coat. I, on the other hand, am dropping bits left and right. I am very self concious of my Americanness as I sit next to her. It's not so much the jeans and Converse shoes that give me away. It's my orange North Face backpack, which is definitely not French and definitely not chic.

She leaves to meet a friend and two new women sit down, one on either side of me. They are talking on their cell phones. I listen to their conversations and think about how there was once a time when I my French was not good enough to understand people's cell phone conversations.

A man asks for the time, and I get nervous. Not really nervous, just a little bit, because I am really bad at giving the time in French. I still translate the 24-hour clock into the 12-hour clock. It makes sense to me, in my head, but not to other people who understand the 24-hour clock in a normal way. I tell him it's a little after eight, but he gives me this very puzzled look, so I hold up my phone with 20:31 on it, but he can't see it for some reason, maybe he has bad eyesight, so finally I get my act together and tell him it's twenty o' clock and thirty minutes. He understands.

The woman on my left tells the person on the other end of the line that she is sitting next to someone eating… I don't know what… a falafel. I nod my head a bit as if to agree, because I feel it would be more awkward if I did not acknowledge that she was talking about me. She meets this person two seconds later, and off they go.

I pick at my sandwich for a few minutes more, but end up tossing the last third. Down into the metro. It's Line 1, which isn't really convenient for me. I'm not in the mood to make several metro transfers tonight, so I take this line as close as it goes to home and walk the rest of the way.

On the walk home, I think about how I'm starting a grown-up job tomorrow, and what that means. My thoughts are sidetracked when I decide to stop into a store. I buy some of that yogurt I was telling you all about for dessert, chocolate with coconut flakes. I get some tea too, because when I woke up this morning I had no voice, and after teaching all day, my throat aches.

And then I go home.

1 comment:

LaurenW said...

i love this, betsy. thanks for life snippets, and i can just see you talking as that woman is describing you on her phone...