Friday, June 10, 2011

Rubbing Off

“Excuse Me?! You cut in front of me. While I was fetching my wallet in my bag, you cut right in front of me. ” My finger was still on her shoulder from tapping to get her attention. The twenty-something girl looked back up at me with a disconcerted expression. She stared at me as if no one had ever called her out on anything before. Huh, she's obviously never been to Paris! I continued, “There are three lines, one for each machine. You were on that line, and then when I wasn't looking... you walked right in front of me. Not nice.” I lifted my finger from her shoulder, and waved it in back & forth about a foot away from her face. Embarrassed, as a few rush-hour folk were observing our exchange, she apologized, saying she hadn't seen me. I made a protesting snorting sound, and then waved my hand as to say get out of my way now. She scuttled away. I got my LIRR ticket, and descended down to the track, back to Long Island. In retrospect, perhaps I was being a little harsh, but there were other emotions brewing underneath that very well made my temper reach it's hotspot a lot quicker.

New Yorkers get a bad rep, more than what they actually deserve... I think. Yes, we are impatient. We want everything fast, now! We are always in a hurry, pushing through, not really looking but knowing we have to get through the crowd. And we never ever bother with strangers on the street. But in all my life as an inhabitant, I never really observed people actually telling complete strangers what & how they actually felt about what said person just did, or what their child just did. Not the Parisian! God forbid your 1 ½ year old kid plucks a flower from the park's garden, or you are pushing your stroller on a narrow sidewalk, and Ms .Dior doesn't have enough room to strut through. Proper behavior is essential but yet they don't necessarily demonstrate either. Once at Galerie Lafayette, I went to grab a shoulder bag off the hook to get a better look at it. A tall slender woman just passed in between, hitting my arm, and didn't even apologize. A strange noise emanated from my lips, it was a pfff - growl. She glared back, I glared harder. She kept walking. What's wrong with me? I thought. I feel angrier now than I ever did in living in New York.

A year ago, I wouldn't have tapped the line-cutter at Penn Station, nor would I have growled at the rude woman in the department store (although if I could have known the right French words, I probably would've used them instead). I also probably wouldn't have told a woman she was rude after she didn't thank me for holding the first set of doors open, and then she didn't even reciprocate by holding the second set open for me. I went right up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. I better watch that finger, one day I am going to tap the wrong person. Well, I got nine more.

After three months in Paris, I am becoming more Parisian than I ever thought I would be. And it's the one thing, I least expected to adopt. The behavior is exclusive to this old pristine city. My husband once told me that “Parisians are crazy”, although he now denies he ever said any such thing. I would say they certainly are special, in all the wrong and right ways. Now, if only the language could be just as easily absorbed... wouldn't that be something!