For Cara, it’s leaving lights on in an empty room; for Mootsie, it’s finding discarded socks and shoes leaving a trail behind where others’ feet have traveled.
For me, it had always been technology. You love it except for when you hate it. Don’t get me wrong, technology is great! I have all the I-thingies, PC-thingies and navigation thingies…what’s frustrating for me is when they choose to go horribly wrong: such as being in a strange town when your navigation system suddenly stops receiving signals. Or worse, when you are in another country and you cannot get your I-whatever to work, or you get notifications from your data carrier that your plan is desperately close to being bankrupt because you’ve used a gajillion Gigs of data, which is way above what your plan allows. You’ve become so dependent on these marvels of science that you find yourself frozen in a world of frustration.
On a recent trip to Paris for a writing workshop, I used all my I-thingies to prepare for my trip.
I studied French on my Ipad and occasionally used the French dictionary stored in my I-phone. I thought, “This time my trip to Paris will be special because I will be able to converse better than the last time I went.” I was so looking forward to doing that, that I engaged the services of a private tutor, who told me that my pronunciation and accent were reasonably good. Armed with an abundance of confidence and my French translation software, I hit the ground running at Charles de Gaulle Airport, which was the beginning of my newest pet peeve!
I spoke to the concierge at the airport information desk in my best French, and I was immediately answered in English. Okay, they are probably very used to English speaking people roaming aimlessly about the airport looking for their gates, restroom facilities and/or baggage claim. It would be prudent for them to speak in English in order to move things along. But then I found that wherever I went, whenever I spoke French, people in every situation were answering me in English! I cannot tell you what a disappointment this is when you have spent so much time studying another language. I know they are not responsible for teaching me or even for helping me to improve, but hey! Cut the girl a break here – she’s trying… .
The final straw occurred on my last day in Paris, in the elevator to the flat that I rented.
The elevator was only barely large enough for two people, or one person and a piece of luggage. I situated myself in the elevator with a large backpack and a shopping bag, and before the doors could close, a young man holding a motor bike helmet in his hands rushed to squeeze into the elevator with me and – too quickly for me to catch all the words – said something in French. Since he addressed me in French, I responded in French, “Quel etage?” I asked (which floor?). He quickly said to me in English, “Fifth floor please.” Suddenly, I felt the urge to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.
After a few seconds passed, I turned to look him in the eye and I asked, “Why is it that whenever I speak French around here, I am answered in English?” And he seriously said this to me: “Because you must use your French more often.” Okay…I thought that was exactly what I had been doing!
So, I suppose the next time I travel to France I should speak in Pig Latin so that I will be answered, hopefully and finally, in French!
A prochain Mardi!!
(See you next Tuesday!)
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