So I was out with The Boy — making the racing — shopping for the evening meal. This one was special (The Woman’s Birthday) so it was an unusually long and elaborate race.
I should explain: In French, doing the daily run to the store is called faire les courses and a course, literally, is a race. This has always tickled my humor, as I imagine myself fighting Parisians for the last baguette. (Maybe not the fighting, but bakeries do run out of baguettes.)
The Boy needed a lesson in the spirit of gift-buying so I had stopped at a bench for the opportunity to explain. (He had dashed ahead thinking that he was above such details — let the battle of wills begin!, I think.)
As I sat, ball cap on head, basket in lap, a woman pauses as she walks by, and says, in English: “I don’t mean to be rude, but why are there so many of you in Paris right now?”
You, as in the French sense of vous? — me as part of an undefined group?
Me (feigning insult as if in Downton Abbey): I beg your pardon.
She: I’ve noticed this week there seem to be many more of you in town.
Me: Many of whom? (Yes, I speak pretentiously when I am a perturbed.)
She: Well, I don’t want to be rude (missing the detail that she already is and she is repeating herself) — it’s just that…
Me (wondering to myself — insert thought bubble here): Americans? Expats? Red Sox fans? People from Boston? The Boy and I had been speaking English and I was wearing a Red Sox cap.
She: It’s just that I’ve noticed a greater number of old people in town lately.
She: Is there some kind of convention or event?
Me: You think I am old.
She: Well, your hair is grey.
She: Although I do color mine.
(Ed. note: I’ve reduced this down from its original ten minutes of back-and-forth.)
She: I’m sorry, I’ve offended you.
Me: Where are you from? How long have you been in Paris? I assure you, there is no larger number of older people in Paris now than at any other time. Maybe you’ve not been paying attention.
She: No, I’m quite certain there are more of you now than there ordinarily are. I’ve been in Paris for 12 years.
Me: Again with the “you”. 12 years? Really? (Me blinking to show incredulity. Sure, maybe holding a shopping basket on my lap groups me with a certain demographic, but come on!)
She: More imprecise words backed with little power of observation…
Me: Okay then, have a nice day.
Me: Have a nice day…enjoy your stay! (On the planet! — Valley Girl voice in my head.)
She: Still repeating; finally walking away.
Boy: What did she want, Papa?
Me: I’m not sure. Maybe this…
Me (in her direction): YOU! GET OFF MY LAWN!