I have to admit, I was pretty pissed off….

I had no idea I had so much French-language coping/ability in me until I got quite angry with a very rude Frenchman today…after a lousy meal…

We had just had an awful meal at a restaurant (thankfully the first dismal failure of the trip). I won’t spell it all out because I’ll just get annoyed again, but the crowning glory of the lunchtime disaster was when Jeff cut into his fish, nicely-enough presented, and discovered it had not been cleaned properly and was still mostly full of guts and gore.

Totally and completely gross.

Fortunately, he’s a fisherman and has gutted many a fish in his life, so he a) knew how to remove said guts (he was really hungry and the meal had taken forever to arrive) and b) knew what parts to eat and what not to eat…

Horrified, I took a picture of his plate-side pile of guts, to Jeff’s gentle-hearted dismay. (Don’t worry, I won’t show it to you. You’ll just have to imagine it in your own mind’s eye, if you must.)

Then it took forever for the bill to come. In Portugal, Spain, and now in France, we’ve learned, we have to ask for the bill or it will never arrive. I asked for it, en français. I asked for it again, again en français. Finally, we got up and went over to the till, which is a slightly aggressive move but one we have seen others do when they were in a bigger hurry than the restaurant staff, so I knew it was within the limits of acceptable behaviour.

Then a man pushed in past me to stand ahead of me at the till. Little did he know how elevated my mood already was, courtesy of the gross grub.

I sort of glided past him again — I didn’t push — to stand at the front of the till again.

When the server finally came, the man pushed past me again and the server responded by looking after him instead of me, whom he had seen standing there for a bit already.

Now, I was really pissed off.

I turned to the man and told him off…en français… To my surprise, it just kind of bubbled out of me. Chances are, it was closer to gibberish than real French, but my message got through clearly enough, and he fired back in high-speed French that this was his country and it was his right to go first, and additional stupid words to that effect.

So I said back, I think probably with a little bit of haughtiness when I reflect back on it, that I was a visitor and I was there first.

He went on a tirade about Americans (sorry to my American family and friends), and I just cut him right off and simply said, I think rather scathingly (I’ve been told I have a pretty wicked stink-eye, although I’ve never seen it myself), “Je suis Canadienne.”

For a moment, that was enough.

He just stopped dead for a second and stared at me. Like, as if he were thinking to himself, “She understood all that?” (I didn’t, but I got enough to get the point.) Or, he might have been thinking, “Canadian? I thought all Canadians were nice. What’s with her?” I dunno. I don’t care, actually. I stopped him cold for a moment, and that in itself was rather satisfying.

Recovering himself, he started in on more jabbering, and I just said “C’est fini” and turned my back on him. He tried to say something else and I just repeated myself, with all my “I’m really pissed off at you” attitude.

Then I said, to no one in particular and everyone in general, “How rude,” in plain, clear, emphatic English.

It wasn’t until I saw the slightly alarmed look in the server’ eye that I realized the pair of us had been making a bit of a scene, and so I took advantage of that and dumped on him, next.

I told him the fish was disgusting (in a mix of English and French, my French was close to exhausted by then), and showed him a picture of the pile of fish guts on Jeff’s plate.

With great haste and much deference, all of which had been lacking up until that moment, he offered to remove the charge for Jeff’s fish off the bill. I accepted, we had the bill cut almost in half, paid it promptly, and left. I think he thought he was glad to see me go, but that was nothing compared to how glad I was to be gone from there!

I think dear, sweet Jeff was slightly embarrassed, or at least felt rather awkward, as things unfolded. But, when all was said and done, I think he was so pleased at the effectiveness of the final result of getting his meal credited when we had great doubts that it would be possible, that that assuaged at least a little of his discomfort.

And then I replayed it all in my head, and realized everything that had just transpired…in French.

I had no idea I had that much of it in me to be able to have an argument with a jerk in a restaurant. I’m not sure if my teachers in school would be proud or horrified, but I have to admit that I was pretty darned pleased with myself when I thought about it all afterwards! It takes a lot for me to dig in my heels like that, but together the restaurant and the pushy guy succeeded in getting me to that point, and there I was, with my Irish ire on red alert and, to my astonishment, my high school French flooding back onto my tongue and into my brain.

What a jerk…and what a disappointing meal.

But you know, they actually did me a favour: I feel so much more confident about coping with basics in French now. I really had a lot of fun with it at our dinner meal, where I’d been nervous about trying to say anything in French before that, so that’s kinda cool!

Now I *really* want to learn French, for real…

And so, once again, all’s well that ends well. 🙂