Saturday, October 10, 2009

Schedules and Schemes

My classes at Anglais Oral Accéléré are mostly very enjoyable and the type of work affords a schedule that results in my having some time off during the day, either for lunch or a siesta, which is always nice. Since my working hours change each week it also doesn’t feel like a routine which prevents me from getting bored. There are two offices; one on Boulevard Voltaire near Oberkampft metro and the other in the prestigious 16th arrondissement on rue Paul Valery. I have to walk right past the Arc de Triomphe when at the Paul Valery office and it is then that I feel most like a true Paris resident as I’m casually listening to my iPod rather than snapping away at the arc or the Champs Elysees with a digital camera.

One day last week I had a two hour break between classes at the Paul Valery office so John and I decided to get something to eat. Most restaurants that we came across were very expensive and in the end we settled on a somewhat dubious looking Chinese in the next street along from the office. It was a tiny little place and all the food was pre-cooked and sitting in trays waiting to be micro-waved by the staff behind the counter. There were just two other guys inside sitting at the counter talking quietly. I strolled in feeling rather confident of my French at that point and, as a result of being so used to working at Breakfast in America, announced to the room ‘Bonjour, vous etes deux’, what I should have said was ‘nous sommes deux’ – there are two of us, instead of there are two of you. The people behind the counter looked at me, somewhat puzzled, whilst John burst out laughing and I hurriedly ordered my food and went to sit down with a very red face.

Yesterday I was, once again, given a demonstration of how much poverty there is in Paris and, as a result, the numerous scams people come up with in an attempt to save money. I was exiting Oberkampft metro on my way to teach a class and as the automatic barriers swung open to let me through a homeless man with filthy clothes, a wild mop of tangled hair and a stench unlike any other shoved me to one side in an attempt to get through the barriers before they closed. At first I naturally assumed I was in his way for some reason so made an attempt to move to one side before my brain caught up and I came to the conclusion that, for once, I wasn’t in the wrong. He was far too late anyway and the barriers had shut behind me long before he had a chance to get through. Nevertheless he kept on struggling to get past me and when faced with an unusual situation I usually switch back to English and so, in my best English accent, I asked him to ‘please get out of the way’. When I was clear of the barriers I looked back to see him struggling with the queue of people who were exiting after me, none of whom looked at all impressed with his efforts.

After this little episode my student who I was supposed to be teaching that afternoon was an hour late. It wasn’t worth going home again so I was getting some fresh air outside the office when a man walked past me and bent down to pick up a ring he had allegedly found on the pavement. In fact, he had had it in his hand all along and I had been warned of this scam before. He offered it to me and I said I didn’t want it but he kept on persisting and in the end I raised my voice and said that he should have it if it was such a nice ring. The scheme is such that when some unsuspecting individual accepts the ring, along with the unexpected kindness of a complete stranger, the scammer demands five euros for it. Since they have owned it all along it is probably made from a worthless metal and spray-painted gold. I wanted to explain that I didn’t want a great fat gold wedding band that he had ‘found’ on the pavement, that I knew he hadn’t found it at all and that I certainly wouldn’t pay him for something if he had found it on the street, but I don’t think my French would have been quite up to it.


  1. Dull: No
    Pretentious: Not at all
    Inaccesible: Certainly not

    A pleasure to read: YES

  2. Love your blog :)