This is the 9th post in a summer series on what travel has to teach us about life.
A food market in the middle of Paris.
I am doing my best to communicate to a deadpan grocer that I want
“Je voudrais…lettuce,” I say. I don’t know the French word for lettuce.
I try again. “Lettuce?”
He says something in French to me, which I don’t understand, so I
simply reply, “Vert”. This apparently feeds his grumpiness because
he turns and walks to the back of his facility without a word.
Cool. I have encountered my first rude Parisian since arriving in this
As my put-upon produce provider lingers at the back of his stand an
older British man appears beside me and engages me in some polite
conversation. It is a relief to speak my native language with someone
after feeling stupid for not knowing the French word for lettuce. I think
to myself, ha ha! The tables have turned, now the grocer doesn’t
understand what the British man and I are saying.
The produce seller returns with a beautiful head of green leafy lettuce
– showing it to me like I am mentally handicapped.
“Oui, merci,” I say. My “friend” behind the counter then begins
weighing out my other items on his electronic scale and writing down
The British man eyes the basket on the scale, turns to me and
whispers, “You think he is charging you for the weight of the basket
on the scale?”
“Oh no,” I reply. “The basket is zeroed out.”
The French grocer looks up from his weighing task. “Is there a
problem?” he asks.
Voila! Mon epicier speaks perfect English!
Question: Why did the grocer pretend he didn’t speak English?
Answer: Probably for the same reason I felt a surge of pride at
conversing with the British gentleman in a language I thought the
grocer did not understand. It satisfies the ego.
I know something that you don’t know. Ipso facto presto change-o, I
am superior. Of course, in order for me to be superior, the other
person must be inferior. What a fun game this is! Superior,
inferior…let me jockey into position to get to the front of this race.
Yea! I win! Or, boo, I lost.
What have I won or lost?
Bruce King is a doctor of chiropractic in Houston, TX, with an eclectic background. Both a critically acclaimed New York stage actor and singer/songwriter in the genre of spiritual folk/rock, he has also used his creativity as a self-help book author, article writer, voice over artist, screenwriter, and director/producer. His current project is as a founding partner in Reformation Films, a new production company making movies that help people think outside the box of ordinary, limited reality. You can visit him at www.ReformationFilms.com.