Humans and Paradoxical Parisians

There is a fundamental problem with all human beings, and that is that we always want more.  There are people that will tell you this is not a problem, and that it can only lead to further success in life, earning more money, or getting a raise and being able to buy that house that you want.  However, there is an equally as valid argument for why this is not healthy.

In order to feel contentment, one must not want for more.  Yet, once we achieve a goal, we often enjoy the feeling of triumph for a short time, and then we want more.  Take, for instance, my goal of getting to La Fromagerie et Le Boulangerie: I was trying to get there for a few days.  Once I did, I felt triumphant.  In my journal I even began my entry with, Je suis triomphante!  How proud I was!

Now, I am sitting in my apartment in Paris, fully funded, and yet I feel discontent.  The reason is that I did not hear from my Dutch friend who was coming into town, my cousin is tired from her school week and sleeping, and I hear people in the street having fun, and I have no one to play with!  Boo. Hoo.  Right?  I’m even disgusted with myself!

When I first arrived, it was enough to be in a Parisian apartment, on my own, with a glass of French wine and a baguette and brie.  Now, I have all those things, and the opportunity to write, but I want more! Well, frankly, I know the area is safe, and I could go out, and there are bars open, but I just do not feel up to it.  Perhaps that is where the real frustration comes in.  Not only that, I am disappointed that I do not have more conversational French in my repertoire after all of my French schooling.  I would stick out like a sore thumb, and when I first arrived in town, I was willing to take that, but now I am a bit spent.

A few days ago, I was, in my opinion, harshly judged in a cafe.  It was my second night, and everything was going so well.  I could tell I was in a safe area, and there is a cafe/bar that stays open in my area until 2 am.  I went there for a drink, and the waiters did not come to take my order.  After a few minutes, one came up and asked if I was waiting for someone, and I told him no.  Then, a few minutes later, another waiter came to take my order and I told him what I wanted.  Again, this man asked if I was waiting for someone.  I told him no.  Apparently it was strange for me to be drinking alone. Now, in the U.S. this is not common, but I surely do not think people would be this surprised.

Finally, I was served my drink, and because I was a bit uncomfortable, I was on my phone.  This is an affliction most Americans have, and at home is drives me insane.  So I was a bit miffed by my own hypocrisy.  However, there were only two other couples in the cafe and two men having a drink, so I didn’t think it was rude or offensive.  It was also the only time my family and I had been able to speak since I had arrived.

I noticed the waiters staring, and some mumbling, but I could not believe the cellphone would be that offensive.  I lowered it at times, and decided not to let them bother me, because I was a paying customer, and enjoying my time.  I ordered a second drink, and continued to enjoy the cafe, and message my family.

Now, anyone who has been in France knows that cafes take forever to give you your bill.  It is part of the charm and culture that there is a place that is not rushed, compared to our usual lives.  However, the waiter came before I had even finished my second drink, and in French said, “whenever you are ready” and left my check.

Even before I experienced this, my host had told me I would find the French paradoxical, (and for the record, she told me she did not think it sounded like I did enough to offend them).  At first, I did not know what she meant, but then my cousin told me a story about when she accidentally bumped into a woman on the subway with her bag.  She turned to apologize, and the woman yelled at her.  This apparently happened to my cousin’s friend as well.

I told my host that I finally understood what she meant.  On the one hand, Parisians can relax all day in a cafe, sip their wine, slowly eat their meal, and stroll on the street in a way that every New Yorker has forgotten, and yet, there are still some unwritten rules, and many ways that a tourist can bring a Parisian to quick anger.

As for the things I can control: I am here, in my apartment, relaxing with a bottle of Bordeaux, a ripe avocado, a baguette and some brie.  I know life is not really bad, and I am fortunate.  I am living in the here and the now, and my writing helped bring me back to a place of appreciation.

The adventure continues…

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