Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lessons from an Uncomfortable Taxi Ride

How do you know your French is improving? When you're finally able to put rude people in their place with your words.

After a dinner of homemade Moroccan food and a visit to a basement Karaoke bar in the Saint-Germain de Près neighborhood, I hailed a cab for myself, my roommate, and her colleague. It was nearly two in the morning and we were more than ready to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, our taxi driver had other plans.

It all started with him referring to me as "La Blonde," and proceeding to deduce that since I had light hair, I must be an American. Aggravating my dislike of being referred to as a hair color is not the way to get on my good side, but I'm tired of having to explain to people that I am not, in fact, blond, so I let it go. However, when he started to mock the supposed misfortunes of the American people, I didn't just smile and give a polite "oui." He seemed especially pleased to declare that, among other things, the dollar to euro exchange rate must make life terrible for us and that the rising gas prices were unbearable. It felt good to be able retort with a dry and matter-of-fact "Seeing as how I'm used to living in an expensive American city I don't find the exchange rate to be a difficulty at all and gas might be rising in the US but prices still remain less than half of what you have to pay in Europe," thank you very much.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to be clever in a second language. You simply have to develop a thick skin and become accustomed to swallowing your pride when insulted. While I would rather not find myself in such situations, I was proud that I could at least stand my ground and verbally indicate to the driver that his comments were not appreciated. The cab ride seemed to drag on forever, and we thought that our friend in the front seat would never stop talking about the failings of American society. Eventually, we got him to be quiet by switching into our own language and changing the topic to the night's events. For all his knowledge about life in the United Sates he blessedly didn't speak a word of English.

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