What I lack for in French, I make up with knack for sarcasm. Unfortunately only one of these forms of communication is widely recognised in France.
So much was clear today when I was embroiled in a minor road rage dispute on the way to work.
Pulling out on my (plug alert) beautiful Chappelli Nero bicycle I had the whole road to myself. It being August, any Parisian with the means to has evacuated.
All that’s left behind are the tourists, ex-pats, and people not sufficiently high up in their meager jobs to make a claim for the highly sought-after August vay-cay.
I suspect the jerk I encountered was one of the latter. I was leisurely riding the cobblestone road down to the canal, and perhaps, yes, not sticking to the bus/bicycle lane (go figure the safety rationale behind that pairing), when I became aware of being followed by a man on a generic moped (aka, not a cool Vespa).
Aware that I was being closely following but failing to acknowledge him, he started beeping incessantly.
From what I guessed, this guy probably had two goals in life. One was to make me have a shit day, and the other was to, one day in the distant future, upgrade to owning a Twingo.
“Stay on the right-hand lane,” he yelled, when we neared the first set of lights. Despite being red, I pulled through them, making use of a recent change in French law that made it legal to do so.
He followed me through to the next set.
“You can’t ride through red lights,” he continued to badger.
Neither could he. The fact we was unaware of the law didn’t surprise me, in fact I imagined it indicative of a trend.
By this stage I still hadn’t said anything, but was deciding what the best approach was.
From experience, a “Sorry, are you the traffic police?” would have been too incendiary. I didn’t want to get too offensive after all.
Once, in a past life, I’d told a guy at Smorgy’s restaurant in Melbourne who was publicly heckling my driving in the queue, “Sorry, I didn’t realise I was getting followed to Smorgy’s by Michael Schumacher.”
He didn’t take too kindly to it, and kicked in my headlight. That Smorgy’s since burnt down, for the betterment of all.
Instead, this time I opted for a perfectly diplomatic solution, which I’ve found works well in France and is satisfactory for both parties.
“Oh gosh, I’m really sorry to have destroyed your awesome day,” I said, the veneer of sincerity masking deep sarcasm.
Luckily, French people don’t get sarcasm. As such, he believed I was subjugating myself to his berating, and therefore he won.
“Tres bien, bonne journee,” he said and drove off.
…Leaving me to the smug satisfaction that, in Australian English, I’d just derided him as a massive wanker, and not only that, he’d enjoyed it.