Kaleidoscope

The Phone Rang

Posted on: Jueves 10 noviembre 2005

Thursday. My office job finishes at 3:00 PM, the time to get on my bike and come back home, I’m usually taking off my shoes around 3:20 PM (it always takes me longer to come back home). Today was no exception, I was glad to have a break in the middle of the day, before going to teach at 5:00 PM.

Then, the Phone Rang.

In a moment of great inspiration, I answer: “Hello?”
Someone with a telemarketers voice: “May I speak to Mr. J. G.?” (My dad’s name. How come that person has my dad’s name on his list with my phone number? We don’t even live in the same country…)
Me: “huh, no, you got a wrong number.”

A little while later, after a cup of tea, a bit of cleaning and eating a yogurt: The phone rings again. Second moment of inspiration: I answer.

Me: “Hello?” (always polite)
Someone with an elegant voice: “Bonjour, Madame B?” (that’s my name, and believe it or not, in 3 years of marriage it’ s the first time someone ever addressed me with my new name!)
*smile of a -now- very satisfied spouse*😀

This man was from the French Consulate in Montreal. I sent a couple of documents in registered mail earlier this week and he was calling to assure me that they had received everything. I won’t relate the whole conversation, pretty un-interesting for someone not concerned about my business, but it made me realize how the vouvoiement in the French language is an expression of politeness and respect. I don’t want to say anything against the French-Canadians, but this is something that disappears with them who don’t know how to address each other being formal.

I remember when I had just moved in Montreal, back in ’96, I liked the lack of formality from the québécois. I liked to be familiar with people I’d never met before. A couple of years after, when I was in a visit in France, I didn’t realize that one doesn’t say “bye!” at the drugstore, not because it’s an English expression, you can say that to a friend in French, but because it’s too familiar!! Even for the drugstore vendor!

Anyhow. This whole story to explain that today I’ve had a nice surprise. I think that I’m starting to like the French people again.

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