Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mea Culpa

To make up for excessive whininess and general miserableness I feel, I bestow on you an oldie but a goodie. Quite possibly one of my most favoritest things I have written. Even though it remains THE most embarrassing thing that has happened to me ever. Intrigued? I hope so...

It was like that scene from Pretty Woman...
(to set the scene, this takes place on a warm July night in Paris. I was there for a month "studying" abroad, doing a comparative legal program on EU v. U.S. law. It was actually very informative.) 
and I SO wish I was joking.

Okay: Heather (law school classmate) and I are trying to find a place for dinner in Paris. We grab the guide book. The place that we have sort of decided on doesn't, apparently, exist. Which is annoying because the guidebook is new. But we are like, eh, let's walk up to the big intersection up there and see where we are. I look around and notice that right across the street is this famous restaurant called La Closerie De Lilas that Jeff had eaten at earlier in the week. It's kinda busy but we go in, say something to the hostess that is most likely not translated and she tells us to go to the bar. We head to the bar where we have yummy cocktails served on coasters that say that it is an American Bar. We're like, why does it say it is an American Bar when it is most definitely a French bar? Well, I pull out the 1970 edition of French phrases my grandma gave me, which has great things like how to get a luggage porter at the train station in it. It happens to let you know that an American Bar means you can get fancy cocktails there, which is not the case in French bars (don't even get me started on the ice thing). I also discover that I like green olives while sitting there drinking our 14 Euro cocktails.

It becomes fairly apparent that the hostess has forgotten ALL about us. Heather goes to check out the situation because her limited French is better than my limited French. She says something in French and walks away (btw, everyone keeps speaking French to Heather and I. I don't know if we blend in, or they don't care or what, but I have been asked for directions a phenomenal amount of times or where things are or a variety of other things that I can barely even respond to). The head looking guy comes out and seats us out on the patio. Apparently, we find out later from Jeff that there are two different restaurants, and that may have been what the French hostess was saying to us but we totally missed that. We sit down and are given French menus, we're working our way through it. There is a large table seated to my right that is pretty lit. There are two very cute blonde women to our left. Now, the waiter realized that we were American and brought us an American menu. As soon as our voices were raised to speak to the waiter, the table next to us groaned. Loudly. Certain people in France, for reasons that I don't quite understand, HATE English speakers. And look, I try. I got my "I would like" and hellos and goodbyes and pleases down. (I won't even attempt to spell them, it's an affront to the French language.) But I don't speak French. I wish I did. I truly do wish I did. But the two craptastic years of HS French I got at SI aren't helping me.

Anyway, I notice these people don't like us. But somehow Heather thinks the blondes don't like us. We had different impressions of this situation.

We decide to order the escargot to start. I order a veal dish, Heather gets scallops. It's all very lovely.

Until the escargot actually comes out.

Seven pretty snail shells in a dish of rock salt.

Disclaimer here: I have been going to pretty nice restaurants my whole life. My mom orders snails pretty frequently when we go somewhere and they are on the menu. But up until this point in my life I have never actually EATEN the snail. I usually just dip my bread in the garlic herb butter stuff AROUND the snail. I also have fairly good manners, I think. This is something that was very important to my parents because of the firm belief that you can't buy class.

So I use the tiny fork to get the snail out of the first shell. It's pretty tasty. I think it tastes "earthy" has an of the earth/dirt quality to it and is quite lovely.

Then, in what will from now on be THE most embarrassing story OF MY LIFE, I attempt to be polite and pick up the snail shell using the spring loaded snail tongs so that I can pour the lovely stuff still in the shell onto my bread.


It goes FLYING. I have green goo all over my shirt. But more embarrassingly, the man with his back to me at the table of the people who hate Americans for speaking English, has green goo ALLLLLLLLLL over the back of his suit jacket. I am MORTIFIED. I can't even function. And probably disappointing the New York Times Ethitist, I say nothing. I do nothing. He hasn't noticed. He hasn't said anything. Even if he did all I would be able to muster was a "Je suis TRES desolee!" And offer him money for his stupid jacket to get cleaned. I have embarrassed my family, I have humiliated myself, I'm going to get kicked out of France for not properly using the stupid snail tongs. All I want to do is crawl under the table and we're still on the first course. I am now going to spend the rest of my meal obsessing over when I get found out. Oh. And I have NO idea where the shell went.

Heather is trying to calm me down, we're reacting very calmly but seriously folks, all I can do is wait for the moment when the man next to me figures out he has something on his jacket. They've already paid. Eventually they are going to stand up and leave the restaurant and someone in his party is going to realize that dripping down his jacket is green snail goo. And I am going to get yelled at by an angry Frenchman.

So I go through the rest of our meal, trying to enjoy it because we're dropping some serious coin on it, but also not enjoying it at all because I am going to get screamed at in a language I don't understand. Heather keeps trying to put me at peace saying that that table is all too drunk to notice and that it'll be fine, he won't even care and that she has my back if he does yell at me.

This is soooo nauseating. I am so nervous. Should I tell the waiter so he can alert the guy so we can just deal with it? I just sit there frozen. For the next hour and half. Half his table leaves, he gets up, moves around. Nothing.

This being France, they are completely done with their meal, haven't ordered any new drinks but also aren't moving.

Just as we are finishing our meal, I think they figure it out. But they are speaking French about it and I can't possibly look over there because any eye contact will reveal me as the culprit. And I think the blonde ladies said something making fun of the guy. But I get no reaction. I don't get yelled at in French. Maybe they ARE too drunk to care? Or to figure out what happened??

I make it through the meal. I pick up my purse to pay. My purse that has been on the ground by my feet. My purse that now contains a snail shell and smells strongly of garlic. Yep. And you bet your ass I'm taking home a snail shell as my French souvenir.

And even though he didn't notice, I was still SO happy to get out of that restaurant, I practically sprinted to the RER station.

But I'll be going back there for the really yummy drinks...

So mom, I apologize for failing you in the field of proper table etiquette as related to the stupid effing, and from what I can tell, useless, snail tongs.

J'suis TRES desolee.

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