Will Not Miss Mister

, , , , | Right | October 18, 2019

(In France, as probably almost everywhere, non-profits hire students to stop people in the street to ask them for donations. It’s expected that they remain friendly and smiling, and people seem to take that as a “please abuse me” sign. Sure, they can be a bit annoying, but they never insist once you tell them you’re not interested. I have a rather old bike which tends to fall apart easily, needing me to stop for a minute or two to pick up the broken parts and put them back together. One day, I stop right next to a student working for an NPO and hear this exchange between the employee and an old guy.)

NPO Employee: “Hi! Do you have a minute?”

(Note that in French, using words such as, “sir,” “mister,” etc., would be weird in that sentence and setting.)

Old Guy: “If you want to talk to me, you’ll call me mister!”

NPO Employee: *hesitant* “Okay, and does mister have a minute?”

Old Guy: *with a smug smile* “No!”

(I don’t like it when a**holes seem to think they can bother whomever they want, just because they’re younger, or for whatever reason. I stand up from my improvised bike repair and walk up to the old guy. I’m a 20-ish female, but I’m 1.80m — 5’9” — and am very well-built, so I tower over him.)

Me: *in the sweetest voice I can muster* “Then why did mister feel the need to importune that underpaid student? Would mister deign explain it to someone who isn’t contractually obligated to smile and be polite to him, or would mister rather f*** off?”

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Society Is Transitioning With Them

, , , , | Working | October 12, 2019

(I study dentistry in France. I’m a VERY anti-social justice woman, but I still think it’s important to support real issues, like gay and trans rights. Therefore, I educate myself on those topics, perhaps a bit more than the average person. This takes place at the dental clinic. We get the names and file number of patients on paper and then have to get them from the waiting room by calling their name out loud. I open my patient’s file using their number and read through it quickly, not paying much attention to their name. I see them being referenced as a woman, with pronouns like she and her. I then go and get them by calling “Mrs. [Last Name], and an older woman stands up and accompanies me to my chair. I then notice that the first name on the file is male. It sometimes happens that we get patients with the same last name confused, so I check:)

Me: “Um, sorry, but… what’s your first name? There might be a problem with the file.”

Patient: “Oh, it’s [Male Name], but I use the name [Female Name] now. I haven’t legally changed sex because that would make me lose my pension, but I am male to female transgender.”

Me: “Oh, all right. I guess you want me to refer to you by using female pronouns?”

Patient: “Well, you can call me [Female Name]!”

Me: “Haha, I can’t really do that since I don’t know you that well, but sure, I’ll call you ma’am, then.”

(The appointment goes well, and we chat about how and why she came to find out she’s a woman. At the clinic, our chairs are basically in half-open cubicles, so people walking by can see and hear everyone’s patients. After I’m done treating her, a guy from my class approaches me. It’s worth noting his father is an imam — a Muslim prayer leader — and he was raised VERY conservatively.)

Guy: “So… What was up with your patient?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Guy: “Well… I don’t get it. Was it a man? A woman? Was it a woman who wanted to be a man? Was he wearing a wig?”

Me: *pause* “Bruh.”

Guy: “What? That’s weird.”

Me: “Well, she’s male to female. When she was young, she was a man, physically at least. Now, she’s taking hormones; that’s why she has a female body. She identifies as a woman, so that’s what she is. She just wasn’t born in the right body, so to speak. And yes, that’s her real hair… You know that if you let yours grow, it will get long, as well, right?”

(I know I simplified it a bit, but my colleague was mystified by the concept of transgender people, so I didn’t want to overcomplicate it for him. To his honor, he didn’t feel “disgusted” or anything of that sort, just confused. I didn’t think there still was anyone under forty in France who didn’t know what a transgender person was!)

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An All-You-Can-Eat Defeat

, , , , | Working | October 1, 2019

(I am in a small beach town in the south of France vacationing with my husband and my son. The first night there, we go to an all-you-can-eat buffet near the beach. I have never tried most of the seafood they have in the buffet so I decide to take just a little bit of the things I want to try so I will not be wasting food in case I do not like it. I next go back to the buffet to get a full plate this time. After putting some rice, vegetables, and a few seafoods on it, I decide that I also want to take some mussels. The waiter is checking the trays to see what needs to be refilled. I am about to grab the spoon to take mussels when he grabs it instead and tells me:)

Waiter: *in French* “Since you already had mussels, you cannot take any more.”

Me: “Is this not an all-you-can-eat buffet, like the sign says in front of the restaurant?”

Waiter: “It is, but for the mussels, it’s only one serving per meal.”

(He stayed there, in front of the platter with the serving spoon in hand, looking angry. I was starting to feel really uncomfortable and the guy was not budging so I decided to go back to my table. I immediately told my husband what had just happened. The waiter heard me and quickly disappeared into the kitchen. A good ten minutes later, another waiter came to replace him. My husband told him what his colleague had told me earlier and he did not understand why he would have said something like that. He added that it must have been a misunderstanding but I know it was not — French is my mother tongue. My son and my husband had quite a few more plates before we paid and left, but since I had knots in my stomach, because of the rude waiter, I barely touched my plate. We saw him come out of hiding when we left the restaurant.)

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The Road Doesn’t Care About Your “Feelings”

, , , | Friendly | September 24, 2019

After getting out of work, my husband picks me up at home so we can go shopping together. On our way, we stop at this really busy intersection where we sometimes have to wait a few minutes to be able to make a left turn.

We are behind a woman in a minivan and there is no other car behind us at this point. After at least three minutes, she has had more than enough time to turn on many occasions but she keeps starting to move and then changing her mind and hitting the brakes. We are getting a bit annoyed, and when there is a break in traffic and she is still not turning, my husband decides to honk the car horn once. 

About a minute goes by and there is finally another break in traffic, but to our utter disbelief, she opens her door and gets out of her car. She walks up next to our car and starts screaming at my husband that he doesn’t understand that it’s when she “feels like it” that she will be able to turn and that she really needs to “feel like it”! She actually makes the air quotes saying that. My husband is at a loss for words, but I tell her that while she is waiting to “feel like it,” other people are waiting. The woman goes silent when she sees that there is now a long line of about ten cars behind us and other people are honking. A good thirty seconds later, the woman is still standing there like an idiot with her mouth open. 

Realizing that we are going to wait a really, really long time for her to move, my husband decides to change lanes and turn right to find an alternate route. A few minutes later at a stop sign, he makes eye contact with me, looking really serious and he asks me, “Did that just happen?” I tell him that two people can’t have the same hallucination, so yes, it did, and we both burst out in laughter. 

I really don’t know how she managed to get her driver’s license!

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A True Chef Becomes One With Their Menu  

, , , | Right | August 27, 2019

Years ago, my parents were visiting France as part of a scientists’ convention. While my father spoke no French at all, my mother was trying and prided herself on her progress.  

At dinner, the waiter asked, in French, what she would like and, once she answered, he visibly blushed and began to stammer. My mother wasn’t sure what the big deal was until a chuckling tablemate leaned over and informed her that she had just ordered the chef!

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