Surreal conversations are a way of life for expats. You suddenly find yourself being washed down a river of total incomprehension.
That happened to me today, but this one wasn’t of my making – for a change!
I was at the pharmacy buying some French Lemsip equivalent (not quite the same thing and with at least 500% less sugar) from one of the assistants, when the boss bustled in. I suddenly became aware he’d fixed me with his gimlet eye.
The following conversation takes place in French, and with a lot of puzzlement on my part.
“Did you find the box?” he demanded.
My brain, rather slow after a week of its owner suffering from a nasty virus, was still slowly cranking into gear so the echo was automatic.
“Yes. I brought it round at midday.”
“There was no one there, just the two dogs. I left it on the small table in the living room.”
Cranking complete but I was at the ‘does not compute’ stage. No, at the ‘totally does not compute’ stage. The quandaries were as follows:
- Why on earth should the pharmacist be delivering me a box in the first place?
- We were all in the house at midday or thereabouts.
- Yes, we have two dogs, but only one of them was outside this morning. Nessie was indoors and Tobi was pottering around in the garden. If anyone had appeared who, for whatever reason we didn’t notice, Tobi, who is not at all brave, would have begun her ‘somebody, help me!’ barking.
- Even if, by some remote possibility, the guy had snuck in with a totally unforeseen and unexplained delivery and left it in the gite, that is obviously an uninhabited building next to an obviously inhabited one, ie with lights on and smoke coming out of the chimney. Surely no one could be that dopey.
- Or could they?
Finally, it clicked. Boss Man thought I was someone else. Now, I like to think I’m quite distinctive with my red hair in a part of the world where there are very few redheads, and my fondness for hippie trousers and bright colours, but perhaps all expats look alike to the natives!
Boss Man was still smiling expectantly at me, clearly proud of his philanthropic gesture. I gave the only reply I could, not having the language at my fingertips to explain all the above-listed mental processes I had been through in a succinct and coherent manner. Give me five minutes or so, and I’d have been more or less there, although mostly in words of one syllable and with a generous smattering of gesticulations.
“Um, thank you,” I muttered, slightly embarrassed at all the attention I was getting. Boussac is the sort of place where people have no qualms about openly listening in to other people’s conversations, and often joining in. At least half a dozen people were following our exchange, and no doubt rolling their eyes at the stupidity of the Eenglissh woman who hadn’t found the box that this kind man had gone to extraordinary lengths to deliver to her. Pfft, these foreigners.
I scuttled out of the pharmacy quickly, head down.
But I meant what I said, on behalf of whoever he thought I was. Clearly someone with two dogs and a small table in their living room who was expecting a visit from the pharmacist!
And yes, I did check in the gite when I got home, just in case, but no box was there. I can only hope that if/when the pharmacy boss realises I’m not the person he thought I was, he’ll cringe slightly!
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