Oct 18, 2006

Cherchez la femme on the urban railway

I started taking the urban railway to work recently because luckily a depot near my home was added to the route. It's a brisk 20 minute walk from the rail station to work and vice versa and my rump is in dire need of the rewards of walking.

The morning crowd consists of the usual silent, sleepy-eyed commuters that use mass transportation vehicles all over the world. Confusingly, however, the afternoon train is stocked with a lot of tourists. French ones. Loud, clamorous ones. The train's final destination is Corinth so I'm guessing either they're doing a little Isthmus sightseeing or they're secretly colonizing.

The first time I traveled with the Frenchies I thought them quaint, that they added a bit of old-continent panache on the hum-drum ride home. But, hey, fellas, pipe down, s'il vous plait! Can't you see that most of us are trying to read our books, mellow out with our MP3 players, catch a few zees? Yeah, we're glad you like Greece too; glad you're on vacation while we're not, but keep it down. There's no need to shout from one end of the vehicle cabin to the other where vos amis are seated.

Aside from their loudness I don't mind a bit. Au contraire, one particular French fellow gave me something to blog about:

The other day a couple of pretty young greek lasses made a mad dash into the train that was about to leave. They were very pretty and all male stares followed them. They plopped themselves in the only available seats next to me and between catching their breaths and fanning themselves, they loudly chattered how lucky they were they found what-not on sale in their favorite color and who was dating who.

From the corner of my eye, I realized that one French tourist was about to prowl. He said something in French to his friends and proceeded to "make his move". He was sitting across the aisle from me and had to "go through me" to get to the girls. Indifferently, I kept reading my book as he hovered above me, a whiff of booze on his breath and raised a map in his hand.

- Excusez moi. Do you speak english, peut etre?
- Yes, we all answered.

He ignored me by focusing his eyes on the young ladies. Getting directions was his way of breaking the ice with them. I chuckled at his cliched come-on and tried to maneuver myself in such a way that his drool wouldn't slide on my book while he was making a play for the girls. The tipsy French man was turning on the "charm", while his French friends goggled at his feeble attempt to ooh-la-la them.

-Zis iz ze train for Corinth, n'est pas?
-Yes, said one girl.
-Yes, I echoed annoyingly in his ears.

-You show me, [French gibberish] pleez, pointing to his map.
-I'm sorry, could you repeat that? asked the girl, unsure of his request.
He stumbled around trying to build some form of sentence, with badly accented english words, a lot of french and even threw in a greek hello and thank you. The guy was embarrassing himself pretty bad and I wanted to slap him silly: Shut up already!

Finally he had a brainstorm...

-Parlez vous francais? he asked in an exasperated voice, having used up all his unintelligible English vocabulary.
-No, sorry, replied the girl, shrugging her shoulders.
-Mais OUI! I answered boisterously; glad that I could annoy him some more because his armpit was now directly over my head, seeing as he had glided his arm towards the girl's side. (Ah, yes, ze French invented parfums and now, we all know why).

The girl kept asking him in English what he wanted; he pointed to some dots on the map, pointed to the girl, babbled in French and realized that this wasn't getting him anywhere and furthermore... Mon Dieu! There iz a pesky, middle-aged, plump female unintentionally (?) jabbing him wiz her book. He surrendered, sat back down and finally looked at me with a disappointed frown.

"C'est la vie, n'est pas?" I smiled at him and went back to reading.

His friends laughed. He didn't.