Several Saturdays ago I took a little trip on the line 8 to the Ecole Militaire stop to pay a special visit to a jewelery designer... Some of you who live in or who have had the opportunity to visit the City of Lights know that the line 8 is a special kind of train. Normally the seating on the metro trains is arranged in two sets of two side-by-side seats that face each other (try to say that ten times fast), with two jump seats, called strapontin, on the other side. If you can't visualize this, I'll make sure to take a photo on my way home tonight. However, on the line 8 (and also on the line 1) there are some very friendly seats at the front and back of each car where there are a set of three seats facing three seats.
On this particular Saturday I happened to snag a friendly seat and was working on the Interlocking Balloons scarf from Scarf Style in the softest Blue Sky Alpaca when a middle-aged gentleman and his wife sat in the two seats to my right.
Now, perhaps a little background or paranthèses on French behavior in the metro. I know that I am generalizing, but in many cases, when confronted with something or someone out of the ordinary, French people will stare long enough to make the someone quite uncomfortable (especially if they are American and are told from a young age that starting is not polite) but are actually too shy (or perhaps "polite") to actually ask the person what it is that s/he is doing. Or instead of staring, some people will just have a conversation speculating about what it is that you are doing, most likely loud enough for you to follow along. Generally, it goes something like this:
Stage directions: Tricoquine (played by Kate Winslet) sitting quietly on the metro, knitting in hand, purse on lap, Ipod tuned to latest Meet the Press or NewsHour podcast. French man with beret and French woman with scarf sit in the seats facing Tricoquine. They proceed to stare at her for several seconds and then:
French man [whispering in French] : tu te souviens quand maman me tricotait des pulls, chérie? qu'est ce tu croie qu'elle tricote la jeune fille?
Translation: Remember when Mother used to knit my sweaters, darling? What do you think the young woman is knitting?
French woman [whispering in French, slightly annoyed that her husband is still a momma's boy]: oui, je m'en souviens, Jacques, comment est que j'aurais pu oublier ta mère, c'était une sainte. [elle lève les yeux au ciel] Mais bon, je crois que cette fille tricote une chausette.
Translation: Yes, Jacques, I remember. How could I for forget your mother [rolls eyes] she was a saint. But anyways, I think she's knitting a sock.
At which point Tricoquine wants to yank out her earphones, remind the people that just because she has little white cords coming out of her ears, she isn't immune to the world around her, kindly thank them for taking notice of her work and explain that no, it isn't a sock or a sweater but a scarf. Oh, and please kindly stop staring, its making me nervous.
Back to the regularly scheduled story. Fearing a repeat of the aforementioned scenario, I notice the gentleman craning his neck over my shoulder to see what exactly it is that I am doing.
All of a sudden he opens his mouth,
- how many needles are you using, there?
A bit startled, I look at him as if he were speaking alien tongue.
-well, Monsieur (which after 12 years of speaking French, I still cannot pronounce properly), there are two, I say, showing him my addi turbo size 3.5mm circs.
-No, No, No, he tisks, what was that other little one in your hand, pointing to the green cable needle now perched in my lap.
-ah yes, of course, it is a cable needle, you know to make torsades, I explain, showing him the cables I had just made.
By now, his wife and the three people in the seats facing us are looking at us, either because they can't possibly imagine strangers talking to each other on the metro, or they are genuinely curious, or both.
We proceed to have a conversation about the scarf, he and his wife compliment me on my handiwork, and I receive nods of approval from the three passengers facing us as I show them the scarf, Vanna White style .
The couple got off a few stops later and we wished each other bonne journée. It goes to show you that sometimes people will surprise you.
PS: I still haven't finished the scarf.