On the way to work this morning, a man holding a folded subway map motioned to me and then his map. Happy to give directions when I can, I walked over to where he was standing. As I approached, he motioned to the map again and began, “excuse moi…”
Before I could even think about it, I replied, “oui, monsieur?”
That elicited a surprised look and a stream of French dialogue. I think I heard “parlez” and “francais” in there somewhere. “Non, non, non, monsieur. Un peu, un peu.” My crude way of saying that I don’t speak French very well.
Slightly disappointed in my unwitting deception, he cut to the chase. Rockefeller Center. Good, something easy. I pointed in the general direction, but he seemed skeptical, motioning to it on his map. Reaching back into my memories of high school French, I conjured up the approximate French version of “49th and 5th” and pointed once again in the right direction. Relived that I seemed to know where he wanted to go and that I was able to tell him so in (mangled) French, he gave me a nod, said “merci monsieur,” and headed off.
“C’est rien. Au revoir monsieur,” I replied after him.
He looked back at me, suspicious, as if to say, “are you sure you don’t speak French?”