I went to sign up for German class today. This is part of my bid to meet more people and get more parisian friends, as it looks like I'm here for a while. And let's face it, I can't meet everyone in bars.
I'd called up earlier in the day and enquired about classes and availability and levels and so on, only to be greeted by the rudest person imaginable on the telephone. "That was the rudest person imaginable" I said to Debbie, as I put the phone down.
Apparently, I needed to take a test and see how my level was before we could enter into any discussion of availability of places. So off I traipse to the school (the Goethe Institute, no less), in the 16th (embassy and trust fund land) to sit my test. It's a lovely part of town this, but suffers from the mess left behind by the local small, yappy-type dogs. The ones that wear Cartier collars, eat foie gras and drink Evian.
I avoid soiling my (new, lovely) shoes, find the school and head to the course administrator's office. "I'm here for a test"
"Answer these questions, come back" said the snappy woman behind the desk.
"Can I borrow a pen please?"
"You have come for a test and not brought a pen?" She semi-shouted. "What a curious creature you are. Borrow mine, but no nibbling".
I filled out what I could and took the test back to the office.
"You haven't finished" said the same stern lady behind the desk. It was now more than obvious that this was she of the phone call earlier.
"No, but I'd started to guess the answers and I didn't want good guesses to make it look like I'm better than I am".
"This is very bad for you". She said, tutting. "I see a class at very low level for you. Nothing very advanced".
"Perfect", said I. "Just what I am after".
"You have the choice of these classes" she said, waving a timetable at me.
As I perused the timetable (all four lines of it) she served three other people. One by one she was insulting and rude to them...almost.
The first girl had forgotten her piece of paper with the course and room number on it. "You I shall call Mademoiselle Forget Everything from now on. Room 3c. Next!".
The second person was a woman of advancing years who wanted to know if there was a lift. "If you are not fit enough for our building, you are not fit enough to go to Germany. Ve have many hills there you know". She said, sharply.
And finally came a handsome young man looking for a space on an advanced course. "I'd like to know if you have a space on an advanced course" he said.
"I most certainly do. For you anyway." She had suddenly turned all coquettish on him and was embarrassingly, obviously flirting with him. She sorted him out with a class and turned her attention back to me.
"For you, I see something different". She declared. She reached under her desk and pulled out, with a flourish, a piece of A4. "Ve have courses at the University. They are for a, well, younger clientele. You vill be happier there".
And so she sold me a course that was 30% cheaper than the ones at the school, with better hours for me and funkier classmates. And into the bargain, she had paid me the biggest compliment I've had since moving to France. I'm nearly 40, and under no illusions about looking my age.
"I don't do this for everyone" she said. "Please keep it to yourself". And, I kid ye not, she winked.
And so, feeling like a WWII collaborator I skulked out of the building, fearful that someone might accuse me of sleeping with the Hausfrau...