Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Yesterday we got on a bus for a ride that would take about 20 minutes.  It appeared that all the seats were taken so we stood toward the back, as the recorded announcement asks you to do, hoping that someone would get off and open up a seat.  After a few minutes a man who had just taken his seat near the back began to laugh with the woman in the adjacent seat (whom he hadn't appeared to know when he sat down) and they both got up and moved to the door, he saying to us "There are seats at the back, all the way at the back."  He sort of smirked as he said this.

We moved back, took the seats they had vacated, and breathed in.  Oops, bad idea.  It took about 10 seconds to realize that someone had done something really stinky, or rather not done something to avoid being really stinky.  I hadn't noticed that people were avoiding getting close to the man in the back corner, just behind the seats we had taken, who was clearly the source of the really putrid smell..

Just then a couple of individual seats opened up a bit farther forward and we moved quickly to grab them.  That's when the sociological experiment began and I had what I think is a new French cultural insight.  Or maybe it's international.  You'll let me know, right?

At least six people in the course of the ride moved to take advantage of the empty seats in front of M. Smelly, which were the only empty ones on a crowded bus.  After several moments all of them either changed seats or simply got up and stood farther forward.

Not once did any of those who knew what was happening mention to those moving back to get the seats that it might not be a good idea.  This is why I suspect it's a French thing; you don't talk to people you don't know, you don't offer unsolicited advice.  I murmured to a woman as she passed that she might not want to do that, but she paid no attention.

The look on her face a couple of seconds later...priceless.


Ksam said...

This is one aspect of French culture that I still find really frustrating. For example, the other day, I waited in a really long line to use one of the automatic stamp machines at the post office. I thought our line was going faster than the others, but didn't know why - until I got up to the front and saw that the machine wasn't working. Meaning all of the people in front of me had seen the exact same thing and just not bothered to tell those in line behind them.

I turned around and told the people behind me it wasn't working, but funnily enough, not a single one believed me and they all proceeded to try it for themselves. Go figure!

Janey and Co. said...

Shelli that is really a funny story..and food for thought...Then I read Ksam's comment which is unbelievable!Wonder where the lack of trust for strangers comes from?

Shelli said...

I'm not sure the lack of trust for strangers is a French many times have you pushed the elevator button when someone was already waiting and would surely have pushed it? I do it all the time. ;-)