So I was a ballet dancer my entire young life. Started at 5 (I was preshus, let me assure you) and kept going until 21 or 22, when my knees gave out and real life kicked in and I had to like, earn a living.
Ballet is based in French and very often, taught in French, so obviously, I took French in High School and College, because I had a head start, right? Oui.
My teacher in High School was Mrs. Matthews. She was fun and great and we conjugated every er verb and ir verg and re verb under the damn soleil. When I went to college, thanks to Mrs. Matthews, I skipped French 101 and 102 and went straight to Second Year French with Monsieur Ponsard, who was actually French, OMG. Monsier Ponsard would have been suave and sexy, but he was actually a little weird and creepy and I do not remember a thing from that class besides saying anything harder than "Quel est votre nom?" and "Je suis à la bibliothèque." was just too much for my usually très hungover and overwhelmed with life and college and boys brain.
Still, I did fine and moved on with my life and even went to France with a boyfriend years later and did not completely embarress myself (with my language skills - the destination wedding and bouquet toss - totally another story.) I ordered food in fancy French restaurants and read street signs and was not one of those horrible American tourists who do not say hello and thank you to shopkeepers.
I did get a terrible stomachache after eating way too much brie and bread one afternoon, but I was in Provence and I was going to live the dream! So I sat in the sun and read poetry and ate cheese and bread and drank wine while my boyfriend whined about Real Food and Stinky Cheese and totally ruined the experience, which is why I dumped him and married someone else. Ha!
Anyway, back home to New York I flew, where late one summer evening, I walked into a deli for a sandwich before heading back to the office to lick more envelopes and stamps because the life of a party planner is ultra glamorous, non? The place was quiet and there was a little old lady standing at the counter, trying to make the greasy deli dude (We'll call him Eddie) understand her. Eddie just stood there, arms folded across his ample stomach, shaking his head. "Lady, I can't understand you." This is America, for cryin' out loud." Now, this dude was an American, born and raised on the South Side of Somewhere and he was being a complete Yankee jerk.
I walked forward to better eavesdrop, I mean help her out, and finally heard her tiny feeble French voice. "Jambon!" she whispered, cowed by his brutish lowered brow as she pointed at the Boars Head Section. "Show her the ham." I told Eddie. He looked at me and scowled like I was making him look stupid. No help from me needed there. heh. "Pick up. The ham. And show it to her." I said in my party planner bossy voice I use when waiters at the Waldorf start slowing down after the entree course is on the table and the patrons actually request stupid things like wine and water and stuff. Stupid Union Waldorf Waiters.
Eddie sighed and leaned down into the display case and picked up the ham and lifted it gently out of the case like it was his first born son, swaddled in slimy brown sugar and preservatives. A smile lit up her tiny wrinkled face and I was so proud. A few more sentences fairly flew between us (Not Eddie mind you, he was sulking the whole time and I know he put his thumb in my tuna salad) involving bread choices and cheese and my Little Old French Lady Friend and I walked out with our sandwiches into the warm summer night. I have no idea what she was jabbering on about at the end, but I knew I had done a good thing.