Conversation with a Parisian Taxi Driver

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“Pour Collins?”

“Oui”

“Gare Montparnasse, s’il vous plait.”

“Pourquoi la gare Montparnasse?”

“Je vais prendre le métro  à la Gare du nord.  C’est plus rapide, non?”

“En ce moment, Gare du Nord est bien.  Le trafic ne sera pas mauvais.  Quelle heure de votre train?”

“18h13”

“Oui, it’s ok.  Le trafic est OK.”

“OK, nous irons à la Gare du Nord.”

[silence]

“Vous etes anglaise?”

“Non, non. Je suis américaine.”

American?  Well, now I must speak English.  I always tell my American passengers that I must practice English with them.  This is my classroom.  Yes?”

“OK, but I need to practice my French.”

“It’s OK.  Why are you not taking the plane?”

“I live in London.”

“Yes, the train is faster.”

“I love America.  I watch American films, American TV.  I love it.”

“Yeah?”

“I learn so much when I watch the films.  You see how Americans live.  And what their villages look like.”

“You know sometimes they’re not always filmed where they say there are.  It might be Toronto you’re actually seeing, not New York.”

“Uh, yes.  I love America!”

“I love Paris.”

“Paris.  It’s OK.  It’s not America.”

“That’s good, no?”

“I would love to visit America, but I need to stay here and make the money.  I have my family.  I want to go to New York and Florida.”

“I wouldn’t go to Disneyland.”

“I love American films.  I love Clint Eastwood.  He’s a good actor and, um, how do you call it?  Un metteur?”

“Director.”

“Yes!  Director!  I saw Le Changement.  I love 1930s.  I love Al Capone and Prohibition.”

“I love that period, too.”

“And I love the spy and crime films.  I love them because in America you can make films about the government being bad and it’s OK.  Even if it’s not true, you can make these films.  In France, the films are all the same.  A woman has a problem with her husband or psychology woman; a man has a problem with his psychology woman or his one, two, three lovers.  Always the same.  Pfft.  Boring!”

“Maybe one day you will get to America with your family.”

“Yes, I want to.  Hopefully next year or the year after that.”

“It’s not as expensive as you think.”’

“Yes, I make the money and go.  You know another thing about Americans?  You say ‘love you’ when you finish a call to your family.  In France, we don’t do that.  My daughter wrote me a note and signed it ‘love you.’  I didn’t understand.  It must be the young people here who are starting to do it.  No one in France would say ‘Je t’aime’ when you hang up the phone.  It’s funny.  Americans are so open.”

“I suppose so.”

“Je t’aime, Je t’aime.  Strange.”

“Were you born in Paris?”

“Ah, see that is the question.  You Americans are funny.  You ask these questions.”

“Um, I was just asking because France is a big place and I can’t place accents.”

“Ah, but you see, in France that is a big question.  I was born in Algeria, but I am 50 years in Paris.”

“So you’re French.”

“I am not French.  Not to the people here.  They ask this question, but they do not think you are French here.  This place is crazy.”

“I think Sarkozy is crazy.”

“Pfft.  Sarkozy.  Pfft.  I want it to be different for my children.  My son ask me, ‘Dad, I was born here, and live here.  Am I French?’  I say to him, ‘Don’t ask me.  I’m still asking myself that question.’  This country is crazy.”

“In America, if you are born in America or become a citizen later, you are American.”

“See, that’s why I love America.  I tell my son to make the money and leave, but I don’t know.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yes, bad.  Well, here we are.  That’s €36.”

“Can I have a receipt please?”

“Before you go, I tell you this:  France went to war with Algeria, then they ask us to come over and make their money, but then they tell us we are not French.  I hope it’s different from my children.”

“I hope so too.  Merci.”

“Merci…et bon voyage.”

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