Friday, October 10, 2008

Personal Space

The French definitely have a different sense of personal space. Or maybe it's that they don't have one at all. This morning when I got to the gym, the locker room was completely empty. I picked a random locker, sat down on one of a dozen smallish benches and started changing, throwing stuff in my locker, and retrieving my water bottle, towel, and iPod which I placed on the bench beside me. Another woman walked in and made a beeline for the locker right next to mine, and started putting her own gear on the same bench. Well there wasn't much room (and remember there was no one else there and every other bench was available) she sniffed and said something to the effect that I needed to move over. I mustered the only response possible: I said "oui" and got the heck out of there.

Then there was the sunny morning in July when I was standing in a line outside a photography exhibit. Two older ladies queued up behind me and, within seconds, apparently decided that they would get in the fastest if they stood so close to me that they were literally breathing down my neck. Then came the best part. They started complaining to each other about how hot it was. Well, dang it, I wanted to say, of course you are hot. If you would just back off, you would discover that the ambient temperature is about 25 degrees cooler over there than when your front is touching my back. But of course, with all the burden of ugly Americans everywhere hanging over me, I just stood there and waited patiently. Like all good Parisians do.


Isabelle said...

Very funny post Anne!
You had probably taken the woman's personal bench at the gym (well according to her thoughts). You know, some people have their own little habits and can be pissed off very easily, and you have no idea why.

As for the 2 old ladies, they were probably trying to skip your place in line ;)

Meg said...

This is a cultural commonality. It seems people in the States do this as well; sit right next to you in an empty theatre, shove their shopping cart almost up your backside in line at the grocery store, choose the stall closest to you in a large public toilet.

Starman said...

You should have pushed her stuff off the bench. It would have pissed her off but you would have made her day, because she could spend the rest of her life telling everyone about her confrontation with the ugly American.

Anonymous said...

your blog just makes me laugh because i have had so many of the same experiences, though mine was on a park bench, when the whole bench was empty and a woman came up and asked me to move - and i said but the whole bench is empty, and she replied, "but i want to sit where you are sitting!" i live between l.a. and paris and will be back in paris for the month of december and would so like to meet you! my blog is where you can find my e-mail address. hope to hear from you! e.

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