Recently I witnessed two arguments that were very French in nature. If someone was video taping me you would have seen some very wide eyes!
I was riding the metro for several stops and had been hearing a loud conversation for awhile. I had been tuning it out but after awhile I looked up to see what was going on, and realized it was a loud argument. This is abnormal because usually the metro is relatively quiet, especially during commuting hours (most people are zoning out on their phone/reading device/newspaper or are listening to music). After I started paying attention, I saw a young woman around age 18 on one side of the aisle in a group of 4 seats that face each other talking to a much older woman around age 65 who was in the same spot across the aisle. After I started watching, their voices got louder and louder. I don’t know what they were arguing about, they were talking too fast, but suddenly, the young girl stood up, and after getting around the man next to her who physically held her back, she started hitting the older woman repeatedly with her purse! I and others watching (i.e. everyone on the train) were shocked, and the people closer to her started yelling at the girl to stop. Eventually she did, and the older woman started saying she was going to call the police…then I got to my exit so I had to get off the train. Anyways, what shocked me the most (besides seeing someone hitting an old lady! who DOES that?) was hearing the young woman use vous when addressing the older woman. Even though she was physically assaulting her, she still didn’t dare disrespect her by using the informal tu form of “you.”
Christina and I were having our usual Thursday afternoon English-French lesson last week. Sometimes, we are momentarily interrupted by our colleagues for whatever reason and we end up chatting for a few minutes with other people in the lounge. Christina started talking to a history teacher, François, in French. I was feeling pretty tired that day and my French was very slow, so I started to tune them out instead of attempting to join in. After a few minutes, I wondered why they were talking for so long. Then I noticed that François was shaking! I turned my French brain on and deduced that François was really mad at Christina and she was acknowledging his anger but standing firm on her position. Their quiet discussion escalated after several minutes into a full-on shouting match, with me sitting there listening! Because I had stayed so long, I felt awkward doing anything but staying put, so I did, for the TEN MINUTES that it continued. Then I felt really awkward, so I got up and left the room to refill my water bottle. When I came back, they were still yelling, but shortly after they stopped. It turned out that he had placed a flier for a very extreme political party in every teacher’s locker as well as several fliers on all the tables in the teacher’s lounge. Christina took offense, especially because there is a “no politics or religion” rule in French schools, and reported it to the school principal. François was very mad at her for doing that. At the end of the fight, they suddenly stopped yelling and François said, “et, autrement, ça va?” and she responded, “Oui, et toi?” which basically means “By the way, how are you doing?” “Good, and you?” which would have made me laugh out loud if I hadn’t been super scared to get involved. I have never said anything so polite when I am in the height of fury. I suppose French people never forget to be polite, even when they are yelling at each other!
I don’t know why, but this kind of thing just fascinates me. I like observing other humans…I guess I should have studied anthropology!