Fear not, this is not the beginning of a French 101 dialog. This morning on our hotel’s sidewalk, to the right, we went for coffee and a croissant. I skipped the croissant and the coffee and chose tea and a tartine. The tartine is of course bread and butter, and since I try to avoid sugar like the plague, I told that to the waitress (no jam svp), the only employee working in that not so French-looking café.
The late breakfast started on the wrong foot. The waitress/server was all alone, preparing the food, serving and selling the pastries and breads to visiting customers. And we are speaking of a chic neighborhood! My wife received her coffee, but it was so little in a large cup, we asked for some hot water. The croissant didn’t show for a long while. My sliced baguette came with butter and jam. Sorry I said, I don’t need the jam, as I had mentioned when ordering. The butter was melted in the golden wrapping. “Miss” I said in French, the butter is melted, may I have cold and firm butter. She said in French: “If it is melted it is easier to spread!”.
Finally the tea arrived! Barely enough water for a cup of tea. I said nothing, as the server managed to find firm butter from the kitchen underground. All of a sudden the server comes with hot water and says something to the effect that she remembered giving me insufficient hot water, so she was making up for that inadvertence. I had asked for nothing and was surprised that she thought of me.
As I was processing this last move from the server I hear a loud “Je vous en prie!” addressed to me (she was looking at me, as she was leaving the table and going for some reason towards the front door). The “Je vous en prie!” would have made sense if I had thanked her for the water with a “merci”. But I was chewing and processing the event so I had not said the expected “merci”. So I took her “Je vous en prie” as a sarcastic way of telling me, “guy, you could have thanked me for thinking of the extra water!”.
I was surprised and felt insulted to be “corrected”, for not having said “merci” in the first place. On her way back I mentioned that I was offended by the way she spoke to me. I could barely speak. She was surprised and asked for an explanation. “Expliquez-vous” she said (she added “what did I say that was desobligeant?”, desobligeant meaning impolite if you will, ungracious or cutting), and I figured if she doesn’t remember what went on, I am not about to describe the incident from scratch.
And I left it at that.