A few weeks ago I posted photos of the elegant, rather pampered folk who are willing to stand on the boul St Germain patiently waiting for a table on the terrace of the Flore. The inside may be completely empty as posers and voyeurs like myself wait for a prime spot; a table with a view. Today, for the first time ever, I had to wait my turn.
In a very UnFrench way, people wait their turn here. In a very French way, they refuse to wait in line, but stand there dispersed, keeping an eye out for who arrives when. They are un-stereotypically civil about waiting their turn.
So I stood there waiting, completely relaxed knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about someone pushing their way in, pleasantly chatting with the waiter Dominique and watching the crowds, when two ladies with leopard-spotted silk scarves paid their bill.
“Attend,” he warns me. “Don’t get too excited, they’re enjoying making you wait.”
So I wait, and another couple is waiting, casually leaning against a sea-foam green Renault, when a very scruffy looking, local guy shows up with his kid. He is clearly seeking a table, prowling between the place where the civilized wait and the lucky bathe in the luxury of their table with a view. My radar goes up. He is being très uncool. He starts chatting up the two ladies in their leopard scarves and suddenly, they are giving him their place.
I pop up, “Excuse me, I was waiting for this table.”
“I was waiting, too.”
“Yes, but I was waiting much longer than you”.
The leopard ladies try to help him out… “Non, non, we assure you, he was waiting.”
I don’t care about the reinforcements, I am already seated. “Listen, I was waiting. If you have your doubts, go ask Dominique, the waiter.” I am relieved to have had a witness. There is no way both of us missed this guy as we stood there watching for ten minutes. I was there first.
He yells at me and I repeat, “Ask the waiter.”
The waiter for our section simply refuses to get involved. He is not Dominique.
The man is irate, he grabs his kid’s hand, storming off as he shouts, “You know, we can’t take living in France much longer because of people like you.
At this point I start feeling badly about having deprived the sad, washed out looking kid of a place to rest his feet and enjoy a snack. Italian – Jewish mother syndrome. Then, I remember the 50 empty seats just behind me, which confirms that the kid is sad and washed out looking because he’s stuck with that for a Dad. I happily order a guilt-free kir, as I sit and ponder exactly what he means by “people like you.” Did I just deprive a xenophobe of a seat? Does he think I’m an uppity Parisienne? Either way, I’m feeling pretty content with myself as the sun breaks for the first time in days.