3 Parisian CONVERSATIONS
by Keri Aspegren
30 minutes. Me: eavesdropping. 2 women, 2
men. All American, aged late 60s early 70s.
At a café in Centre Georges Pompidou.
Old glasses: Now, did you say there was a cash
machine on the way from here to your apartment?
Cultured corduroys: Yes, but will there be any
money in it today? One never knows.
Old glasses: You mean the cash machine doesn't
always have cash?
Cultured cords: It depends on the day.
Pearl necklace: Why, those sandwiches were 35
and 42 francs a piece!
Gray beard: You're kidding!
Pearl necklace: No, I'm sure of it. What did
we think we paid?
Cultured cords: Well, I thought it was more
like 40 francs.
Old glasses: How much is a capuccino?
Pearl necklace: I think it would be 44, since
a double espresso is 22. I'm going to get our
Cultured cords: It's really a sad sight, watching
some poor ATM machine try to give people money,
and having to pry at its little door. It just
says, "Beep, beep, beep." Why look
at that-there's still a long line to enter the
Old glasses: I've never in my life seen a line
to get into a library! I'm really stuck on that
Cultured cords: Well, for heaven's sakes- you
should get one! Do you know how much they are?
Old glasses: Well, no. I suppose I could find
Cultured cords: Yes, do!
Old glasses: (returning with capuccino)
It was 22 francs-half what we thought!
Pearl necklace: (returns with coats)
I see you got yourself a capuccino.
Old glasses: You were under the impression it
would cost 44 francs, in actuality it only cost
Pearl necklace: Well, it looks delicious!
Old glasses: Would anyone else like to taste
this delicious capuccino?
Cultured cords: No, I'm not a big fan. Maybe
if I'm really starving, but otherwise…
Pearl necklace: No dear, you keep it all for
Old glasses: I simply can't believe there's
a line to get into the library!
Cultured cords: Isn't the service here good?
For only spending 70 francs I think it was good.
Gray beard: 70 francs is about $10.
2 10th graders at the high school where I
teach. Both are small, cute, of Asian origin.
Me: Where are the other three?
Ann: I think they forgot.
Aurelie: They were right behind us (looks
confused and nervous). I don't know where
Me: Well, it's just the three of us, I guess.
Ann and Aurelie: nervous giggles
Me: Here's a photo book of Nebraska. We can
look at the whole thing since we're a small
Ann (whispers to Aurelie): C'est quoi,
Me: Nebraska is a state in the center of the
U.S. It's where I come from.
They open to a page with a farm. Silence.
Turn page to a deer.
Ann, Aurelie: Oohh, c'est mignon! (How cute!)
Turn to snow. Gasp!
Ann: Oh la! There is snow!
Aurelie: It is too cold.
They quickly finish the book and we have
30 minutes left. We stare at one another for
a full minute.
Me: So, would you like to visit Nebraska?
Ann: Oh, yes!
Aurelie: Um, no.
30 seconds of silence
Me: SO, do you have any questions?
Ann whispers to Aurelie, they giggle
Aurelie: Do you have cute boys in the United
At the home of Alex, a French friend. Eating
Alex: How you say "Gastronomie" in
Me: The same: gastronomy.
Alex: Oh, yeah?
Me: Yes, but it's not a word I have heard very
Me: What does gastronomy mean to you?
Alex: The love of food. Eating good food for
the pleasure of taste. Eating a lot.
Me: When someone says they like to eat, there
is a sense of negativity. One does not necessarily
eat to enjoy the taste, but to stuff themselves.
Alex: It's bad to eat in U.S.?
Me: No, but if you say "I love to eat!"
it can mean you are a pig.
Alex: So, "gastronomie" in France
is equal to "gluttony" in U.S.?
Me: Something like that.