It's just French

“It’s not American. It’s not even British. What it is is French.” Mark Twain.

I clipped an item out of my local paper some months back, thinking it might come in handy some day, probably near deadline on a day when my mind is as blank as, well, as blank as my mind the day before deadline.

It’s one of those “guess what was happening on this day some years back” gems that most newspapers run from time to time when they give out of useful information to fill up space.

“Ten years ago: The United States and the European Community announced they had resolved a dispute over EC farm subsidies; however, French officials expressed dissatisfaction. Fire seriously damaged the northwest side of Windsor Castle, the favorite weekend home of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.”

“The French expressed dissatisfaction.” Quel surprise. Sacre bleu. S’il vous plait, merci beaucoup very much.

The French expressed dissatisfaction? When have they not? Disgruntledness seems the official mood de jour for the French.

But, lest I stomp too hard on the wine grapes of their discontent, much about the French deserves admiration. I’ve been privileged to visit France on two occasions, once when I was single, gainfully employed and with money to burn. Helpful Parisians proved more than willing to assist in stoking that fire of youthful excess. Enough about that!

Later, when my children were small and required less of the meager cache of cash left unscorched than when they grew older, my wife and I spent two weeks in France, courtesy of hotel travel points and a lust for adventure.

We marveled at the art. We were amazed at the beauty of Paris. We gorged ourselves on French cuisine.

We found the people outside Paris, in the small villages and farm communities in southern France, to be hospitable, warm, humble folk eager to please and willing to answer questions in fractured English to me or in French to my wife who actually understands a bit of the language.

The landscape of rural France was a palette of vivid colors — golden bands of wheat separated by fallow strips of green streaking hillsides; yellow sunflowers against azure skies (They’re azure in France, blue in the United States.); green grape vines snaking along their parallel trellises far into the horizon.

We found the people of Paris to be obnoxious, rude and arrogant. I recall one waiter, in a small café on a small street in Paris, who appeared to believe we were not just customers but foreign agents sent to disrupt his day. His demeanor was sans savoir-faire. (Translation: he was a horse’s derriere.)

Consequently, one should not wonder at the French expressing discontent over any agreement that involves any entity not French. It is, apparently, their national feature, a point of pride, their raison d’etre. If they were not so rude, so arrogant, so dissatisfied, someone else would have to assume the position. And they do it so well.

Another point. Ten years later, the United States and the European Community, now the European Union, continue to enjoy disputes over farm subsidies.

And one hopes that Queen Bess, too, by now has had the Royal Carpenters in to repair her favorite retreat and that she is not stuck in London for long weekends. What a royal pain that would be.

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