Many years ago, I recall a supermarket visit that involved a woman telling my mum and I about her son in a mental institution who was being allowed to visit for Christmas. We didn’t know her: we were just checking out frozen turkeys for the festive meal when she walked up and said she would need a bigger turkey this year because her son was visiting. Instead of ignoring her, my mum said “Really?” and smiled, and that prompted the woman to talk at us for a good ten minutes (hey, it might not sound like long, but when you’re in a frozen turkey aisle, it really is) about her son, the dogs in the sky (!?) and various other topics that actually made no sense. My mum just attracts people like that. It’s what she’s good at.
It looks like it might be genetic. Just last week when trying on a pair of boots in Annecy, a little old French lady informed me that she is old and sick and “look at my feet.” I looked at her feet and they were indeed as old and sick as she had explained. I didn’t understand much of her French, but I was left pretty speechless after burning my eyes with the image of her twisted, dry, bruised and lumpy feet with yellow toe nails. I escaped, feeling just a bit ill.
I’d hoped it was a one-off, but it was not. Today started with a man who saw I was buying three plates. Yes, today, I bought three plates. I will use them to sit my gingerbread houses on, as my friends never give my my own plates back. I’ve learnt to buy the cheapest I can find, and I was in the cheapest shop in possibly all of Haute Savoie with all the world’s crazy people. The man in front of me at the checkout turned to his, erm, I can only assume it was his minder, and said in French, “Looks, she’s buying three plates. Three plates. That’s what she is buying. Three.” She pulled him away while I did exactly what my mum does – I smiled as if it was normal. These people are not normal. Later today, a woman came running up to me in a supermarket in Annecy. Now, I had baggy jeans on and a blue hoody, complete with dreadlocks loose almost to my behind, yet she seemed to think I had a red supermarket apron on and was an ideal worker to ask directions from. “Where are the detergents?” she demanded in French, impatiently. Eager to help (will I never learn?), I said I wasn’t sure but I thought they were over- Too late! She heard I wasn’t a native French speaker and dismissed me as a BAD store worker who was probably taking a local French person’s job. “Oh,” she said as she walked off in a huff. I felt like yelling out in English: “No worries, any time, glad to help such friendly people as yourself. And have a great day, sunshine.” Instead, I carried on and was grateful I was not in the frozen turkey aisle.