Photo taken in 2004. That's the tattletale, on the left, and my sister, Heidi (The "RuleBreaker"), right. Our mom, Jules, painted the quail and my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, gave me the owl (next to the rosary and the purse). Voilà... just another family photo. Do you sniff homesickness?
rapporteuse (rah por tuhz) feminine singular of "rapporteur"
: tattletale, tell-tale, blabbermouth
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
When The French Break Their Own Rules
I am setting out this morning to write about those rule-breaking Frenchmen... when the absurdity of this story's title strikes me: for why, after all, have the French invented rules if not to break them!
Skipping quickly now to the heart of my story and to the examples I mean to show you (in my borrowed role of tattletale, or rapporteuse), I'll now highlight two rarin'-to-be-trespassed rules, the first leads in to the second so follow closely:
In the tiny town of Richeranges Jean-Marc and I stumble onto a Saturday-morning market. Though the stalls are filled with eye-catching items, Jean-Marc and I are in the market for a W.C. (or water closet or toilet or "powder room" if you like). Only, Richeranges—like most villages and cities in France—is hiding its public restrooms.
While I search high and low for a loo, Jean-Marc slips into the nearest eatery... intent on breaking rule number 1 and rule number 2:
(French Rule Number One): Restaurants, Cafes, Bistros and the like are not public restrooms.
So much for Rule Number One. Jean-Marc breezes in, past the bartender which, in all honesty, is easy enough to do in a packed room, and heads straight for the W.C., which—cha-ching!—is vacant.
Le diable! I mutter, I who have just sneaked into the bar... creeping quietly in my husband's tracks. I know intuitively that it's now or never: run up and take his place! He'll let you in first.... this may be your last chance. Allez!
Every namby pamby nerve in my body freezes up. No matter how badly I need that "room", I'll not break this French rule!
I watch as a line of rule-breakers forms outside the bathroom door. Too late now.
As I stand there, going green in the face, a woman walks into the crowded bar, about to break rule number two:
(French Rule Number Two: On entering a public lieu, always begin with Bonjour Monsieur or Bonjour Madame (or Bonjour Monsieurs-Dames)
The newcomer looks around the room impatiently and I'm wondering whether she, too, needs the toilet room?
"Well, no tables!" Says she, looking at me as if I were one in her party and did I have a suggestion on where we might go next?
"C'est plein!" she complains, shaking her immaculately-coiffed head. "Il n'y a pas une place!" She looks at me, expectantly and I'm wondering whether she's taken me for the maitre d'?
"Que faire... que faire..." she seems to be waiting for an answer but all I can lend is a lifting of the shoulders: I dunno.
I am so distracted by her dramatics that I forget my own dire need... instead, I find myself nodding conspiratorially. Next, I watch Madame slip, self-righteously, over to the lavatory; a willing enough customer, it wasn't her fault if the restaurant was out of seats!
Le diable! Why didn't I think of that?
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More rule-breakers! I meant to tell you about friends Eliane & Alain, who visited us last month with this merry group of Marseillais. They tasted wine and shared tales of their "trespassings" (or how to break French Rule Number Three). And they left me with gifts, including an apple with a beak mark in it. "It's the best kind," one of the men explained. Always pick the ones the birds have gone for. They're the best!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety