Saturday, 21 January 2006

Vivre Quebec

The day was quite snowy today. It was a heavy wet snow consisting of extra large snowflakes that were enough to soak through a coat in the time it took to walk from the mini-van to the ski lodge. I had also walked to the daycare, so I was melting a small waterfall from my hair alone, leaving black streaks of mascara running down my cheeks. My hair when it gets wet goes from straight to a wild wavey strawberry blond frizz in about 30 seconds flat. I was a pristine picture of beauty.

The smell of the lodge was not one you would expect from a change room of a sporting area. The smell of poutine* (yes, at 8:45am), coffee, perfume were the more pungent, followed by that of diesel fuel. That's one thing I'll say about the Francophones....they are well put together and never leave home without dressing to the nines and perfuming up real good!

I walked along one of the aisles between the tables, lined up throughout the lodge, making my way to my usual corner spot near the window to spend a couple of hours drawing my cartoons until it was time to pick my daughter up for her ski lesson. I looked around the room and saw the usual. English and French people alike with a peppering of other cultures thrown in for good measure. I passed by groups of young snowboarders in heated exchanges, skiiers adjusting and readjusting bindings and pulling undergarments out of their butts, parents working on laptops, passing the time until their kids were done skiing. A mother screaming angrily at her child to get ready to go out and have fun. A grown adult woman was snuggled up cosily next to her sweetie contently sucking her thumb like a new born child. (I don't even want to think about why!)

I scanned the corner spot, making sure that there were no weirdo's there. (Other than the obvious one that would soon be sitting I seem to attract them like a magnet and hate to start off the day by intentially sitting next to one. I know eventually they will find their own way to me without my help. I sat down in just the perfect spot and tried to look unapproachable. It didn't work. I had just laid out my coloured pencils, erasers, cell phone and started sketching when I was approached by the first individual desparate enough for company to interupt a perfectly hideous looking scowling stranger, playing with a sketch pad and coloured pencils like a five year old.

She was pleasant, French speaking, perky, well dressed and VERY talkative. Everything I was not. I heard her entire life story. I answered her politely and threw in the odd question as to not appear so disinterested that I was outright rude. Bordering on rude was what I was aiming for. I turned back to my drawing and totally engrossed myself in it hoping she would move along, and eventually she did. I could see her in my peripheral vision. She had found a new victim a few places down the bench.

I could feel the table quiver slightly as a new woman seated herself directly across the table from where I was sitting. I made sure not to look up. I continued, self consciously, to work on a drawing which was now in the colouring stage. I reached up for my "chocolat chaud" and made a fatal error. I had placed the cup too far over on the half of the table that the woman was now sitting at. Blast it! Why didn't I foresee this problem! I had spread my belongings out too far! I tried in vain to reach up and gently grab the cup without disturbing the lady from her book that she had now pulled out and seemed to be absorbed in. She wasn't. She was just pretending. We made eye contact. I apologized for taking up so much of the table and the floodgates of conversation were opened. I learned her life history, that of her family and friends and neighbours. I learned of her dog, her friends dogs, those of her neighbours and people she had never met. A whole hours worth of stories were exchanged.

This woman was well put together, was intelligent, well spoken, French speaking with the smoothest most beautiful Francophone accent. The worst part was that she had the absolute nerve to be interesting! Can you imagine! So if my cartoons suck even more than usual this coming week, blame Elaine.

I'm learning more and more , that with all this talk of Quebec separation (from Canada), and the language police measuring the print on all signs to make sure that the French is in larger letters and appears first when written in Quebec (I kid you not!), that these people are pleasant, friendly and accomodating for the most part despite some of the crazy rules they have to protect their language and their culture. I used to dislike them for it, but now that dislike has turned into admiration. They know who they are and they want to protect that. They are proud of their heritage and are not willing to let the politically correct tell them they have to change for others. I guess that my dislike arose from jealousy perhaps. So these next few weekends when I'm passing my time in a Quebec ski lodge drawing cartoons that universally suck, perhaps I won't be so unapproachable. Maybe, just maybe, I'll meet a few more interesting Francophones like Elaine.

*Poutine: a French Canadian staple of french fries with cheese on top covered in gravy. Where there is a French Canadian....there is poutine!

1 comment:

Deb said...

LOL. I'm a magnet in public too when I don't want to be. I'll admit I do have a "warm fuzzy feeling" after I get through talking to the stranger.