A while back, Coffee Bean made a list of the five people you encounter on the bus. One of those notable characters was the Creeper, the disgusting person who relentlessly hits on you when that is the last thing you want them to do.
Deep in my own recollections, I can't quite remove the memory of one Creeper that I met...
It was just after work at the Lycée. I had just taken the number 6 Divia bus and got off at the Place Darcy stop in the center of town. I stood on the crowded sidewalk with the Dijonnais who had congregated at the stop in the late November afternoon. Everyone remained silent and huddled closely to each other, probably to create a human barrier of warmth against the unforgiving cold. I waited for the number 3 bus to arrive to take me home. Everyone had their taut lips petrified and had glum expressions. Everyone was silent.
All except one.
At first, I didn't think too much of this older gentleman. Yes, he did strike me as a little bizarre due to his appearance. His breath reeked distinctly of rotten cigars and that only three teeth (yes, I counted them) occupied his wide, hollow mouth. His left eye was also shut. I'm not sure if that was due to the eyeball itself being missing. I estimated that he would have been taller than my height had the massive bent that comes with old age not attacked his spinal column.
Still, I only took him as an elderly fellow who merely asked me a question to which I did not know the answer. A woman standing near us answered it for him and he thanked her politely. I thought that would be the end of our chance encounter and I soon found myself boarding the bus to go home. I entered the middle set of the bus's doors and sat myself in one of the two empty seats adjacent to the exit.
The Codger also mounted and looked for a place to sit. I then automatically committed the worst mistake when you are using a public transportation system: I made eye contact and smiled at him.
Eye contact is bad enough. Adding a smile is just an invitation for trouble. This action is simply too natural for me. In France, it is said that if you smile too much, people will perceive you as a being who possesses very little I.Q. points. I am far too friendly for my own good.
He, of course, smiled right at me and limped towards the empty seat next to me. Since I had chosen the chair closer to the window, he promptly trapped me when he plopped his thin frame in the vacant seat.
Still smiling like a loon, he began a conversation with me.
Bereft of a proper dental structure, his guttural French forced me to listen closely to what he had been trying to communicate. I found myself asking him to repeat his words because I had not understood them clearly. He gladly did what I requested and then, to illustrate his intended message, he calmly laid his head on my shoulder, wrapped his arm around my body and began caressing my hair with his bony fingers.
At this point, the Codger had started to address me using the familiar tu form. When he had first asked me the question about rue de la Préfecture, I was still a vous.
For those who are not familiar with French or Romance languages, there are two ways of saying "you." In French, they are vous and tu. The former is used when the speaker addresses a complete stranger and does not want to appear insubordinate. Vous denotes a respectful distance between both persons, and it is used not only for strangers but also work colleagues, persons of influence (teachers, policemen, the President) and the elderly.
Tu, on the other hand, denotes familiarity. It is used to address young children, friends, family and...the other half.
My decrepit Romeo either thought I was a child or viewed me as a potential girlfriend.
*blood-chilling scream of horror*
If you haven't figured it out by now, when a guy flirts with me, I am like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights. I simply don't know how to get out of an awkward situation to save my life.I began to have an internal battle with my "make a commotion and get the hell out of here" instinct and my "be nice and polite to others, especially the elderly" teaching. The latter won. Romeo continued his quest to draguer me, of hitting me up.
Now, I don't like to lie. I didn't have a pen; I had three.
But the ones about the notebook and cellphone were flat-out lies. The Codger didn't grasp my subtle "go away" point.
Perhaps his home aide worker wasn't giving him enough nighttime baths.
With each bus stop that we passed, I began to worry that should I reach my intended destination and he were still next to me, then he might find out where I live and proceed to follow me to my apartment...
Still being near the Centre Ville, my octogenarian Don Juan then tried to lure me off the bus.
If you've read the "About Us" section of our blog, you would think that my not liking coffee would be another lie. This wasn't exactly a lie. I don't like coffee. I love the stuff. Just not enough to sit at a café with Cassanova.
To my great relief, he got off at a stop what was far away from where I needed to descend.
I was left rattled by this occurrence. Two months had passed since my arrival in Dijon, and I already knew other assistants who were able to strike up a friendship or a relationship with a Frenchman. I, however, still had no one by my side. Not to sound vain, but I think I'm pretty enough to attract guys slightly younger than he was. I remember thinking, frustrated, "Good God, is this really the best I can find in France?" (Of course not; I met my considerably younger and attractive ex a few months later...)
I told my landlord about my experience, recounting all the details about the Codger, and he, jokingly, replied saying that I had found le gros lot, the lottery of my life.
Dang it. If he truly was le gros lot, then I should have gone out for coffee with him. Who knows? I might be happily married to a Frenchman by now.
Barb the French Bean