"Oui! Le Man," I said. She sighed and slumped back in her seat. She pulled out a tablet of paper, pens, a ruler, and an exercise book and began rapidly writing in earnest, slouched over on my side so that I had to shift toward the aisle to keep her off of me.
Somewhere in my brain I knew she had meant, "Where?" as in "Where are you getting off?" but I could not process it. I was too intimidated by her bossy manner. She gave up completely on my ability to speak sensibly in French. This exchange was so exhausting for her that, when she needed to get off the train (in only three or four stops) all she manage to do was poke me in the arm and gesture for me to move. If she wasn't going to be on the train for long, why did she care where I got off? How did this information affect her life in any way? If she was getting off well after me, than nothing had to change because I would be the first one to get off. Because she was getting off before me, this information should have impelled her to change seats with me so that she wouldn't disturb me when she got off the train. But she changed nothing after gaining her hard-won information. She remained at the window so that I had to get up to let her off. My only conclusion was that she was not a nice person. Which is unfortunate. Later I realized that she was very young, and I let it go. Mostly. But not before awarding her the nick-name, "Rude Girl."
Journal Excerpt, Saturday, June 11, 2011, Hotel Mecure Bords de Loire Saumur, (continued): On the train to Le Mans, I introduced myself to the English-speaking gentleman who took a seat after Rude Girl got off. He was from Nairobi, lived in Atlanta, Georgia and had been in the states for 16 years. He was touring Europe for the first time, visiting relatives and friends who lived in France and Germany. Anthony. He pronounced it, "Ant-ehlt-oni," which is prettier than how I was saying it.
When we were nearing my stop, I got up with my pack and moved to the doorway. I met a gentleman standing by the door named Paul who is from New Mexico and who had been living in France for one year. He now hails from Angers—maybe I'll run into him while I'm there. He lived in Denver for a while and knew Boulder and Longmont. He looked very native American. He teaches indigenous culture courses. I don't know if he is associated with a school or not. Who woulda thunk?
Truly makes up for Rude Girl. It even makes up for the difficult communication I had with the Hotel Mecure night clerk twice—both on the phone before I arrived and in person when I walked into lobby after traveling over 5 1/2 hours (real glad I took the taxi at the end). I just had enough energy to give my name, hand over the hotel voucher from the travel agency, get the key, wonder for a minute at the French the woman rattled at me, give up understanding it because I couldn't get her attention again (she kept avoiding my eyes), and head to the elevator. I still don't know why she pointed at the number on the back of the card the key hangs on. It couldn't be my room number because that was on the front...
(Editor's Note: I determined afterward that the number on the back of the card was was the code for the front door, which was locked after hours. Good thing I never needed it.)