Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A story I will not be telling my mother, and pictures from yesterday's drive.

Some of you online may have seen my mention of a "sticky situation at a Tunisian gas station" yesterday. Here's what happened - my co-worker and I had a rental car, and we needed to fill up the tank before returning it to the airport. I said "Oh, no problem, we can stop at the gas station we stopped at last time". So we did, and it was one of the ones where they had men who come to pump the gas for you. I was feeling kind of cranky with my co-worker (plus that type of man usually refuses to talk to a foreign woman anyways), so I decided to let him deal with them himself in his practically non-existent French.I was looking at Facebook on my blackberry when I heard a commotion outside. I looked up and saw a lot of frantic hand gesturing going on between my co-worker and the pump dude. My co-worker does not deal with stress well at all and is very timid, so I decided to get out and see what the problem was. At first, the attendant didn't want to have anything to do with me, but I persisted and he finally said in broken French that they didn't take cards. I said "What do you mean? We paid with a card here last time!" And then he ignored me and started jabbering at my co-worker again, who by that time had shrunk into the corner. I went over by him and started insisting that we had paid with a card the last time, and he was just as insistent that they have never accepted cards for payment. I suspected he was just trying to rip us off.But he kept insisting we pay him in dinards and I kept telling him we didn't have any. I started getting nervous because it was late and dark and the other gas station attendants were starting to close in around us. We offered them euros or dollars, but they refused those as well. I was worried about them making my co-worker drive off to find an ATM - mostly because the freeways there aren't like in the US or France where you can get on and off easily. There, you get off and you continue on driving for several miles before you can turn around, and even then you can't get directly back on the highway. It's so easy to get lost. Not to mention my co-worker is a terrible driver and has no sense of direction (nor was I very hot on the idea of staying at the gas station alone at night with the scary men). We had been at a standstill for a good half an hour, when finally the owner of the station just happened to show up. He was an older men and they started shouting and gesturing at him in Arabic before he'd even stepped out of the car. He came over to me and I immediately started off with "I'm sorry, but we don't have any dinards". He looked me up and down for a second, and then stuck out his hand and said "Bonjour". Crap. I'd just broken the cardinal French rule of not saying Hello before launching into my diatribe. Not off to the best start. He invited us into his office (also scary) and we sat down. I explained the situation, and after talking a bit, he finally agreed to let us pay in euros (grand total: 14€). We were about a euro short though and for a minute there, I was afraid he was going to make us go pump gas to make up the difference. But then things changed on a dime. All of the sudden, he said "Obama! We love Obama!" and we were the best of friends and he was tu-ing me. I had no clue what had just happened, but I wasn't about to complain. So I sat there and talked with him for about ten more minutes. I learned that his wife was French and that he had homes in Nice, Strasbourg and St Malo. We talked about Bretagne, and then I made a joke about why on Earth was he giving us a hard time for a few piddly euros if he had money to buy all of those homes. He stopped for a second and I thought "Sh*t Samantha, now you've gone and done it", but then he laughed and came over and slapped me on the back and said maybe he would see me in Paris this summer. I thought he was going to bise me when we finally got out of there.

It was the strangest thing - and I still don't know how it changed from a semi-dangerous situation to a comical one so fast. It took at least a half hour for my heart to slow down afterwards.

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7 Comments:

OpenID pinklea said...

That sounds SO scary! Your heart must have been beating a mile a minute - mine would have been! Thank goodness Barack Obama is already changing the world, one Tunisian gas station owner at a time ...

May 2, 2009 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

It would seem that he recognized that you're an American and that's how he got to the Obama thing.

May 2, 2009 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

phew! a close shave. if this were 2007 it might have been a different ending, yikes.

May 2, 2009 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger parlez-vous-kiwi said...

Wow, lucky it wasn't when Bush was around, may have been a different story ;)

Phew!

May 3, 2009 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger La Framéricaine said...

I can smell a book a mile away--"Almost Tunisian," "At Home in Tunisia," "In & Out of Trouble with an American Accent!" You are going to be sooooo rich or, at the very least, famous throughout Francophilandia and beyond.

That is a fantastic story, Sam!

May 3, 2009 at 12:56 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

America:1
Tunisia: 0

May 4, 2009 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

How funny!! Glad it all turned out okay... Is the pic of the old guy the owner? You guys seem to be best of friends, now... Good to have a connection who owns so many houses in France... hehhe!

May 6, 2009 at 6:50 AM  

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