Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, September 14, 2009

The other day, a fellow blogger wrote a post about a friendly RATP bus driver, and I remember thinking how nice it was to read that because I love taking the bus and definitely prefer it over the metro and the RER.

Well, last night, I finally got to experience it for myself. About 30 of us got on the bus at Montparnasse and the driver got on his microphone and started talking. I thought he was just going to remind people to punch their tickets, or maybe board at the front of the bus, but instead we got:

How's it going Parisians? Are y'all coming back from holiday?
*silence in the bus while everyone ignores the driver*
Oh, come on! I'm going to ask you all again and I want to hear a "Oui or a "Non". Are y'all coming back from holiday??
*a few people feebly shout "Oui" or "Non", while the rest look around and wonder what's going on*
Okay, well that's a bit better, but not by much - I see a few of you smiling now, but there's still a lot of scowls out there - there must be a lot of Parisians on this bus! Allez, one more time - Are y'all back from holiday?
*about 2/3 of the passengers starting laughing and answer back*

Alright, now at this next stop, I want you all to shout "Bonjour" to the people getting on the bus. I know it's 9pm on a Sunday night and y'all are probably tired, but a little bit of politeness never killed anyone.
*New people get on the bus and are visibly shocked when the people around them say bonjour*
Now that's the spirit. Did they say Bonjour back? If not, they're probably Parisian.

How many of you are tourists here? Have you been to Paris before? *launches into a short explanation of the Montparnasse tower and surrounding area*. Hold on a sec - madame - yes, you on the phone - can you hang up, I'm trying to talk here? Oh-là, now she's red as a tomato! That'll teach you not to talk on your phone on the bus again!

Alright, we're getting to our next stop. You all know the drill.
*Half the bus now shouts "Bonjour" to the new passengers. More and more people are smiling, and some are even starting to talk to one another.*

Okay, we've got a full crowd - you know what that means - it's time to squeeze together. Who knows, there could even be a love connection made this very night. The man or woman of your dreams could be next to you and you don't even know it yet. Wooo, folks, I think love is in the air in the back of the bus, I just saw a young couple back there exchange a smoldering glance!

Wait a minute, who's got their camera rolling there? Gimme that! I don't want to see my face on youtube or facebook! Can you believe this people? Rotten Parisians, always trying to get rich off of someone else's back!

Then it was my turn to get off, and as I walked away, he honked at me and I turned around and gave him a big thumbs up. I walked the rest of the way home with a smile on my face, thinking about how much I love this city and how unmerited the whole "mean Parisian" mantra is. The people here really are friendly and the efforts the city has made to encourage Parisians to welcome tourists are definitely starting to bear their fruits. I've been here for a year and a half now, and can honestly say the only bad experience I've had was at a restaurant in a mega-touristy area.

But really, this is such a good reminder of how it only takes one person's good (or bad) attitude to affect a large group of people. A smile and a little bit of humor really can go a long way. Now if only the French government could convince the fonctionnaires of this....

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20 Comments:

Blogger Animesh said...

A very very nice story indeed!

But hey, I am a fonctionnaire, and I am not rude ;-)

September 14, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Emily Marie said...

Love this! But I have to disagree with you on the whole Parisian meaness thing...I rarely come in contact with friendly ones unless I know them personnaly. Just on Saturday alone I had three bad experiences: at the pharmacie, pressing and institut de beauté. All could have been changed with a simple smile. I have to say an experience like yours is refreshing though...maybe I should take the bus more often!

September 14, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger poppy fields said...

That's a great story. I am definitely taking the bus the next time I'm in Paris.

September 14, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Emmy said...

Thanks for sharing! I agree that it doesn't take much to change peoples attitudes. Bu it's a shame this type of thing doesn't happen more often.

I had a similar experience on a london night bus once..a guy started playing his guitar (he wasnt asking for money) and got everyone joining in. On the metro when someone atrts playing the guitar, everyone looks the other way.

September 14, 2009 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

Yay!!! I love this story. I once had a Metro guy come on the horn while the train had stopped unexpectedly and joked about the whole thing - changed the mood of 90 percent of the people! I am a firm believer that attitude is contagious. :)

September 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM  
OpenID mssuebee402 said...

When my husband and I were in Paris in April we needed to get the new weekly metro pass as it had changed from what we had from the year before. The guy at our station, Vaugirard, came out of his little booth and helped us. He didn't have everything we needed so he did what he could and then telephoned his friend/colleague at Convention and we went there to finish up. I have to say that I have been to Paris the past 3 years in a row for vacances and have had wonderful experiences. We have encountered a few "grumps" here and there but that's it. My husband, who had never been to Paris until last year, was amazed at how well we were treated and makes it a point to tell everyone about it. I think it helps that I speak French and rarely speak a word of English to the French while I am there.

September 14, 2009 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger JChevais said...

This was brill! I'm so glad that that bus driver has got some positive attitude going. Because I've certainly had some grumpy gusses.

You've probably already thought of this but how about sending a little email to the RATP, telling them what bus you were in and at what time and how much it meant to you personally to see a happy driver? See if you can do that fellow a good turn in return by reporting something positive to his bosses.

I think there would be less strikes if there was more positive attitude happening. It's too easy to complain. Good vibes are so much more important.

Yay!

September 14, 2009 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

are we sure he wasnt drunk driving? :p He must be an originaire du Nord.

No, seriously, that's awesome. That guy should get a raise. I think you can find smiles and nice people if you look for them. Most people are terrified to "open up and be friendly" but with a little gentle prodding, a lot of them with readily join in. That story made my day :)

September 14, 2009 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

It's strange, but I have found that Parisens are the nicest of all the French. I've had such good experiences there.
When I was there in April, carrying around my Obama tote bag, everybody wanted to be my friend!

Plus, I was in a (small) bus accident there. The driver was nice. Not a good driver, but at least he was really nice!

September 14, 2009 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger DiaryofWhy said...

This is lovely. Reminds me a bit of Amélie...only real!

September 14, 2009 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

What a great story! I, too, have several fond memories of bus drivers in Paris. I have seen them do things that I'm certain no bus driver in the States would think of doing. Par example: the driver who pulled over in the middle of the block so we could get off after missing our stop.

September 14, 2009 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Canedolia said...

That story is hilarious!

Maybe I'm a bit too cynical, but my first thought, like Crystal, was that he must have been drunk!

September 14, 2009 at 8:36 PM  
OpenID lusks said...

Where I live in Scotland it is coutesy to say 'Thanks Driver' as you alight from the bus, I wonder when the habit of this started and I don't seem to remember seeeing it anywhere else. Even some youngsters say it.

I love the unexpectedness of this driver, how many of his passengers went home that night with a smile, made their day I expect.

September 15, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Ksam said...

That's a great suggestion Jenn - I think I'll go off to the RATP site right now to tell them about my experience!

September 15, 2009 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger doomed to be fabulous said...

Great story. I also believe that the "rude Parisian" stereotype is unwarranted. I've only ever rarely encountered an impolite French person in Paris. The vast majority of Parisians I have interacted with with -- grocers, salespeople, strangers on the street -- have been warm and kind.

September 16, 2009 at 2:06 AM  
Blogger Zuleme said...

We were just in Provence and Brittany and I can say the single best thing I did before the trip was work on learning French. Our last trip was five years earlier and I couldn't remember much but this time I was able to at least say a few things to people and order food. We stayed part of the time with French friends and that was wonderful because we met a lot of French people. There is an immediate friendly reaction when people see you are trying to learn the language.
Yes, we are hoping to be back again so more language study this winter here in New Hampshire.
When we were going through airport security leaving my husband dropped our passports. Il est faitigue, I said to the agent and got a big smile. I don't think they expect American tourists to be attempting to be polite. And a bonjour everywhere we go.

September 16, 2009 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Astrid said...

Meeting people that just put a smile on your face is so awarding.

I so agree that a smile can really go a long way!! :)

September 16, 2009 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Rochelle said...

I'm always so surprised when people complain about Parisians because it's rare that I have bad experiences..I definitely am more inclined to remember the positive and surprisingly friendly experiences I've had over one or two bad experiences. I had several very nice encounters with RATP workers in August (I was wondering if it was just because it was August?). In Metz, people frequently don't even say bonjour or au revoir if you're entering and leaving a shop so for me Paris is a politeness haven!

September 17, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

Two thumbs up to the driver of that bus and for all the passengers that followed along!! Yahhhoooo, that's what all the fun is about!!! I would have LOVEDDDD to be on that bus with you that night!!! I'll have to start riding the bus more in Paris!

September 17, 2009 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Shelli and Gene said...

I agree that people in Paris seem to have gotten less uptight and friendlier recently in dealing with the public. I've even had several really helpful experiences at BHV!

But I'm dying to know the French word for "y'all"!

Shelli
www.areweinparisyet.blogspot.com

September 28, 2009 at 12:33 AM  

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