Judging by Deedlometer tallies it appears that everyone loves it when bad stuff happens to me (thrown water-bottles, punches, spits, etc.). So you readers may be thrilled to hear about yet another hardship I have undergone for the sake of maximizing the French cultural experience. No, I'm not going to tell the story of why you can add three counts to the "Daniel got punched in the face" list because for some reason I thought it was a good idea to play the pacifist and kept trying to shake the hand of a drunk and hate-filled Pakistani who found out I was American on the street outside a bar late last night (true story). Instead I'm going to tell you about the plumber in my building who finds my modest running regimen entirely inadequate--and lets me know it.
This, my friends, is George. George has spent the last week and a half tearing up the floorboards right outside my room between 8 and 9 in the morning, and then taking lunch, smoke, and talk breaks for the rest of the day. He's installing a drain pipe and running water in several of the empty attic rooms down the hall from mine in the event that renters up here like myself find it more convenient to shower in their own bathrooms than to knock awkwardly every (other) day at the back door of the apartments below belonging to the wealthy families whose rooms they rent.
George is a pret-tay, pret-tay nice guy when it comes to explaining to me the intricacies of the installation process and project schedule. But George is not nice when it comes to anything else. The most recent occurrence highlighting his baffling gruffness was a few days ago during my bi-weekly run. It went like this. I dug my awesome shorts out from the back of the closet, found the running shoes I brought over to France expressly for this purpose, and turned my iPod to my run mix which includes such classics as Springsteen's "Born to Run," Weezy's "A Milli," and of course the essential "Toxic" (Spears circa 2007). Then I trotted outside to the little park a few blocks away bordering the tail end of the Champs Elysées, and ran in circles for twenty-five minutes. I did about three or four laps before I headed home with a nice little sweat and an enormous amount of self-satisfaction.
Well I had just come back from the run and was doing my final push up my six flights of stairs when I passed George. The look of utter contempt on his face makes me actually stop running, take of my headphones, and ask,"What is it?" I imagined in our last meeting I must have accidentally insulted his first-born son.
"That. Is pathetic," said the plumber.
"Haha, I know, pretty bad, isn't it? I'm not much of a runner," I reply.
"No, seriously, " he said, looking down at his watch. "You were gone for like five minutes."
"Is that some kind of joke?" he said. "Are you kidding me right now!?" He was growing angrier.
I started to smile, figuring he was messing with me. "I know, horrible!" I said.
"When I run its for an hour at least. You--you're not even doing half that."
I had personally offended the man.
"Um. I'm sorry."
"You should be. Get out of here."
I related the story to a couple friends here. Their first reaction was, "Why didn't you tell him you just run really really fast," to which I would just like to say that for me, thinking of a sweet come-back is hard enough as is, let alone in a foreign language.
The second thing they told me is that what George did is just a friendly gesture here in France, a way for people to get to know each other better. "If he's hating on you, it means he likes you!" they said. Apparently, the more shit someone gives you, the more it means they respect you and your ability to take it. If that's true, then I suppose I hesitantly accept George's warm and convivial gesture of friendship. But this fact raises all sorts of problems for my perception of friends and enemies here in Paris. Apparently the people that seem to hate you the most are the ones that actually like you the most. My world has turned upside down. Now I'm considering whether or not I should go back and find that Pakistani and tell him I don't swing that way.