“Um, I think I’ll just wait in the car.” I say this to my American friend who is in town visiting. We are in Chateauneuf du Pape and she and MB are about to go inside and pay the nice family who owns the B&B we stayed at.
“Are you sure?” My friend asks me.
“Oh yeah, I’m good here. You two go ahead.” I smile at her.
“Alrighty, we’ll be back in a minute!”
“Oh, I doubt that,” I think to myself. “I seriously doubt that.”
French goodbyes are not what I am accustomed to. I am American; there, we just get up, say thank you, and leave; if it involves friends or family then there could be hugging. That’s about it; conversation happens in advance of the goodbye. In France, they do things differently. No one is worried about rushing off, so they take their time…sometimes, a very long time.
Often, when I do finally manage to extricate myself from these situations I am sweating slightly and have an increased heart rate, possibly the beginning stages of a panic attack. These long, drawn out goodbyes make me crazy. They test three inherent parts of my personality against one another: 1) my absolute abhorrence to being rude, 2) my complete and utter lack of patience, 3) my intense hatred of boredom.
A typical scenario might progress somewhat like this:
We get up to leave and our hosts follow us to the door.
“Boh…bah merci, huh?” MB says to our hosts. “It was so good to see you, we should get together more often, blah blah blah (insert: the stuff you always say when you leave your friends).”
They return the sentiment.
We kiss them and any other remaining guests goodbye, they kiss us goodbye. We open the door. We stand in the doorway.
NOW –This is the moment when an American would depart…but we are in France.
“I Hope it’s not raining outside,” says the host.
“Ugh, did you see that horrible April we’ve had,” says his partner, chiming in.
“I know,” says MB. “March was great but April, what a nightmare!”
I am standing around waiting, wondering what is happening. We’ve just finished a four hour evening of cocktails and dinner; couldn’t we have covered this earlier? Finally, I walk through the door in order to give MB the signal to wrap it up (he is still discussing the weather).
“Alright, well bye then,” I offer once more, cheerfully. “This was really wonderful; I loved everything!” I throw in a little extra niceness so that I can assure myself I am being super polite. I mean, I did have a good time; I am just ready for it to end now.
MB is still inside and is about to join me. I can taste the freedom; suddenly, another guest from inside pipes up.
“By the way, how’s work?” He is looking at MB.
MB turns to him and begins, yet another, conversation. I stand politely, listening.
“So, how have you been?”
ACK! I’ve been attacked!
“You like France?”
“Are you joking,” I think to myself, looking at the party guest speaking to me. “You haven’t spoken to me the entire evening, why now? When I am literally half-way in the hallway! I would have loved to chat with you earlier and make friends, you seem nice; but not at 2am, in a hallway, after a four-course extravaganza!”
… 20 minutes later.
MB and I have both completed our conversations and are once more heading towards the exit.
“Before leaving, you’re gonna take a bit of that chocolate cake with you, yes,” our host asks.
I start to wonder if we will ever get out of here.
“Nooo, no, no, it’s fine, really,” says MB.
“No, we insist! Jean! Cut a bit of chocolate cake and put it in a ziplock bag; what do you mean we don’t have ziplock bags anymore? Find something!”
… 10 minutes later.
We are both outside the door, cake in hand.
“Okay, so goodbye then,” call our hosts.
“Bye,” we say.
“Oh, and don’t forget to vote on Sunday!”
“Did you see this campaign,” MB returns.
What is happening…
“What do you think is going to happen there?”
Several voices pipe up, speaking in animated tones.
If I still had the energy I would give MB my santé death stare lasers eyes but it is too late. I crumple to the floor and pass out from “goodbye fatigue” while the French people stand around continuing to talk.
*A big thanks to MB who provided many of the ideas for this post!