Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tres, Tres Bizarre!

Another Bizarre event for our Family while in France…

About a week ago, Alace and I decided we would do the healthy thing and walk to school in the morning, then back home for lunch. Roundtrip, it's about 3 miles, so it's not too far and it gives us a great time to chat and get a little cardio in by keeping up the pace.

The "bizarre-ness" of it all began on the way home after the morning class. About half way to our apartment complex is Sam's school. Behind the school is a rather large community park that offers a great short cut. Most of the student's from Sam's school also walk through the park on their way home for lunch. As we neared the park, we heard a lot of noise- more noise than the usual, "I just got out of school and I'm letting off some steam" noise that is an every-day occurrence. Jokingly, I said to Alace that there must be a fight.

As it turned out, this was a rare moment of "right-ness" for me. As the location of all the hub-bub came into view, we saw that it was indeed a group of about fifteen or sixteen preteens circled around, watching two or three others pushing, shoving, and kicking. Step 1: Make sure your kid is not involved… check. Step 2: Make sure your kid is not "egging" them on… check. Step 3: Scan the area to find if your kid is around… check. We saw Sam watching from a distance of about 20 yards. He seemed to lose interest and set out in the direction of our home, not noticing his mom and dad approaching.

Ok… so everything is going well up to this point. It appeared that Alace and I, along with the other mom and dads in the area, had run through the mental checklist (see "steps 1, 2, & 3" above) and all was well. Until…

It would seem to me that after a parent has completed the immediate checklist in such a situation (see "steps 1, 2, & 3" above), that they would move on to the logical next steps as follows: Step 4: Monitor and qualify the scuffle- is this just "boys being boys" or if it was more serious like a bully getting the best of another, making it a clear mismatch needing adult intervention… Check. It appeared to me that this indeed was a mismatch scenario however, looking around, I noticed no other parents stepping in. I don't care what country your from, this just seems right. Step 5: Step in and break up the fight… check… well… let's not "check" this one off the list so quick…

As I approach the mob, I clearly expected the following scenario that played out when I was a kid- Adult shows up, fight ends. Simple, straight-forward, no one gets hurt. So, without saying a word to Alace, I made a beeline for the mob. As I approached, I noticed a couple of the kids on the exterior rings of the circle take notice of me, the adult, and their fervor seemed to die off. All was going according to plan. Then, I remembered. Usually the adult should say something… something important that would bring everything to a screaming halt. Time was of the essence here. Hmmm… what to say… what to say… And then, it came to me! Of course! It was lunch time! Everyone in France knows what to say to disperse a crowd and get them moving home! "Bon appétit"!

Now, let me just say a word here about my communication skills in French. I've been known to mess up words that are very similar, like the words for "needs" (besoins) and "drink" (boisson) and the words for "horses" (chevaux) and "hair" (cheveux). However, I know for sure that the words that came out of my mouth that afternoon were correct. So, when I said "Bon appétit" in a loud booming voice, I had all the confidence in the world that, like Pavlov's dogs, these young, impressionable youths would snap back to reality and begin their pilgrimage to their homes where they would find refreshment and nourishment. However, what happened next sent me into another dimension altogether.

As the words "Bon appétit!" left my mouth, the world seemed to snap into slow-motion. A simultaneous roar went up from this crowd of preteens and they went into a jumping tizzy! 3 or 4 of the screaming, yelling pre-teens came right around me and started pushing me! I kid you not! It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. With all the deftness of a foreigner, I stuck to my guns and yelled out again "bon appétit!", thinking that maybe they had not read the script correctly and just needed another chance. No luck. The tizzy continued and one boy said something that resembled, as best as I could tell, "we already tried to stop them". However, translating this sentence took me a couple moments and, by that time, the mob had morphed and had started shifting behind me. Having only one or two kids left in my immediate view and, not wanting to admit defeat in my course of action, I said, one last time, "Bon appétit!" to which, one of them replied, smiling, "bon appétit!" Then, he caught moved right past me and joined back into the mob.

I wondered why he smiled at me, and it was then that I noticed that I had been smiling! I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime in the 15-20 seconds in which this bizarre confrontation was taking place, the utter "bizarrity" of the situation had stupefied me into a smiling idiot! No wonder these kids couldn't take me seriously! I had forgotten the part of "Step 5" that included the adult breaking up the fight being firm and having something more imposing to say rather than "HAVE A NICE MEAL!!!"

Moments later, another parent had apparently joined me in "Step 5" and proceeded to demonstrate to me that way in which this step is carried out. The parent, a father, appeared out of nowhere (note to self: element of surprise is essential). Then, he moved right to the middle of the circle and grabbed the two main combatants (note to self: demonstrate your physical prowess). Then, he proceeded to give them all a tongue-lashing that everyone in the park and the surrounding apartments could clearly hear (note to self: have something to say that produces desired results).

Step 5… CHECK!