In France, specifically Paris, the French restaurants are even more prétentieux than they are in the U.S. Or, one supposes, than they are, rather, in New York and San Francisco, the only American cities where varied cuisine is favored. Not believing that this could possibly be true as a result of what a banality it is, Sandra walked into Avelette (whatever that means) genuinely believing that she might not be treated with disdain. That one look at her unapologetically American aesthetic–Guns ‘n’ Roses tee and ripped jeans (at least they weren’t tapered)–wouldn’t immediately send the snooty gamine who served as the gatekeeper to the gustatorial castle into a brief cardiac arrest. Nonetheless, it was her job–to judge the clientele, that is–so she did. For twenty years in her stead as “hostess” (though this title felt more well-suited to someone who a fossil of a man would likely describe as “nubile”). Sure, at times it could be exhausting to be so judgmental practically at all hours of her waking life, but au même moment, it was the bulk of what kept her figure in such gaunt form–all that rage and disgust burning off the fat and calories from the extensive and nonstop use of butter in French cuisine–“gourmet” or not.
Sandra’s “look,” for some reason, especially sent Delphine’s (naturally, that was her wispy name) metabolism into overdrive as she pretended not to bristle at the very sight of Sandra sizing up the menu from outside. Watching her arch her eyebrow in overt response to some of the prices, Delphine prayed silently–and she never did that–for Sandra to go away. For her not to bring her brand of base and uncouth Americanism into the pristine establishment, which, for so long, had managed to evade such ilk as a result of being off the beaten path of the Latin Quarter, where people preferred to do God knows what on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Sandra, miraculously, had found herself off of that path despite the fact that it was her first time in Paris and therefore she should have gravitated more toward the endless amounts of tourist traps set up deliberately to separate said tourists from the natives. One supposes all major cities functioned in this way so as to keep the peace between civilian and traveler, and yet, Paris was at least second place after New York for winning this seamless division of genres of people (except, in New York’s case, the entire land was fair battleground for a tourist to happen upon in their state of whimsy and naïveté, whereas Paris kept it all primarily contained in the Montmartre/Notre Dame vicinities).
Avelette was one of those places that no ill-dressed tourist was ever meant to find. Indeed, the original owner who had opened it fifty years ago had an extreme distaste for “foreigners” as he called them to his original staff. And it had nothing to do with the tenseness of unveiling his restaurant in the thick of Mai ’68 or his unbridled contempt for anyone who was not of French noble blood. It was likely sheer happenstance, as are so many instances that end up turning into “a thing.” And in this case, that thing was extreme and uncontrollable pretension. Avelette might have arguably not only set the tone for snobbery in French restaurants for years to come, but very possibly originated the most bombastic versions of the concept. Even the I Love Lucy episode (another progenitor of parodying French pomposity) wherein Lucy grotesquely eats her escargots–not knowing that the tongs the waiter gives her are for the food, not to pinch her nose with–could not match Avelette and its impending lack of rapport with Sandra. Yes, she was about to upstage that standard-issue American crudeness as presented by Lucy tenfold, merely by being her New York City-born self. The self that told her there was no such word as gauche, no such behavior as “too loud.”
Sending Delphine into further flatline mode, Sandra thus approached the bar and said, “Yo could I, like, sit in here?”
Delphine breathed silently, as though performing some sort of inner calming exercise she wasn’t aware she knew how to do until this very moment called upon her to do it.
“Yes Madame, you may seet right thayre in zee cornayre.”
Sandra side glanced at the spot she was very deliberately being relegated to just as Baby had been. But Sandra, like so many women had to be, was her own Johnny Castle. So it was that she demanded, “Na na. I think I wanna sit right there in the center by the meerwahr. That way I can take selfies and shit.”
Delphine was, at this point, quite shocked at her ability to remain in a state of non-spontaneous combustion. She felt this was the most dastardly test the universe had ever given her in all of her nights as the restaurant’s protector. How could she hold her own against this monstrosity? Persist in keeping her composure as the stipulations of her job description and duty entailed when face to face with that caricature of a Trump constituent which she thought she would never have to contend with in real life. Nor did she even think it could possibly exist in real life. Stereotypes were so stylized for the sake of comedy and convenience, after all. But in this case, no. It was real. All too real. And Delphine just wanted her to vanish back into the portal of boorishness that had temporarily spawned her into the wrong realm.
Plopping down in the seat facing the empty booth in front of her, Sandra demanded, “Where’s my menu?”
Delphine bit her lip as she went to the hostess’ station and pulled one out to present to her. She bit so hard on it, she was amazed it didn’t start gushing blood all over Sandra’s foul Guns ‘n’ Roses shirt.
“Heer you are.”
“Yeah, yeah. Here I am,” Sandra agreed, whipping open the menu to see if there might be a different version of it than the one she saw outside. Not so. Nonetheless, she felt inclined to inquire, “Can I get something a little lighter to munch on? I mean, shit. All these appetizers are heavy and expensive as fuck. Got any fukkin’ crood-ee-tays or somethin’?”
“Then maybee zeese eez note the playce for yoo. Madame.”
“Are you discriminating against me right now? ‘Cause I got rights, you know. I could sue you for that kinda talk.”
Delphine, should she have been a cartoon, would have had steam coming out of her ears at that second. Alas, the steam was invisible, as it was not the cartoon world. Instead, she casually responded, “I am not telling you to leeve Madame, I just theenk you have a diffrent idea about zee cweezeene we offaire heer.” Delphine also wanted to add, “What the fuck is an American doing asking for crudités when all they ever seem to crave is cow or pig?” But she did not, again ever the professional. Saintly really, for reserving all the harsh appraisals of Sandra that were bombarding her every sense.
Sandra, looking from the menu and back up to Delphine again, then decided to stand up and walk outside. At first, Delphine was relieved, thinking Sandra had at least possessed the presence of mind–and therefore some modicum of intelligence–to know that she did not belong. Not in Avelette and barely in Paris. If France at all. But no, Sandra had other ideas, shoving plates, glasses and utensils off of other patrons’ tables as she wailed, “We must eradicate the French restaurant. We must burn it to the fucking ground, I say!”
Sandra’s cries fell on deaf ears. She seemed to be forgetting that the French had the superpower of glazing over–for all intents and purposes, visually blurring out–anyone “lowbred” that inserted themselves into their public space. It was the ultimate indicator of self-importance and arrogance–just the very cliches that French people viewed Americans as having. It’s strange, that way, you know? How we always hate the qualities in others that we ourselves seem to be unaware of having.
In accordance with this phenomenon, Delphine, all at once, found herself, as though totally out of control of her own actions, running outside with celery and carrots she had plucked from the kitchen’s refrigerator during Sandra’s outburst and hurtling it right at her plump, pale fucktard of a face. “Here’s your fucking crudités! Now leave!”
Sandra, appalled by Delphine’s rabid reaction, put her hands up in defense. Before obeying, however, she picked the crudités up off the floor and ate them.