In the wee hours of last Saturday morning, I was traipsing through the streets of the Marais looking for that rare Parisian luxury—an empty cab. This is a recurring, if futile, exercise in my life here.
Suddenly I felt another familiar recurrence coming on. Ah yes, drunk guys. Two of them approached me and kind of hugged me and asked me where I was from. I said New York because it's an easy answer, it intimidates French people, and I also couldn’t remember where I was actually from. After some nonsensical banter, I decided to extricate myself from this little exchange by saying “je m’en va,” after which I immediately realized I had used the incorrect form of the verb Aller. It was careless; I will admit. The drunk guys burst out laughing.
“Je m’en vais! I meant to say je m’en vais!” I promised meekly.
Wait a minute.
How did this turn from an attack by two sleazy guys into a lesson in verb conjugation? How had the formidable French language once again reduced me to a humble apologizer?
How French: drunken aggressors stop, mid-harassment, to hold the harassee grammatically accountable.
And the adventure continues.
P.S. The day before, a homeless man tried to kiss me on the mouth. Luckily the horror-squeal I made seemed to translate seamlessly enough, as there was no resulting grammar lesson from this particular vagrant. Success!