Monday, 13 October 2008

What a Drag(ueur)!

Let's face it, we live in a world of billions of people. Chances are you'll eventually run into people who are...not quite normal. Strange, funny, sometimes frightening, other times humiliating, we live in such a way that these incidents become unavoidable. Maybe it's why I enjoy using public transport so much. I might gripe about the bus journeys (only because I hate buses/coaches and don't approve of them in any capacity, hybrid or not) but I love the trains. Whether it be S-bahn, U-Bahn, Metro, Underground or Tube, it brings out the best, worst, and strangest in people, specifically in men.
Munich is an interesting city. I've been here for 2 weeks now and have successfully managed to buy a monthly ticket and not get lost too many times (probably a good thing since I have a ridiculously long commute at the moment!) I also continue to see interesting things. Oktoberfest brings out not only interesting Tracht get-ups (Dirndls and Lederhosen for you unversed souls), but also the best and worse side-effects of alcohol (picture Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow on a Thursday night after closing time). Bavarians are extraordinary creatures. Unlike their fellow UK drinkers, they drink a lot, get drunk, and manage to ride the U-Bahn home without holding on, (or mussing their lederhosen), staggering only slightly with the only other sign of their intoxication being the fact that you can smell the beer from three seats away. I was impressed.
Aside from the beer of course there's the other favourite (or not so favourite in retrospect) "Staring Man." "Staring Man" can (or will) do a variety of things, from lecherous looks, to strange comments, to downright creepy behaviours. Every woman (and the occasional man!) has a story. Most are harmless, such as the Bavarian man (the accent was unmistakeable!) who saw me sitting with one of my fellow ERASMUS students in an U-Bahn station here in Munich and suggested that with such a beautiful woman that my friend should be keeping me warm (also so as to make me unavailable to other males!) Seeing the confusion on our faces (I definitely understood, but I'm not sure if my Italian friend did!) he proceeded to mimick hugging (and profuse kissing) telling my friend to "Umarm"me (hold). As the three traditional warnings sounded and the doors on the train slid shut he continued to mimick, hoping that he might incite something. And this time, I wasn't wearing my red raincoat!
Yes, the red raincoat. I saw Paris Je t'aime and decided in a typical obscure film student sort of way, that I too must have a bright red raincoat. I didn't think it would attract so much attention. The rain slicker of my childhood was never that attention-grabbing. Wrong (or as failblog would say: FAIL). First, came the DOM man (DOM is a strange home goods store in the Marais which also happens to sell phallic pasta and other strange sexually-themed goodies). It must be noted that the DOM man gets paid to greet people at the door and to look bronze and buff in the shiny gold speedo the shop sells (for too much money) and the speedo they hope to sell more of once everyone sees how truly god-like one can look. The DOM man said hello to me (OK, not a big deal in itself because he greets everyone, since this is in fact his job). He then follows me into the store (where I try not to notice) and says (in french of course) once he catches up to me, that I have the most beautiful eyes, and that they are in fact sublime. That makes number one. Number two is the man who was perhaps a bit more brazen. He began speaking with me as I walked but I couldn't hear him because I had my I-pod in and also was pretending not to notice him. This worked until he yelled something loud enough for me to hear while following me into Monoprix (French grocery store that also sells clothes, accessories and everything else). Strangely the words "Tu es magnifique chérie!" didn't make me weak in the knees, but rather caused me become magically fascinated with 12 Euro change purses. He stalked out the back entrance of the store. I ran for the lower level to shop and hope he didn't loop back. The count rises to two.
And let's not forget the more formidable "Staring Man." The strangest (and the one who would get the award for most brazen) "Staring Man" to date is the one from Rue de Rivoli. I was out shopping with Manu (who at the time it must be said was new to Paris, living in a far away and not so friendly neighbourhood, and slightly nervous about all of it) We were walking around casually on a Saturday afternoon, stopping to look into a window display full of cheap ballet flats. Suddenly out of nowhere in particular comes this man. He tries to kiss me while saying that I'm "belle" and that he "déjà" has "envie" for me. I walked away. He tried to grab me. I walk away faster. He tries again. I yell at him and tell him to leave me alone, so loudly in fact that people begin to stare (not an easy feat in France). He continues to follow, so Manu and I try and cross the street. He gets the idea and says something equally scandalous to an older woman at the traffic light. She asks him if that's how he talks to his mother, leaving the pedestrian signal green and the crazy guy to skulk across the street.
It's funny because it makes Paris sound so out of control. The truth is that (as I told Manu), these things happen infrequently. France is famed for Dragueurs (men who relentlessly hassle/chat women up in a less than charming fashion), who are in all respects harmless. In retrospect in fact it's usually far more amusing and complimentary than not. Supposing you can understand the language (or even give as good of a one liner as the woman did to the Rivoli "Staring Man,") laugh a bit, and not get too caught up in it all, you too can make your peace with the Dragueurs who are more than likely compensating for lack of...intellect.

1 comment:

Russell said...

Good stories love. :p