When Arnaud and I decided to go to the bar next door for a couple of weeknight drinks, we weren’t expecting to be confronted by a man who would embody the kind of raving insolence that I feel is unique to this country – the strain that is fertilized by lofty ideals of God and Glory and incubated behind white picket fences.
“Fuck the French!” he said with a violent flourish.
Arnaud shot me a look that conveyed the marriage of amusement and mild horror before returning his gaze to the white-knuckled beast before us. Mike glowed red with the kind of reckless buffoonery of someone who’s been imprisoned within himself by the twin demons of loud stupidity and an MBA from an SEC school.
Mike regaled us with tales of his journey to Paris with his girlfriend.
“I felt discriminated against for being an American. How much is a fair price for a sandwich? Like 8 bucks max, right? This motherfucker tried to charge me fifteen euros for a piece of shit sandwich with one little piece of prosciutto. I told him he could take that sandwich and go fuck himself. I gave him 10 euros, which I thought was a fair price, and this asshole chases me out of the fuckin’ restaurant into the street.”
Incidentally, we were being graced with Mike’s presence as he awaited the return of a waitress who could remedy yet another injustice served to him in the form of a subpar sandwich. Mike hadn’t asked for this sandwich. Mike hadn’t asked for any of this.
“Seriously, I’m never going back to France. Place sucks. Why do you think they changed the name of french fries to ‘freedom fries?'”
Arnaud managed somehow to maintain his placid demeanor in the face of this roaring brute and answered in his sibilant English, “Actually we call them ‘frites.'”
Mike finally got his sandwich. In fact, he plucked up a take-out box from beneath the nose of another bar patron, rifled through its contents and decided that this was the sandwich he would rather have, leaving his speechless victim with the scraps that had triggered his rage. He slowly backed away from us while continuing his monologue and left the premises, where his humanity would surely be debased by future sandwiches.