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Prisoner on the Dinner Train

July 30, 2012

The word for “seventy eight” is the only one I can say reliably in French – soixante-dix-huit – which in Andrea Language is spelled “swasant deez wheat.” Why “soixante-dix-huit?” That’s because seventy-eight was my room number in a nice hotel in Guadeloupe, and one of the front desk personnel jokingly refused to give me my key unless I asked for the room number in French. It was the only time during the entire week on the island that  someone asked for me to speak in French. Most of the residents of Guadeloupe wanted to practice their English with me. The whole experience was refreshing, especially when contrasted with a Parisian waiter’s refusal to understand when my partner and I ordered a croissants in a café.

I was determined to learn how to say “soixante-dix-huit” as well as any four-year-old French child. I had a great deal of trouble remembering how the pronunciation of the word started until I hit on a mnemonic that recalled Patrick Swayze, love of my sixteen-year-old life when Dirty Dancing came out. The great man had recently passed away, but I was determined to honor him by remembering how to say “soixante-dix-huit” whose pronunciation begins with the same sound as his last name. It totally worked!

The ghost of Patrick Swayze was not on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train last weekend when I visited my parents in Florida, but offenses against the French language abounded. I felt pretty confident that I was the only one who noticed, though it’s possible that the French waiter who refused to understand the word “croissant” might have heard through a time warp about the American production that 2011 would see me attending.

I had such a good time. The “cagey cat burglar” with the French accent luxuriated in the stereotype of an American trying to fake a French accent. She was delightful and beautiful and entertaining. She also wore a cat’s tail, I guess because all “cat burglars” do that. Her performance stole the show. Plus, I shared a bottle of wine with my Dad, and the food was great. Not that it couldn’t be improved a bit as far as my mother was concerned. Mom smuggled her own stick of butter onto the dinner train (she’s a fiend for real butter), and when the waiter wasn’t looking, she snuck some of the butter out of her ziploc bag and onto her rolls. On second thought, maybe the Frenchman was a good judge of character and knew that type of thing runs in my family. I did kind of curse him out at the end.

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