I came, I saw, I lived it up!  
  Nez Past

The nose knows.
No. 4  |  48°N/2°E

The expression “C'est la vie” is often heard to convey a message when one just shrugs his shoulders and accepts a situation for what it is.  This French expression really becomes apparent after spending some time in France although you will never hear it uttered by anyone French.

It is to be expected that as a foreigner you will have to figure out the routines and social expectations in your new surrounding.  Since our recent move to Paris there have been several circumstances where we were out and about and turned to each other and said with our eyes, “C’est la vie.”  Only in retrospect do those circumstances appear to be humorous and as newcomers we fully expect and accept that these situations will continue to happen during the upcoming year.

One of these situations occurred at the movie theatre the other day.  Generally, in the U.S. after you purchase your movie ticket you can walk right into the theatre even if you are half an hour early.  Not here, apparently.  Because the movie was not going to be showing for another 30 minutes the ticket collector informed us that we could not enter.  So, in order to occupy some time we decided to head across the street to Starbucks (I know, in a city with so many cafés why head to a Starbucks — but we did anyway).  In a line of about ten people deep at Starbucks we patiently waited our turn.  After about 20 minutes of waiting in a line that only appeared to grow longer as time passed, we realized that although there were probably seven employees behind the counter each one had a specific job.  First, you told your order to one barista who then shouted your order to the person at the espresso machine.  Then you moved down the line and retold your order to the cashier who gave you your receipt and instructed you to pick up your coffee at the counter, situated a bit further along the assembly line.  While waiting for your coffee you watched one person just walk back and forth behind the counter whose task was unclear and when the staff member at the espresso machine was ready you handed her your receipt.  At which point she would start making your drink.  Given a situation like this, it is easy to turn into an Ugly American who starts shouting out orders so that the process can become more efficient or informing the person who had just cut all the other patrons off in line that he should apologize and return to the end of the line — but really, it is a lesson in practicing how to embrace the saying “C’est la vie.”

After receiving our cappuccino that took 25 minutes to make, a task that should take less than five minutes if you were a well-trained barista, we headed back to the movie theatre.  With coffee in hand we handed the ticket collector at the cinema our tickets to see “Indiana Jones:  Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.”  Expecting him to say something about our drinks, the man spoke very quickly in French and made some gestures with his hands, which made us believe that he had said something like, “Please throw your drink away before entering the theatre.”  We looked around for a trash can but with a long line of patrons waiting in the hall we were unsuccessful and decided to head up to the third level hopefully in time for the advertisements to start playing.  However, to our surprise when we reached our theatre and went inside we were greeted by a completely empty room.  Wow!  I guessed with the premiere of “Sex and the City” next door no one was interested in seeing an action flick that night.  Just to be certain that we had not entered the wrong theatre we double checked our tickets, walked out the double doors, and were immediately met by a security guy who quickly checked out the theatre to make sure it was empty and then promptly let us back inside.  It was still bewildering as to why the theatre was empty, but with so many seat choices we eventually chose two seats right in the middle of the theatre (not too close, not too far, it was just right).  And then it happened, just as we had started to feel comfortable in our seats a mob of people entered the room.  It only took just five minutes for us to be cornered on all sides by avid movie goers.  And it took us even less time to realize that the line downstairs, the line that blocked our view of a thrash can to throw away our coffee, was this mob of people who had just entered the theatre (probably wondering how we had come into the theatre ahead of them but were afraid to ask us).

So somewhat like our eager friend at Starbucks earlier, who had irked us and perhaps others by bypassing the whole line, we too had just unknowingly cut in front of another line full of people here at the theatre.  And just like at Starbucks, there would be no Ugly American here to call out … these Ugly Americans.  Sometimes by design or by ignorance we all do things that would cause people to say, “C’est la vie,” whether they actually say the words aloud.
(Take our word for it) these are the best seats in the house and we honestly
didn't know about the line forming downstairs to get in.
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