She didn’t see my crutch when she tapped me on the shoulder but when she did finally notice it, she tried to get me on her side, the “nasty” one. “She” was a dressed-to-the-nineties little old Parisian lady who was sporting a beautifully carved cane, a Gucci jacket and a very expensive hairdo. I’ll call her “Eglantine”, an old French name that means “needle” or “thorn”. You’ll find out why later.
It was Saturday morning. I was in Monoprix, a French supermarket chain and I was standing in the priority check-out line meant for pregnant and/or handicapped clients.
Eglantine saw me from behind and pushed her cart in front of me thinking I was not handicapped. She noticed her mistake and promptly barked in loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear French, “Don’t you hate it when these non-handicapped people take your place in line?” I was not looking for trouble; I was just buying toothpaste and dental floss so I ignored her. But, then again, I’m not French and the other customers were. A shouting match followed; giving me a live lesson on how senior Parisian ladies can take care of themselves and anyone else who gets in their way. Here’s what happened.
The first lady in line had 2 small children and could have been pregnant. Eglantine looked her up and down and clicked her tongue in obvious disapproval.
“What?” said the young mother. “I have every right to be in this line and don’t you dare look at my children like that!”
Eglantine was ready with a quick reply. “I was not looking at your children. I don’t like children (none of us doubted that). Are you pregnant? Because if you’re not pregnant, you cannot be in this line! Look at the sign.”
The young mother told Eglantine that her body was none of the old lady’s business and then flipped her off as she stormed away pulling her kids behind her. Eglantine then lit into another lady customer who looked to be in good shape – too good a shape to be in our line. That lady lowered her eyes immediately and made room for Eglantine to put her purchases on the belt. Eglantine thought she had won but the fight wasn’t over yet. We had another round coming.
The elderly, cane-less lady behind me objected raucously to Eglantine cutting in – she told the cashier that no one should give in to such a “disagreeable” person. And, in any case, she just had a gall bladder operation and she was really tired.
That’s when Eglantine took out her card – her pink government-issued card that proves she has a declared handicap. She slammed it on the moving belt and shouted something that roughly translates to “Oh yeah? Well, my handicap trumps yours. So, show me your card or shut up!” The customer sighed and raised her eyebrows. The rest of us followed Eglantine’s rather strong advice. We all shut up while we waited for her to pay and go away.
But, as soon as Eglantine was out of hearing distance, we had an animated discussion about how nasty she was and how we should have checked her card. It might have been a fake. Well, even if her card had been a fake, I can assure you that she wasn’t. Eglantine was a nasty, arrogant self-centered lady. And, even though she was an impeccable dresser and her make-up was reminded me of Jane Fonda, she was still old and still nasty. No saving grace. No grace at all.