And this is how my day began as I made my way to my French language testing appointment.
It was downhill from there.
Let me preface this by letting you know, for all of you who don't live in Canada's capital (which is most of you, I dare say), that if you don't know the French language and you live here, you can be sure your job possibilities are more than just a little limited. This being the capital city of Canada, and therefore a role model, and being situated about .004 of a kilometre south of our favourite province, Quebec, where they speak a lot French, it's pretty much expected that you will require a certain amount of knowledge of the French language for most employment opportunities.
Unless, of course, you are Mr. Handsome, in which case, all you have to do is be able to say "bonjour", and not very well at that. Oh, and have a PhD. And be really, really smart. It made me wince saying that last sentence, actually, because I'm really mad at Mr. Handsome right now, and if there's one thing I don't want to say about him, it's that he's smart. I'll balance it out by adding that his head looks rather large at the moment because he needs a haircut. There, I feel better now. Do you know someone with hair that grows out, not down?
So, as I was saying, I walk into this place for French language testing. By now, one foot is wetly slapping against the laminate flooring, leaving wet duckprints behind me as I make my way to the front desk, behind which a white-haired, impeccably dressed woman is standing and picking the nylons out from between her toes. Nice. I bet she walked through that puddle too.
I introduce myself, and she seems very confused. Can't find my name anywhere.
I explain I'm there for some language testing for a city job, and suddenly, it's like little neon lights went on in her brain, connecting the synapses, because she smiles, and all of a sudden knows exactly who I am. It was a bit strange. But she had very nice hair, all done up in a nice bun. I'll forgive her for picking her toes.
Moments later, this youngish woman comes tromping downstairs in her high-heeled patent leather shoes, pony tail bobbing away behind her, and she introduces herself to me, hand outstretched to warmly greet me, and she is only speaking French and it takes me by surprise because although I know that's why I'm here, I need a bit of a warm-up before we get right into the nitty gritty of the langue francaise, a little language lube, let's just say.
Well, there would be none of that, this cute little bobbin of a French woman had obviously decided, and we immediately made our way up the stairs and into a little room that was once a child's bedroom, or maybe even a closet. Only enough space for a small desk, two chairs, and a fake plant. Oh, and the tape recorders.
Yes, can we talk about the tape recorders for a moment?
It reminded me very much of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is always a movie that makes my eyelid twitch and my toes curl because I remember my brother watching that movie one year when I had a very high fever and was in the throes of major hallucinations, and now, whenever I even think about the movie, I have acid flashbacks and have to take an extra Xanax to put me at ease.
Okay, I just ended up getting laughed at by my husband because I thought the movie was Planet of the Apes, not 2001, and he thought that was pretty damn funny. Is it? Is that funny? I didn't think so. I'm sure there must be a big black thing in Planet of the Apes as well.
All this to say that when I sat down at that tiny little desk and saw the black behemoth in front of me, it was not a good feeling I felt in my nethers.
So, cute little Catherine (pronounced Kathereeeeeen!) starts rambling on and on about this, that and the other, all the while smiling at me and expecting a smile in return, which would never happen because -- HELLO! -- Hal is staring at me, and this babe is blathering on and on in French, spitting out her words more quickly than an anus spews out a slippery unexpected plippet. And we all know how fast that can be! Admit it, don't be shy.
Cathereeeeen! wants to converse for a few minutes about je ne sais quoi, anything really, pretend we're friends and are having a coffee sort of chatter, to see what my conversational French is like. Omigod, I'm thinking, pinch me, wake me up and get me the hell outta here. I'd rather be vacuuming or picking lice out of little schoolchildren's hair.
A few minutes ends up being 25 minutes. Twenty. Five. Minutes. Of. Speaking. French. Oh, I don't know what we talked about. The weather, the housing market, what other languages I speak (I can spit out a few choice Polish words if I'm pushed, but don't make me), my children
and whether she knows anyone who wants to adopt them. Just random stuff.
Then there's role playing. What fun, I think to myself. Cathereeeeen! (who I've now decided has way too many teeth in her mouth) states I am going to be the 911 dispatch person thingy, and she is going to be a little girl. Oh wonderful. Just great. My cup of tea. First off, I don't role play. It's just not in me. I laugh uncontrollably, I feel stupid, it's just all around dumb to role play.
So, she begins by making a pretend ringing of the phone sound, which right away throws me off my game. Doesn't she know she needs to warn me about these things?
I answer it, of course, trying hard not to hork out a lung in laughter. "Neuf-un-un." That's 9-1-1 for you anglophones. In case you don't know, anything spoken or written in the French language takes about 8 times as much time or space than it would spoken or written in English. I'm just saying. That was your Fun Francophone Fact for today.
Apparently, Cathereeeeen! thought it would be funny to be a little girl who whines and doesn't listen to her 911 dispatch person. So hilarious, isn't it? Like I don't get enough of that at home.
So, this little girl won't do as I tell her to do, things like, "Go see if your mother is breathing," "Does your mother take medication?", "Can you stay by the door for the police to arrive?", or "Find the pills your mother took and bring them to me, because I need them desperately."
Finally, the role playing is over, and I can again breathe. That Cathereeeeen! was one whiny, bratty son-of-a-bitch kid, I tell you. And by this time I swear Hal has evil eyes and is staring at me.
After that, there was some listening comprehension test questions, which I think weren't too bad for the most part. Except for the one phrase, which I'm sure the person on the tape said, "Hand me the vase, put that monkey on the fridge, pass the peace pipe, and call 9-1-1." I definitely got 10/10 on that one.
I then had to read a couple of pages in French, which, if you remember from above, means that, in English, it would have only have been two sentences. And then I had to answer some questions about what I had read, and I think I didn't suck at that too much.
I made it through most of the interview relatively unscathed. It's hard for me to know how I did, actually, because I have nothing to compare it to.
Suffice it to say that my children laugh at me when I try to speak French to them, and I'm sure I saw Cathereeeeeeen! breathe a heavy sigh of relief when it was all over. If I make it to the next round, I'll be pleasantly surprised, and shocked. And a little dismayed. Because if I get hired, and some French person calls me in distress, they're in more trouble than they were in before they picked up that phone.