Me: “You ask him, Chris.”
Chris: “No, you ask him, Dave.”
Me: “Fine! (sigh). Excuse me, Monsieur, may I have a pizza?”
Pizza guy: “I do not speak English! Speak French!”
Me: “Okay. Puis-je avoir un pizza?”
Pizza guy: “C’est UNE pizza! Au revoir!”
Not all Parisians are rude. For the most part, if you’re respectful to them, they’re respectful back to you. But there was this one guy. I’m sure he had a normal French name, but during my college days as an exchange student in Paris, when me and my classmates wanted a great pizza, we always went to “Rude Boy.” Or occasionally “Rudy.” His pizza shop was tucked into a corner of Place St. Michel, at the base of Boulevard St. Michel near the Seine. This small take-out window was the gateway to the softest, freshest, most delicious pizza slices in the Latin Quarter. Most importantly, the slices were cheap – a necessity for poor college students like us. Buying a pizza from Rude Boy was almost exactly like trying to get soup from the Soup Nazi in that famous Seinfeld episode. You stepped up, stammered out your order, and hoped that Rudy Rude Boy would deign to sell you a slice. Even if you cleared all the protocol hurdles, he’d still likely sneer at you in contempt after you placed your order. “There, take your pizza, you infidel!” We loved it! What teenager doesn’t love testing their mettle to get past a gatekeeper. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the pizza was SO yummy.
Opposite the plaza is the Rue de la Huchette, sometimes referred to by guidebooks (with disdain) as “Bacteria Alley.” Today it’s a lively place with one of the highest concentrations of restaurants in the city. But back in the day, Huchette was the place we’d go for cheap, hearty gyro sandwiches: gorgeous soft baguettes stuffed with warm shawarma meat and topped with French fries. As for bacteria, I can neither conform nor deny. All I know is that my 19-year-old stomach rarely suffered a tummy ache from consuming their gyros. (I doubt I’d dine there today, though – not my 60-year-old gut biome.)
Place St. Michel: a Wow place for comfort foot with a side of Parisian attitude.
(Where else have you been where a hindrance threatened to keep you from getting what you wanted? How might your life change if you decided to embraced the hindrance…if you treated it as a fun challenge?)