Sometimes I feel like a) I was just put here for some random Belgians' amusement; and b) I've wandered unawares into some kind of musical production. Par instance: yesterday I found myself sans STIB jumpcard (local equivalent of the Metrocard) near the Université Libre de Bruxelles (not to be confused with the other side of campus, which is called Vrije Universiteit Brussels. I'm not kidding). So I went into a pharmacy, because it was the only store I could see for blocks. I realized it was a long shot - I couldn't possibly claim they sell Metrocards at Duane Reade in New York, but I decided it was worth a try. (After all, they do sell them at press agents and the supermarket.)
As an aside, I've been told by some that one's chances of being caught without a STIB card are practically nil. This was a disclosure that left me feeling somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I love public transportation (so much so that J has accused me of wanting to live atop the Port Authority and take "public transportation vacations" - not sure what either accusation means) and don't mind paying for it. But on the other hand, who wants to be a sucker?
So, back at the old pharmacie, I asked the nice lady behind the counter if I could buy a card for the tram. She could have just said no, or even laughed in my face in a pleasant or friendly way - which happens to me here all the time. (It also happened to J the other day, when he walked into an eating establishment and greeted them with bonsoir - in the middle of the day.)
Instead, she seemed to find my question so obtuse as to merit some kind of theatrical act. She proceeded to gaily call/sing to her colleague in the back room that "Madame is asking whether we sell cards for the tram . . ." (the audacity, I know.) Which prompted her fellow pharmacist - who was equally lovely and apple-cheeked - to reply in a singsong voice, "Mais non, why would we sell cards for the tram? Of course we do not!" At which point, I received the final decree from both pharmacists, in choral unison, "Madame, we do not sell cards for the tram. You must go to the librairie, of course!" (Maybe it was just that it was in French, but it was all vaguely reminiscent of the song in The Little Mermaid where the crab is being chased around the kitchen.)
Completely perplexed, I decided to walk home.
1 year ago