“March 26 – The bus driver chatted me up for 10 minutes about his BLUEGRASS BAND after taking the wrong route.”
The bus I rode every day to work was Ligne 4: Chamoux – Champet par Madeleine et Myosotis.
Not to be confused with Ligne 40: Chamoux – Champet par Buisson Rond et La Villette.
The former stopped right in front of the school where I worked in Chambéry, France. The latter was basically the same exact route, minus the two stops near the school. About once a month, the bus driver forgot which of the two he was driving that morning and turned off the wrong branch of the roundabout, a road that would bypass my stop entirely. Those were always great mornings…
The first time this happened, there were only three people on the bus: me and two other women. “Any of you going to Ste. Thérèse or Madeleine?” the bus driver called back to us, obviously hoping that he could avoid having to turn around. Too bad for him, all three of us were headed to Madeleine.
And so the months passed. This day, March 26, I was the only passenger still on the bus when, once again, the driver took the wrong turn sending us in the wrong direction. This time, he made no verbal signal that he realized his mistake. Gearing myself up to explain my situation in French (and so early in the morning!), I timidly walked to the front of the bus.
“Yes, don’t worry I’m just driving to the roundabout in the next block to get us back to the right street. Sorry!”
And with a great merci beaucoup, I turned to make my way back to my seat. But the driver wasn’t done chatting with me. It eventually came out that I am American, and a huge smile came over the driver’s face. He told me how his friend lives in Brooklyn (sorry, I’ve never met him), he wants to visit Memphis (sorry no, it’s not really very close to Washington), and that he even plays in a bluegrass band here in Chambéry!
It always amuses me that when abroad, I come to represent an entire nation of vastly differing and far-flung people, just by the virtue of being American. The endless questions can be annoying and a little ridiculous (no, I don’t eat hamburgers every day and no, I’m not constantly terrified of being shot in the street), but a lot of times it also makes me very proud. Americans have a tendency to believe that Europe (France in particular) despises us and our Go Big or Go Home attitude, but the truth is that French people worship American culture as much as we do. Their movies, their TV shows, and their music are all exported from the U. S. of A.
I have been wracking my brain trying to remember if this conversation was in French or English, and I can’t remember… I think it was in French, making the entire thing even more surreal. I cannot so much as name a bluegrass artist, and yet I felt a shared connection with this man through his enthusiasm for my culture. Despite making me late to work, my bus driver reminded me that no matter how far away you may be, you’re never that far from home. It really was a great morning! ❂
Epilogue: I have absolutely no recollection of what he told me was the name of his band. So naturally, I googled “bluegrass band Chambéry” and came up with Les Frères Bandini. Whether or not this is indeed my infamous bus driver is a mystery, but it’s difficult for me to imagine SEVERAL bluegrass bands in my little mountain town in the French Alps… But then again, what do I know?!
Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.