small talk

“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.


18 thoughts on “small talk

  1. What a cool story! I’m fascinated that you can’t remember which language you had the conversation in!

    I love this line: 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. It really captures the whole essence of your experience there.


  2. What a fun post!! I love your vivid imagery, your humorous outlook on living abroad, and your unique perspective. What an adventure you must have daily! I hope you meet up with the driver one day again so you can reconnect and see if that is his band. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thank you for reading! I would love to find this guy again some day….but even if he bumped into me tomorrow I doubt I would recognize him! Try as I might, I don’t have the best memory for faces. (Not to mention I’m back in the states now, so if I really did find him again it would be a miracle!)


    1. Oh that’s so great! Why were you in Chambéry, if I may ask?! I lived there for a year while teaching in France and I just love it. I’m sure you can imagine I don’t meet many people who have even heard of it! Thanks for reading!


  3. I’m feeling a twinge of jealousy. I can’t even imagine living in a little town in the French Alps, but it sounds utterly romantic and peaceful. Mix in a little bluegrass and you’ve got a piece of heaven. I loved your story and am looking forward to reading more of those stories from your memory jar.


  4. I really enjoyed your story. It’s really one of those everyday moments that upon reflection are so precious.


  5. Hello Anne! How lovely to see you on SLICE OF LIFE! I think French is such a beautiful language to listen to–how wonderful that you have had that opportunity to live in France. I’m your mom’s friend and have enjoyed her pride in your accomplishments. Bonne chance!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a fun story, and I love the image of the distracted, then exasperated bus driver swirling back around to get you to your stop he skipped. I also love your follow-up on the band. Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually hear them sometime?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My favorite part is how you crafted the dialogue between you and the driver. I felt like I was on the bus!


  8. This made me giggle. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction and nowhere is that more true than here in France! I know the feeling about representing a nation: as a Canadian I am often the recipient of much love from the French, which feels entirely unwarranted!


  9. LOL! Is this note from your jar? Great idea for extending the post it note writing! Wow! Now, I’m really wanting to take this back to my classroom. Can you imagine if the kids did this every day, then once a week or so they took out a note and extended it into a longer piece? I think it would be awesome. Thanks for sharing!


  10. Hi Anne. Really enjoyed this story too =)
    Sure it would be nice if you could talk to this driver again. Maybe by using the STAC bus service Facebook page ( or Twitter account (…
    Otherwise, I was on line 4 and got off at Madeleine stop just two days ago, though I’m not used to take this line usually, it’s odd. Anyway I hope you don’t miss too much the place. No big changes since last year, except the opening of the footbridge over the railways =)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s