25 May 2005

Salon on bus No. 67

An impromptou literary salon broke out on bus #67 as T and I rode over to Montmartre to see the apartment I will be renting next month, and to visit Sacre Coeur, a church that overlooks all of Paris. A young chap around 30 years old, wearing a smart vest, white shirt and beige cotton blazer -- and a matching beige driving cap -- commented on a book that an older and less stylish gent was reading. The exhange alone would warrant me writing about it. I had no idea what they were saying, but I knew the topic of conversation. The two were sitting in seats that faced backwards, and our seats faced forward. It was rather entertaining from an observer's point of view. I can only tell what they said because T translated the whole thing for me later.

The two were both reading books by the same author. The younger chap commented on this to the older gent, and their discussion quickly turned into a debate. Had you not been there from the start, the exchange might have been viewed as an arguement. However, the discussion seemed rather civil to me. It had a lot of passion behind it, like conversations do when they have to do with politics, religion, or in this case literature. A pair of pre-teen boys sat a row behind us, engaged in a similarly heated discussion which appeared to be about the features on one boy's mobile phone, or perhaps about text message that had been received.

With the literature debate, both men were so eager to get their point across that they couldn't bear hearing the other man out. They tried to be respectful when they could help it. Age is definitiely acknowledged in all French exchanges. I suppose knowing that his stop was approaching made the younger chap more impatient. It could also have been sheer conviction that his position was superior. He held up an index finger to prevent interuption whenever he needed more time to state his case. "That doesn't interest me," the younger man said casually, when his opponent's claim failed to impress. He then went on to explain why his arguement was better. It was a rather civil debate that ended with them both shaking hands and the younger chap getting off the bus and walking towards the Louvre.

A man sitting nearby witnessed most of the debate. He was carrying pink and white roses wrapped in paper, and chuckled with the older fellow saying, "It's good to have these kinds of discussions." The older chap crossed the aisle to sit near him, and they started their own discussion. Perhaps a new opponent would be interested in his opinions.


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