Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.
I feared for my life only once during my vacation in Paris. And it was all over a pizza.
We’d spent the morning perusing a flea market and poked our heads in through the door of a small, Italian restaurant to look for lunch. A greying waiter, with a crisp apron around his stocky middle asked brusquely, en français, how many.
“Trois!” We chimed.
He waved his hand, coaxing us inside. We followed, sealing our fate for the worst restaurant service ever.
He tossed the menus into the centre of a wobbly table the way one throws a bone to a dog. We knew that the tip was included in the bill, so French waiters and waitresses don’t always ooze friendliness and could sometimes be downright frosty. But our waiter had a sizzling temper. Had he been a cartoon character, steam would have been whistling out of his ears.
We tentatively took our seats and surveyed the all-French menu. His evident animosity and the prices – €20, nearly $30, for a pizza – should have made us hightail it out, but we didn’t.
He returned and thumped our pitcher of water onto the table, knocking over our water glasses with his hand. He left the glasses scattered like bowling pins, but it seemed that we were the ones striking out. We swallowed our nerves and prepared to order.
There was an option for a demi, or half, pizza, so we decided to get a whole one to share between two of us and a demi with different toppings for the other.
My French-speaking friend began in perfectly polite, textbook phrases. Halfway through her deliberate explanation our waiter exploded. He howled at my friend, en français, and stormed off to the kitchen.
She flopped back in her chair, her eyes as wide as espresso cups.
“He said,” she ventured faintly, “‘I don’t care what you want!’ And left.”
We laughed nervously but dreaded his return. What on earth would we be getting since he hadn’t let her finish? Would he return and hurl the pizzas at us, like a pie-throwing game at the fair?
When we saw him coming we edged back, and seriously considered sliding under our table for protection. He unloaded two, mammoth-sized serving trays and stamped back to the kitchen without saying a word.
He had given us two full pizzas, forgetting the demi, but the toppings were right. It wasn’t a cheap night, but we got out alive and with a great story – and that’s priceless.
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