Date:         Tue, 23 Apr 1996 13:31:44 EST
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMITHCAEIM
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


So I was in a plaza, while having a walk around, wondering why
Montreal is not a very pretty city, watching everyone and thinking
how French everyone looks and dresses, and there I was in the plaza
having a look around and up come two guys, one with a Video camera on
his shoulder, one of those big ones with a TV station sign on the
side, and the other one with a battery pack and a microphone and he
sticks the mike in my face and says:

"Bonjour monsieur, vooleeshovaunwefigshouneauvahfirhsay?

I looked and shrugged my shoulders and replied:

"Je ne parle pas francais.  Anglais?  Espagnole?"

He backed off, laughed, and they both went off wagging their fingers
at me, saying:  "voicineufwahssenhoutonisshuigess."

I wonder what they wanted?

Date:         Tue, 23 Apr 1996 17:15:03 EST
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMITHCAEIM 2
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


On my exploratory journeys around this sort or ordinary city, which
looks something like a mix of Chicago and Madrid minus the trees, I
find late at night one of those generic coffee houses.  One in every
city, where the coffee house types hang out all day, nursing a cup of
coffee, doing their homework, reading the newspapers, smelling the
burnt coffee beans, ignoring the bad art hanging on the walls.  I
confront the waitperson at the counter who speaks to me in French and
I blurt out that I want a cup of coffee.

WP:  Uh....  monsieur....  strong?
ME:  Yes, please.  S'il vous plait.  Strong.

So I get the strong coffee and choose a table in the corner and then
find and read the local alternative arts and events newspaper and
smoke a cigarette.  I feel, soon, a very gentle, very French tap on
the shoulder pad of my jacket....  almost imperceptible.  I look up
and there is a very pleasant looking young woman with dark dark eyes,
holding up a Canadian dime:

YW:  May I, please... please may I...  buy you a cigarette?
ME:  Oh, of course, you may *have* a cigarette.

I give it to her, wave away her Canadian dime, and she says:

YW:  You have please....  you have...   ?
ME:  You need a light? (Fishing for my matches)
YW:  Fire, please.
ME:  Yes, a light.  (She puffs)
YW:  It is the menthol.
ME:  Yes, the menthol.
YW:  It is very nice.  Thank you.
ME:  You're welcome.

It's like being in a foreign country.  That's what it is.  Like a
foreign country.

Date:         Tue, 23 Apr 1996 23:13:39 EST
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMITHCAEIM 3
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>

So I finally, after my paper and many rounds of parties and delicious
dinners, decide it is time for the health club.  The promo in the
hotel directory warns:

"Guests must wear appropriate clothing to be admitted.  Arriving in a
bath robe and flippy-floppies is not considered appropriate.  Guests
without traditional health club footwear will be denied entrance.
Hotel guests should plan to arrive in groups of no more than four at
one time.  If larger groups desire to use the health club facilities,
they should inquire at the desk.  For entrance to the health club,
guests should request passes at the Reception or with the Hotel

I think:  is this worth it?  How intimidated am I by these rules and
regulations?  What the hell.  I'll go anyway, without the appropriate
footwear.  In the lobby, I approach the Concierge:

ME:  May I have a pass to the health club please.
C:   Oui monsieur.  Fill out this form please.

So I fill out the form, noticing there is a space for "charge".  I
think:  I am going to get very stressed if he tries to charge me for
this.  Nothing in the promo said anything about charges.  And I stay
directly in front of his desk so he cannot see my inappropriate
footwear.  No problem.  He gives me the pass and wishes me a good day.

Health club, which is private, with an agreement with the hotel,
turns out to be very luxurious.  Two huge whirlpools, each designed
to accomodate some fifteen guests at once, a sauna and a steam-room
and lots of lockers and hair dryers and three swimming pools and very
very nice.  And no little girls.

Later in the day, like eight in the evening, I decide to go back to
the club for a soak and approach the Concierge, a different one.  He

C:   You have to get the pass over there, at the Reception desk.

So, I go to the man at the Reception and ask for a pass.  He looks me
up on his computer.

MR:  Is this the first time you have gone today, monsieur?
ME:  No, I went this morning.
MR:  There is a five dollar charge if you go for a second visit in
one day.
ME:  But that was this morning.  Now this is a different day.  It
changes at noon.
MR:  What, monsieur?  This is the same day.
ME:  No....  (Then, changing my mind and deciding I dont want to have
this argument, then asking, stupidly...):  This means, then, that I
can go again tomorrow morning?
MR:  (Smiling)  Yes, monsieur, that is what this means.

So I go out and walk all over the city at nine p.m. for three hours,
wondering if it is dangerous.  I have still not, in three days, seen
a single policeman.  I survive, even after walking for five blocks
along a dark deserted street by the park.

Date:         Tue, 23 Apr 1996 23:34:43 EST
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMITHCAEIM 4
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>

After my long walk, safely in my room, I explore the movies on the
tube.  Finally decide, this is the time for the Adult Features, which
will probably be the same Adult Features in American hotels, those
awful porno films with all the good <parts> cut out, leaving nothing
but the fluff.  So, I press 2 and then 1 and then A and then 1 again
to get unlimited viewing until noon the next day of the 6 Adult
Features running continuously on three channels.  Poof, there it is,
and I am <shocked>.  This is the real stuff.  All the real stuff.
Like being in a foreign country, that's what it is.

Then, until noon the next day, every time I turn on the TV to catch
the news or some French guy talking about the weather in French, the
first thing that pops up are these images, like bang bam bang, I mean
the first thing, there they are again, doing what they are doing, up
close, very close.  Like being in a foreign country.

So, the next morning, to escape the images, I decide to make my one
free trip to the health club.  I go to the Concierge.

ME:  I would like a pass to the health club, please.
C:   Oui, monsieur.  (He starts filling out the form, then asks:)
You are with an airline?
ME:  (Thinking, does he mean, do I have a ticket on an airline)  Yes,
American Airlines.
C:   Very good, monsieur.  (He writes A.A. on the form, tears it off
and gives it to me.  I, wondering why I didnt have to go over to the
Reception to get the pass this time, say:)
ME:  Uh.  I don't *work* for American Airlines, I have a ticket on
American Airlines.
C:  Oh, then, monsieur, you have to go to the Reception to get your
ME:  Well, yesterday, I got it here, from the Concierge.
C:  No, you have to go over there, because they have to check their
codes in the computer to see if there is a charge.
ME:  There is no charge, because this is the first time today I have
used the club.
C:  You have to go over there.  I will go with you.

He takes me by the arm, goes to the woman at the Reception, gives her
the form he had filled out and says:
C:  He said he works for American but he doesnt so he has to get the
pass from you because you have to check the code to see if there is a
charge for using the health club and he says that yesterday the
bellboy gave him a pass which he shouldnt have done but he probably
did not know that.

She looks puzzled.  He leaves me with her.  She says:
RW:  Monsieur, what.... how do you say... what...  what deed hee say
about thees?
ME:  He said I had to get a different pass because I dont work for
the airline.
RW:  Monsieur...  you may use thees wan. (Hands it to me....)

I am by now in hysterics and go to the health club, where the guy at
the desk looks at my pass, looks at me and raises his eyebrows.  I
want to say "I dont work for American Airlines" but then I decide to
say nothing.  He says:

GD:  Do you need a razor? (Offers me a disposable razor)
ME:  No, thank you, I don't shave.  That's not something I do.

The day before, they did not offer me a razor.  Does this mean they
only offer razors to employees of the airlines?

Date:         Wed, 24 Apr 1996 18:15:44 EST
Sender: English Language Discussion Group <>
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMITHCAEIM  5
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


So I get out of my free visit to the health club, bidding it goodbye
after being amazed at the proliferation of perfect, I mean absolutely
perfect bodies, feeling sort of (yeah, right) inferior, then
remembering that this is a place that is not <normal>: these are not
normal people, they are here precisely because their life consists of
sculpting their bodies, negleting their minds in the process, so I
get out of my free visit and go to the upscale department store
where I, yesterday, saw the most fantastic collection of ties on
sale, thinking, as I was, that if I cannot have an instant perfect
body at least I can hang a pretty tie on the one I have.

I spend my two hours before my airport limo departure in the store,
looking through the ties: some on sale for $9.95, some on sale for
$12.99, some originally priced at $12.99.  The on-sale ties all have
a red mark on the tag, just below the barcode, but there seems to be
no distinction made between those marked down to $9.95 and those
marked down to $12.99.  The computer surely knows.  I take my seven
ties to the counter, where the nice lady speaks to me in French and
English simultaneously.  Then she starts to ring them up.

The first one has a $30 price tag, but no red mark, so it rings up at
$30, and I say:

ME:  This one is from the $12.99 rack.  All the ones of this brand
are $12.99.

She has to go look for them, which takes her quite a while.  Then she
comes back and manually rings up $12.99 in the place of the $30.
Then she rings up the ones with red marks, and they all ring up at
the original price, so she asks me:

NL:  Do you know how much these are?
ME:  Some of them are from the $12.99 rack and some are from the
$9.95 rack.
NL:  Which is which?  Do you remember?
ME:  No, but I can go look.
NL:  Yes, please, if you could check for me.

So, I go and try to remember where I got each tie, then think, this
is truly *bizarre*.  This is a major department store, like Saks
Fifth Avenue, in a major city, and this woman is letting me
decide how much each tie will sell for.  This is like being in a
foreign country.

On the way back to the hotel, I pass a telephone booth, and the woman
in the booth yells at me and asks:

WIB:   Votrazhuroventmaisnonjouiejevais?

I just shrug my shoulders and walk on by.  What could she want?

At the airport, I see people getting luggage carts by the front door
to take their luggage inside.  The use of the carts is free,
compliments of the airport.  This is *bizarre*, almost like being in
a foreign country.

At the desk, I present my passport and my ticket.  The agent has me
fill out the customs declaration form and sends me to the customs
agent behind him.  I hand him the documents, he looks at them and
then hands them back to me without a word.  I ask:  "Am I supposed to
put my bag on this conveyor?"  He just looks at me and nods.  This is
*bizarre*...   he doesn't care about anything.

Then I go to the gate and have to pass through customs again.  The
woman in front of me is subjected to intense questioning and frisking
by the customs agent.  I prepare myself for the search and hand over
my documents.  The agent looks at my passport, hands it back, and
waves me through.  This is *bizarre*.

It will be nice to get home where nothing is free, nobody trusts
anybody, and the money doesnt look like it came out of a Monopoly set.
Au revoir.  I'll be back in July.