A waiter from Milestones restaurant in Vancouver is taking his employer to court, suing for wrongful dismissal. Mr Guillaume Ray, for it is he, went to the British* Columbia human rights tribunal, claiming he was dismissed for being rude.
The rudeness of French waiters is the stuff of legend**. They are generally acknowledged as surly and superior, an unpleasant combination in anybody. They make mock of you if you try to speak French, shrug gallically, make the face like a coal scuttle they specialise in, and are generally unhelpful.
I’m going to backtrack now. This problem is almost solely confined to Paris. Parisians regard anybody who isn’t a Parisian as being pretty much beyond the pale, and that applies to other French people. Whoever dreamed up the notion of ‘Gay Paris,’ in the old fashioned sense of gay, had clearly never actually been there.
Even the other big places I’ve been to don’t display this hauteur. Lyon is a fabulous city, with great food and friendly waiters who actually have a sense of humour. Nice is not very nice (though just down the road, Juan les Pins is worth a visit), but the serving staff are fine. Even the thieves’ kitchen that is Marseilles is civilised, at least in this respect.
Get out into the boonies and things get even better. Almost without exception the people who look after you are lovely. A workmate and I stayed in a hotel once, the Cloche D’or, in a small town where there really were old geezers playing boule and smoking Gitanes beneath the plane trees. The hotel was, to say the least, eccentric, but charming.
All the light switches were those old-fashioned brass toggle affairs that make you think twice about using them. The room was shabby but clean, as was the bed linen. The reason for the snowy white sheets became obvious when you went to the toilet. There was a shower in the room, but the toilet was in the attic and in a Portakabin that was surreally placed in there. Goodness only knows how they got it up the stairs, which were so steep and narrow they looked as if they had been designed by a naval architect. But in order to get to the door of the toilet, you had to fight your way through festoons of drying sheets and pillowcases hanging from lines crisscrossing the space.
In the bar there was a grey parrot in a cage, and if you gave Polly a wine cork, she would rip bits of it off with her beak and spit them at you. This amused me and my colleague no end, as did the seven-in-the-morning crowd of guys on the way to work getting their heartstarter breakfast of coffee, Gauloises, and a large measure of marc.
By the way, the restaurant in Vancouver failed to get the case thrown out on its ear, and there will now be a full hearing to decide if it’s legitimate for the French to be grumpy gits because it’s their culture, as M Guillaume Ray claims.
*That ‘British’ tag must have irked him no end.
**Jokes about English speakers and French surliness go back at least as far as the 18th century.