Dispatches from an Angry Place

First off, I should note that I stole my title. It’s the subtitle of my friend Caitlin’s blog, and it seems appropriate to me right now.

Depending upon how my job search turns out, I may have just under a month left in France. (That is, if I get the job I really really really really want, I’ll have to book it home the second I’m done teaching.) With so little time left, I should really focus on the positive, and get the very most out of every last moment here. Unfortunately, that’s increasingly difficult.

All along, I had been hoping to stay in France for the summer or forever. I changed that tune a bit when I got back from my magical vacation with Jef. He doesn’t expect me to hurry home to him; in fact, he’s been very patient about my wanderlust. (As long as I’m here, he gets to expect periodic care packages full of cookies, sausages, and French cut cardigans.) The trouble is, now that I’ve seen a few cities in France that I would love to live in, the sheer mediocrity of Angers glows like Marie Curie’s skeleton in the ground…or some more appropriate metaphor…

For six months, I’ve pronounced Angers in the correct French fashion—AhnZHAY—but the longer I’m here, the more I want to pronounce it à l’Américaine. (As in, rhymes with dangers.)

Why?

Let’s talk about how many times I was blatantly harassed just this week, not even counting the cop I told you about a few days ago.

Exhibit A: My friend Caitlin who just ran the Paris semi marathon concurs: running here stinks. Each time I’ve gone for a run/walk, the townspeople of this horrid place—especially men—stare at me as if I had extra legs or something. Thanks, dudes, for making an already displeasurable pastime even worse.

Exhibit B: I’d like to note that this has happened every single time I’ve gone running: after I inevitably slow to a walk, some smartass feels the need to chant, “Faster! Faster!” Just shut up, Angers.

Exhibit C: On Monday, as Andrea and I were headed home from a long run/walk, we turned down an almost empty street downtown. (One end was blocked for construction, so there were fewer passersby there than usual.) As we passed a group of five guys, probably around 17 years old, one of them approached me, posturing and smacking his fist in his hand. I walked on by, in utter disbelief that someone would actually behave like such a brutish imbecile. When I glanced back over my shoulder to shoot him a dirty look, he was looking straight at me and humping the air. It’s best if I don’t get myself started on how furious I was, so I leave it as this: if the Angers police are so concerned about my safety, where were they when I needed them?!

Exhibit D: When I saw a fellow assistant outside the supermarket yesterday, I didn’t get off my bike as we chatted. As we exchanged our hellos, some guy on his bike reached over, shoved my handlebars, and then shouted, “You’re not balanced!” as he biked away.

Exhibit E: Thirty minutes later, on an almost empty street, a driver loudly HONKED at me, sped past, and gestured that I should get over to the right. I was already on the right side of the road, but apparently I was supposed to bike in the gutter so as to stay out of his way. I should note that his aggression was completely unnecessary: there was no one on the other side of the road preventing him from passing me. But even if there had been, is it really the end of the world to slow down for ten seconds?

I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything, but I’m getting the impression that an unwritten law forbids women to exercise in this town.


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