Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Okay people, it's official, I attract freaks. I am a weirdo magnet. A perv vaccum, if you will.

Yesterday morning, as I made my way from the train station to my office, making the usual shortcut through one of the many buildings at my work, I nodded hello to the man I cross paths with almost every day at the same time at the same place. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except that today I was alone and it seemed to be just what he had been waiting for.

This man, who I will name and shame as Manuel, is undoubtedly over 45 years old, a couple of inches shorter than myself (and I'm 5ft4, so any man shorter than me is...well, very small), balding, fat and has these vile saggy bags under his eyes that are so big that they seem to shake when he talks. Gak!

Normally he and I will exchange polite 'bonjour's and 'bonsoir's when we pass one another, or rather, I smile and greet him politely and he leers at me with his big eye bags wobbling about, his eyes taking in my entire body before they meet my own. But on this day, as he saw I was not with my friends as I usually am, he pounced.

"Bonjour," I called as I walked by him. He looked at me from head to toe and back again before finally meeting my eyes and replying in a slow, pervy manner, "Bonjour, jeune fille".

Gak! I thought to myself.

As I walked on, I heard footsteps behind me and realised with terrifying clarity that he was, in fact, following me. I turned my head and yes, there he was with his little legs and his big round stomach having trouble keeping up with me. He grinned at me. "I don't even know your first name," he called.

I paused for a moment, threw him a forced, tight smile and told him.

"Leensieee?" He pronounced slowly. "Comme l'institut*?"

"Uh...sure." An awkward pause and then, with a slight wave of the hand and a nod of the head, I turned to walk away.

" Wait! Come and have a coffee with me."

"Oh..." I hesitated. "I can't, I'm, um, late." And I was late, it wasn't a lie. But even if I hadn't been late I would have lied because there was no way I was putting myself in any situation where there could be a risk of funny business with this numpty. But all of a sudden the wee man had his arm around my waist (I'm sure had he been taller it would be around my shoulders but evidently he couldn't reach that high) and before I knew it he had dragged me towards the coffee machine and had shoved a cappucino in my hands.

I sighed, what else could I do but drink from the cup? I resolved to drink very, very fast, not even flinching when I burnt my tongue.

"My name's Manuel," he said, not realising that I hadn't asked to know his name, nor did I want to know it. I nodded in response, gulping the cappucino, feeling the hot liquid scold my throat as it made it's way for my stomach.

Manuel decided to make small talk. He asked me where I lived and how I came to work. And then, when the conversation came to a screeching halt he said, "ahh it's such a pleasure to drink a coffee with a young, beautiful lady."


At this point I scrunched up the plastic coffee cup and threw it in the bin. "Well, I better be going now," I said. "Thanks very much for the coff -"

"Do I have the right to get four bises every morning to say hello now?" He asked, his voice hopeful. Four kisses on the cheek every day? Was he serious? My stomach flipped, my cheeks turned hot and I had no idea how to say no without coming across as a total bitch. I mean we didn't even know each other, had never even had a proper conversation until five minutes ago. And as I was humming and hawing, giving off signals that I definitely did not want to have to greet him with kisses, he lunged in and planted four revolting kisses on my cheeks, very close to my mouth. He smelled of coffee and cigarettes and pervy old man. Gak. Gak gak gak!

My stomach lurched and I pulled away. He grinned at me with his lecherous mouth and I turned and left, feeling violated and revolted by what had just happened.

In the evening, I found myself walking from the office, through the site on my way to the train station alone again and decided that in order to not bump into Manuel I would take a detour, which meant coming out of the site, going through the tournequets, crossing the train line and walking along a quiet road leading to the other side of the train station. Despite it being a lot more hassle, I decided that I would rather walk 100 miles out of my way just to avoid Manuel and his forceful, pervy pervyness.

As I walked along the road, all of a sudden a white van slowed down to a crawl beside me. He began speaking in fast French, I couldn't understand what he was saying, and assumed he was asking for directions. I began to explain that I was new around here and that I couldn't help him and then it clicked. He was coming onto me!

He winked, and said "je peux avoir ton numero de telephone?"

I could not believe this! Two in one day? What was going on? Full moon?!

I shook my head, said "non" as firmly as I could and began to walk on. The guy in the van inched forward to catch up with me and said,

"You Eenglish?"

And then, all of a sudden, as if out of nowhere, a Gendarmerie (police) car pulled up in front of him and three policemen got out! Oh my God, the shame! Suddenly I felt like a prostitute. I felt as though I was some sleezy hooker hanging about and the van man (who I'm also naming and shaming as Mohammed) was a client! I was mortified!

I hung around for a moment because I didn't want to run off in case it looked suspicious. The three gendarmerie looked at me and greeted me with a nod.

"Bonjour mademoiselle." One said.

"Bonjour." I replied, my heart beating a billion beats per minute. I surveilled the three policemen as they walked past me and opened the door of the van. With a silent sigh of relief, I understood that I was not going to be needed, and began walking quickly to the train station where I would meet my friends. But not before I overheard one of the gendarmerie men asking the van man why he had stopped and what did he think he was doing hassling a young girl.

So yes, it really is official. I am one of thse unfortunate people who attracts weirdos and freaks and pervs. And there is nothing I can do about it except become someone who doesn't feel guilty if she simply ignores someone. I must fight the very British urge to be polite at all times.

Well, either that or find a new route to and from work.

*In France there is a very well known institute called L'insee. Or, in it's full glory, L'institute National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques. It just happens that in French my name is pronounced the same way, which means I get many a French person making a pun about my name, thinking that it's amusing when IT'S NOT.


Teuchter said...

It's a few years since I had to deal with the likes of Manuel - but one thing I accidentally found worked rather well was to tell the pest how much he reminds you of an uncle/father/grandfather.
That puts him firmly back in his own generation without you having to get nasty - though that's always worth keeping in reserve if he really doesn't get the message.
As for the snogging thing - tell him you have a cold sore.
If all else fails - get FP to come and glower at him.

I'm glad the gendarmes read the other situation correctly and dealt with that pest.

Good luck, wee cherie.

T.D. Newton said...

Haha, that's crazy. Weirdos haven't hassled me on the bus just yet (except to offer me a Jesus pamphlet which I turn down as a rule) and no one has wolf-whistled while I have been biking either. Don't be too hard on yourself about ignoring people - anything more than that and these guys start to think their tactics actually work.

I'm going to have to learn French if I keep reading your blog, I suppose.

JB said...

Gak, indeed! That sounds absolutely dreaful. I know the French can be a little more forward with pushing personal boundaries, but flat-out violating them on a whim when they are clearly not being invited to is just plain awful, no matter the culture.

Leah said...

Ick! Gross! Yuck! Ok, now that that's out of my system, just wanted to say I vote for ignoring Gross Guss unless he continues to bother you after a bit of ignoring and then you can pull out the big guns and just tell him that franchement, you are NOT interested. Good on the flics for protecting you and not being sleezy as well!

PS-When I was first an assistant, my friend Lindsay had the same problem with the L'Insee as you. I guess they just feel better having something to relate your name to. I just tell them my name is the anglo version of Lea if people ever ask how my name is really pronounced(I go by Lea in France normally.)

Anonymous said...

Never ever agree to any situation that makes you uncomfortable just for the sake of politeness. It's better to just ignore people like that, unless you're in a village it's not really usual for total strangers to be talking to each other on the street etc. There's that French phrase "We have not raised pigs together" to tell someone when they are being too familiar, although it's better to just keep your head down and ignore them.

Some men seem to think they have the right to kiss women when they want, catcall them and whistle and generally make them feel uncomfortable in order to stroke their egos. Don't let them get away with that shit.

Zannie said...

Eww, gross! Tell them your crazy Scottish friend will come get them if they don't leave you alone! Ahh, remember Blair and his wee ratty friend in Millport? The van men you describe sound just like them! Love yooooooou x x x

L'oiseau de perles said...

I have the same problem! After having people for so long tell me that I'm so cold and impolite to people, recently I've been trying to be really nice to people...walking by people and smiling and the like. But now I get weirdos following me around, asking me out...so not cool!

I guess I should brace myself for this times 10 when I get back to France...or reactivate my "don't mess with me" face. xD

Esa said...

yuck yuck yuck! I was going to say it must be a French thing...a book I read about visiting warned not to make eye contact with members of the opposite sex while in Paris, because they will take it as an invitation. But there are dipwads like that in the U.S. as well. I think some people just lack the ability to recognize proper boundaries.

Zhu said...

At least you attracted a prince before the weirdos!

I'm a weirdo magnet too. In the bus, I have to fake listening to my MP3 and reading to be left alone.

Ghosty said...

HI PRINCESSE! Why didn't you tell that old codger to buzz off? I don't know too many women who wouldn't have poured that coffee over his head!


joy suzanne said...

Eeewww. Gack.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Teuchter Good advice! Next time, if the opportunity comes along I shall use the dad reference if only just to see the reaction on his face! A beezer I imagine!

TD weirdos allllways find me, no matter where I go and what I do. Maybe you are lacking the weirdo magnet gene or maybe it's because you are male and there don't seemo be as many female weirdos out there? Hmmm lots to ponder...

JB Ahh JB, it seems to me that the French weirdos home in on the foreigners, they have some sort of radar for us and then, once they find us, they take advantage of our less than perfect knowledge of the french culture. Down with French weirdos; users and abusers!

Leah agreed! I have been avoiding the entire building where Manuel works, and have armed myself with a whole cough/sneeze act so I can say 'non, pas de bises! Je suis malade!'

Le tigre Ever noticed that the men that seem to think they have the right to kiss women when they want etc are the old balding fat and ugly ones? There are some very disillusioned men here.

zannie Oh noooooooooo! You see? Even as 13 year old kids you and I attracted random weirdos!! Criiiinge!

l'oiseau de perles yes! Apparently it is something to do with being too nice. Everyone at my work has told me it's because I'm too nice and come across as niave! Hrmph! Mind you, I try to be mean but just can't stick with it. I always end up feeling really guilty and kick myself for having been too harsh! Never can win can ya! Advice: reactivate the don't mess with me face!!!

esa dipwads!! Teehee what a class word! Love it. And very suitable for this genre of men. Yes, I believe you can find this genre of men everywhere. Sadly...

zhu True, true!!! And me too, sometimes, when I have nothing to read or no ipod, i have even been known to pretend to be on the phone in the middle of a discussion.

Ghosty Ghoooooostyyyyy! so good to hear from you you rogue! You were too silent for too long, not fair. Pouring coffee over his head? Good idea...If only I had the guts!

Joy Suzanne Indeed!

Lis of the North said...

Oh dear.

sylvie d said...

I agree with Esa, never make eye contact or be friendly with any strangers from the opposite sex they will just think you fancy them...very sad indeed I loved the English reserve that men have in UK, never once got annoyed by anyone but here I
have learnt to avoid eye contact. I will have to brief my daughter too very soon :(