I was standing at the train station this morning with a cardboard cup of steaming coffee in one hand and a copy of French Vogue in the other, flicking through the pages of out-of-my-budget fashion ads and shaking my head at the skeletal models, when I tuned into a conversation taking place between two French women nearby.
The two women, perhaps in their early thirties, were discussing boobs and, in particular, what the secret was to getting a bigger chest without having surgery. Woman Number One swore by her chicken fillets; those silicon gel pads that sit inside the bra, while Woman Number Two listened avidly before, right there in the middle of la Gare at rush hour, asked if she could see an example of this famous gel pad. I waited for the expected embarrassed laughter followed by a 'no!' but when it never came, I looked up from my magazine and saw Woman Number One discreetley put her hand down her top, into her bra, and re-emerge with a big gel-filled chicken fillet wobbling in her hand. She handed it to Woman Number Two who turned to face the wall so as to be inconspicuous. She weighed the fillet in her hand, squeezed it, turned it over and over, and then gave it back to her friend. I watched then, as if in slow motion, the thing fall from Woman Number One's hands to the ground, slapping against the dirty station floor like a wet fish.
The two women looked horrified as they stared, mouths open at the lone silicon pad lying on the ground. The shame must have been too much for either of the women to dare bend over and pick it up because Woman Number One grabbed the second woman's hand and dragged her away from the scene, far away in the other corner of the hall, where they couldn't possibly have anything to do with it. As for myself, I slid over a few seats further away.
The station was busy, as it is every morning at 7.30am, and with each train that came in, hundreds of passengers descended, walking through the hall, their feet kicking and sliding the chicken fillet across the floor. As my train was delayed, I stayed where I was for half an hour, no longer reading my magazine, but more engrossed in people's reactions every time their foot touched the gel pad and they looked down to discover what it was. The women all recognised it, but the men, not so much. The men would stop and stare. They would tilt their heads to the side, trying to work out what the hell it was until either they would give up and walk away, dissatisfied, or they would finally realise it was something feminine and would walk away, fast, with their faces a deep shade of red.
And then, it seemed the chicken fillet could take no more kicking. At some point it had burst and the gel was slowly seeping out. Along came a 40 something business man, looking straight ahead, walking fast, breifcase in hand, smart shoes, and - oh ya beauty! He skidded on the gel, waved his arms in the air to try to regain his balance and then fell backwards, bum on the ground, an outraged look on his face.
Credit where credit's due though; when he looked to see who or what had been so insulent as to have made him fall flat on his arse, he was part of the group of men who stared, tilted their head, and then understood what it was.
I wanted to laugh, but I held my breath until the urge went away. It doesn't look right if you laugh when you are by yourself in public places. But then again, I don't think anyone would have taken any notice of me, what with the poor man sprawled out on the floor after skidding on a random chicken fillet.