#1921 A Montparnasse Moment

Tour Montparnasse, as seen from my window.

I just went for a walk down the road to look for some dinner. I chose this half takeaway/half sit down kebab spot with picnic tables out the front, halogen lights and a fairly depressing atmosphere. Put simply, it was a dive, but I couldn’t say no to a five euro meal. As I was enjoying my double cheeseburger with fries, this homeless guy walked in. He was about 65 years old with olive skin, a big moustache, a dirty old baseball cap and ragged but semi-presentable clothes. He strolled right past me, tossing a “Bon appetit!” in my general direction and headed to the counter.

The two Arab guys on the grill exchanged a glance and the younger of the two went to talk to him. “Bonsoir monsieur,” he said.

I don’t speak real French, but body language is universal. The guy was asking for a free kebab.

The two Arab guys exchanged another glance, and the older one shrugged his shoulders, heaved an exasperated sigh and nodded his head.

The younger dude started to assemble a beef doner kebab, shaving meat off the rotating carcass that they have in those places.

As he grabbed the pita pocket and headed to the salad bar, the homeless guy began to give rapid instructions. “Monsieur, s’il vous plait. Tomates, oui. Oignon, oui. Pas de ketchup, pas de mayonnaise, plus de tomates s’il vous plait!” (In English: Tomatoes, yes. Onion, yes. No Ketchup, no mayonnaise, more tomatoes please!)

The requests were punctuated by, “Merci monsieur, c’est tres gentil!” (Thank you, it’s very kind) and “Habibi! Habibi!” (My beloved in Arabic).

The Arab guy wrapped up the kebab and went to hand it to the homeless man. The homeless guy acquiesced.

“Monsieur… Deux?”

The Arab guy stared at him with a mixture of disbelief and amusement. He shrugged his shoulders, laughed and headed back to the salad bar.

When he’d finished making the second kebab (to the same specifications as the first), he put both into a bag and went to hand it to the homeless man. The homeless guy acquiesced.

“Monsieur… frites?”

The Arab guy paused, then headed to the deep frier, scooping a giant amount of french fries into a styrofoam container. He placed it into the same bag as the kebabs and went to hand it to the homeless man. The homeless guy grinned.

“Merci monsieur! C’est tres, tres gentil, habibi habibi!”

He turned around and walked out the door, looking down into his bag as he went.

Then he stopped.

He walked back up to the counter.

“Monsieur! Une fourchette! S’il vous plait!”

The Arab guy stared at him, shook his head, then handed him a fork.

“Et monsieur… Serviettes?”

The Arab guy passed him some serviettes.

The homeless guy smiled. “Merci monsieur. Bon soiree, au revoir!”

And just like that, he turned and walked out the door.


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