That’s what she said… maybe

I live in Quebec but have abysmal French comprehension. One of the benefits of this is my ability to tune people out. Paired with my natural self-absorption, it’s a guaranteed way to live in a perfect isolation bubble. French conversations can be happening all around me, morning DJs can be braying on the radio, and I can still focus on my work or my book or my campaign to stop Adam Sandler before he films again.

Sometimes, though, I like to play a game where I imagine what the people around me are saying. In truth, this is how I conduct most of my conversations in French, which makes for some occasionally distressing visits to the doctor. Eavesdropping, on the other hand, allows me broader flights of fancy.

For example, I recently spent the morning in a garage to have my winter tires put on and my rear shocks inspected. I settled in the waiting room as people came and went. Most kept quietly to themselves, reading magazines or tapping on their personal distraction devices. But one young man pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to have a conversation that I imagined went like this:

“Hi. I’m at the garage… Of course I’m wearing pants!… I’m calling you on a cell phone and talking loudly… No, it’s not so important that it can’t wait but there’s only this guy here, and I’m pretending he isn’t… I’m still loud, listen how loudly I’m talking…The chairs are very slouchable here, which is good because I like slouching. Do you like slouching?… My beard is so-o-o-o-o full and luxurious!… I know!… I know!… I know!… No, no, only monkey pee can do that… Do you know, I’ve completely forgotten about Quebec’s so-called Secular Charter. It was all we could talk about for a while but now no one seems to care, like we’ve moved on. Oh, Quebec!… Talking loudly in public is fun… I’m planning to tailgate someone later when my car is fixed… The guy with me needs a haircut, and his beard is far less luxurious than mine… OK… OK… OK… Bye.”

“M. Murray?”

It was the guy from the service desk.

“Oui?” I said.

“We’ve checked to see why the air bag light keeps coming on and we’re going to rip up the passenger seat where the child sits with the weight of her school bag. Is that okay?”

“You fix the light?”

“It might be. We’ll run a diagnostic and fire the mechanic.”


Later, another service rep came in to talk to one of the waiting women.

“Madame? It’s hammer time. But one question: do you think anglophones are more paranoid than francophones?”

“Oh, definitely more paranoid. But with reason, am I right?”

“Can’t touch this.”

And then they laughed.

It wasn’t long before my own service guy came back holding a small C-shaped piece of metal.

“This is a part of your car,” he said. “It’s broken because you are a negligent car owner. Come with me and I’ll show you where we make mistakes.”

I followed him into the service area where a mechanic had my vehicle up on a lift.

“Here is your car in the air,” said the service guy. “That’s called magic. Here is another broken part that will make your car stay in the air unless we use pythons. Look how broken you made it. We can take this piece and jam it into that piece because metal is the stuff of gods. We can put your tires back on if you like or you can ride home with no bouncy-bouncy, up to you.”

The mechanic said, “You have one of the handsomest beards I’ve ever seen.”

“You fix today?” I asked.

“First I have to go into the room and laugh about you, and then I’ll write up a bill for $613 because I know you are going to pay. Okay with you?”

“Oui,” I said.

And that’s why Quebec anglophones are more likely to be poor than francophones. So stay in school, kids. Learn French.  Don’t do drugs.

This post originally appeared on

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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46 Responses to That’s what she said… maybe

  1. ddupre315 says:

    Haha! I like your imagination, it’s fun!

  2. Marc who doesn't speak Straight says:

    Hey Ross,
    You’ve just made me feel better about the garage thing. I’ve had the exact same experience, but chalked it up to my not speaking ‘Straight’, which is a prerequisite in a garage, I think. Unless you know Lesbian, of course – I’m told that people who speak Lesbian can do fairly well in that setting.

  3. Merde!!

    How’s ’bout that French, Beardy? Lol. I like to pretend that people are having conversations of my making as well. It’s actually pretty funny and often includes a thought about why a person’s genitals itch so badly, but that may just be my imagination.


  4. Oh my gosh!! LOL I live in southern Texas and I’m thankful that I speak Spanish fairly well. My husband can so relate to your position .. his construction sites’ conversations tend to go down the same road. ..haha.

  5. markbialczak says:

    Loud and rude needs no translation, but I’ll let you provide your version every time!

  6. Elyse says:

    Ross, you should have talked (or written) to me first. Because my not-at-all-handy husband fixed our “Service Airbag” problem on Saturday after it came on during my safety inspection. Naturally, I flunked. My husband rubbed his chin and got out the duct tape. Problem solved.

    This was the first time in 27 years he hasn’t made a problem worst fixing it.

  7. Tez says:

    I laughed out loud at, ““Here is your car in the air,” said the service guy. “That’s called magic. Here is another broken part that will make your car stay in the air unless we use pythons.”” This post is one of your best.

    It’s what I hear when I take my car for a service even though everyone speaks Aussie English. The mechanics could be talking double-Dutch for all I know about how cars work. After reading your post I now know they are speaking Quebec French. Merdre! Maybe that explains why it costs more to get my car fixed than a visit to my GP. I’m getting a French lesson at the same time. Who knew?

  8. franhunne4u says:

    C’est bon, c’est bon!

  9. I always assume that my mechanic is speaking another language. I mean, what the hell is a transmission?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Seriously. One of the only saving graces about Quebec French is that you can get away with something called franglais — a mix of French and English. For example, the proper word for “wiper” is “essui-glace,” but you can say, “Est-ce que tu peux remplacer les wipers?” and you’re all right.

  10. List of X says:

    I know “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir” – but no one ever says that to me in a conversation, so this bit of knowledge turned out to be pretty useless. Merde.

  11. pinklightsabre says:

    This is exceptionally funny. Thank you: really good morning chuckles here, in the dark.

  12. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I think car mechanics purposely launch into a foreign language especially when the car belongs to a woman. But I like to think that if one of them came to me in the waiting room with a bucket of metal parts, I’d ask to see where in MY car they came from. I bet they’d scramble fast to cover the shelf that holds the supply of customer-duping metal parts.

  13. byebyebeer says:

    Yep, sounds like all my experiences at the auto shop, though with no language barrier to blame. Plus your experience sounds so fun.

  14. Kylie says:

    Je suis le cracking up.

  15. Letizia says:

    When we were little, my brother and I moved to the U.S. briefly (from France) and spoke French thinking no one understood us, casually speaking about the people around us. Only upon reflection as an adult did it dawn on me that there must have been SOME people that understood us! Hope we didn’t say anything too horrible, gulp….

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I imagine if someone was capable, they would have loved to have caught you out with, ” Vous savez, vous deux, que je comprends toutes que vous disez…” I know I would.

  16. rarasaur says:

    Haha! Loved this. Especially because I always imagine that people who are speaking other languages are talking about beards… because, really, why wouldn’t they be? 🙂

  17. Yahooey says:

    I only followed half the advice. I learned French.

  18. benzeknees says:

    I think all of this would be going on around me too! When I lived in the bush in NW Ont., the native peoples there spoke Oji-Cree. Sometimes they would jabber away in their own language & you could just tell they were laughing at you by the way they pretended not to be looking at you!

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