I’m in the lobby restaurant of the Hotel Jeu de Paume, on a cold and wet Monday in Paris. Nestled between the two arms of the Seine River, Jeu de Paume has been sheltering travellers since the 17th century so it’s coping well with this one.
It’s raining and Im fine with that. So very fine. My holiday will be populated soon enough, but today I have a date with me.
Choosing to do fuck all in Paris doesn’t feel unproductive to me.
Like many introverts, I crave time alone. Whereas an extrovert might get bored or antsy spending a day in solitude, I’m more inclined to get bored or antsy in company. I’d rather talk in front of 500 people than mingle with them afterwards. Networking makes me feel phony and small talk isn’t a strength.
That said, most of my ‘achievements’ today will involve highly considered small talk – in French. I’ve been learning French, and forgetting what I’ve just learned promptly afterwards, once a week for over a year now. I regularly declare to my three fellow students that I must be suffering from an undiagnosed brain condition, such is my ability to swiftly forget what I have just learnt.
Today though I have asked for hot water for tea, and I have asked about borrowing an umbrella, and I have made friends with two staff and another guest – in French, actual French. I have learned how to request slow talk for the student; I have connected with the power of vulnerability. People want to help.
It thrills me that when I attempt to communicate, I am actually understood. Maybe learning French will strengthen my small talk game. This introvert is up for that.