Do you see a mouse in this picture? Behind the Scooby Doo? (Ok, what am I doing in a café with a large Scooby Doo figurine? Never mind that).
Having overpriced hot chocolate (5 euros!) in the Latin Quarter and my friend Danielle’s eyes suddenly grow huge. “Oh my god,” she says.
“What?” I ask, knowing full well I probably don’t want to know what, judging from the look on her face.
“There’s a mouse behind you.”
“No!” I say.
“Yes! Right behind your head. Behind the Scooby Doo.”
I slowly turn around to look, then think better of it.
“While I haven’t seen it,” I say, trying to stay calm, “I’m going to get up and move very far away.”
In other words, if I don’t see it, I will not start screaming and knocking tables and chairs over. (Though passing as a strong and capable woman most of the time, I am one of those throw your hands in the air, jump on the table, and scream for her life girly-girls when it comes to episodes like these).
I get up as quickly as I can, grabbing my coat and backpack, and run to the other side of the room (which is not very far, incidentally, but far enough).
Danielle rescues our two hot chocolates and places them on the table.
I inspect our new seating arrangement – just a simple wall behind me, everything plainly in sight. No random cartoon character sculptures where rascally rodents might hide. Danielle spies a small hole in the ground, but I reason that ground level is more acceptable than head-level should something else come popping out.
“We can pretend we’re having a Ratatouille moment,” Danielle says, trying to make the best of it.
Yes, Ratatouille, I loved that movie, with the cooking cartoon rat. But then I start thinking of a real rat and gross myself out.
“Thank god it wasn’t a rat,” I say, leaving it at that.
We go back to our engaging conversation (you must realize by this point how fascinating my companion is – even a mouse behind my head isn’t enough to distract me too long from our chat. Plus, a 5 euro hot chocolate. I was going to finish it, damn it!)
You would think by trying to tactfully ignore the establishment’s mouse-incubating interior, the servers could give us a break.
But no, what do I hear a few minutes later?
“Quel bordel!” What a mess! The waiter is complaining about the disarray of tables and chairs we’ve left behind in escaping the offending area.
“There was a mouse,” Danielle says. Should be explanation enough. It doesn’t seem to be, though. He continues saying something – I’m no longer listening.
I’ve had bad service in Paris, but being made to feel as if I’ve done something wrong by moving away from a mouse – well, it’s pretty up there.
Just another night out in charming gay Paree!