Rising from a cozy brown lounge chair to reach for her coat, Madame Lapierre peers into my empty coffee cup. “Tu n’as meme pas eu le temps de te reservir,” she says, pointing her polished finger toward the full pot on the counter behind me. “Better for me that I didn’t have time for more,” I say. I can already feel the one cup running through my veins. Madame Lapierre shrugs, lifting her shoulders in typical French fashion — a wordless expression that could mean anything from, “Too bad that you missed out this time,” to “Silly Americans, always wanting refills.”
Refills aren’t typical in France. Neither is self service. So when I ordered my cafe filtre at Miss Cookies Coffee Shop an hour earlier, Madame Lapierre’s first English lesson had already been off to a good start. “This cafe is a little edgy for Dijon,” I told her, still waiting at the counter for the big pot to finish brewing. “It’s trendy because,” I paused and gave her a little wink, “it’s American-style.” Thus the refills and self-service. If I had wanted to, I could have guzzled a whole watered-down coffee and filled up again right there on the spot, dumping in as much sugar as I wanted (if I drank coffee with sugar) instead of being limited by the minuscule paper tubes that usually accompany France’s minuscule shot cups of bitter espresso. I could even have ordered my coffee “to go,” a practice typically limited to the large cities that have only recently begun hosting the truly American coffee shop export, Starbucks.
Madame Lapierre isn’t so sure about the edginess, or the trendiness, of the place. “Zis used to be costume shop for men,” she says, eying the caramel walls as if she can’t imagine how one could change a former designer suit boutique into a place that sells American-style coffee refills. “I bought my ‘usband a chemise ‘ere not long ago.” She takes one last sip from her shot glass then tucks her napkin under the saucer.
“I think it is a good place for English lessons,” I tell her. “The ambiance adds to the cultural experience.” We agree to meet here next week and I thank her for coming. “So nice to meet you,” she smiles, genuinely appreciating my enthusiasm. Her hand is on the door as I point to the restroom. “I’m going this way,” I say. She hesitates just long enough to betray the decision presenting itself in her mind: to faire la bise or not to faire la bise: that is the question. Had I been French, the decision would already have been made — in favor of a kiss on both cheeks.
I let out a little giggle as I recognize the familiar facial expression. (“Is she, an American, part of the in-crowd, or do I just say, ‘so long’ and get out of here?”)
I may be American, and I might like watered-down coffee and free refills, but I know how to kiss on both cheeks. Without giving her the time to decide for herself, I swing my purse over my shoulder and lean in to give her a hearty goodbye. “Bonne journee,” I tell her between the right cheek and the left. “And see ya soon.”
**Photo Credits: Miss Cookies on Facebook, weheartit.com