“Picka Pocketoni” Summary
One July, Sedaris and Hugh take the Paris Métro on their way to do some shopping on the other side of town, a trip which involves taking two different trains. In the summer, it’s common for large numbers of American tourists to visit Paris and ride the Métro, and Sedaris admits that he hadn’t previously known just how loud Americans tend to be in public.
On the first train, a group of college-aged Texans hold a loud debate while sitting on the folding seats intended to be given up when the train grows too crowded. When the train inevitably does become too crowded, however, the Texans remain seated and carry on their discussion of which city is better—Paris or Houston. As the crowd becomes increasingly dense, Sedaris loses sight of the Texans, but he can still hear one of them shout despairingly that he and his friends just want to go home. Sedaris understands, as he felt precisely the same way the last time he was in Houston.
On the second train, Sedaris and Hugh notice a middle-aged American couple hugging the floor-to-ceiling support pole. Sedaris immediately resents the couple for taking up nearly the entire pole, which is designed to be grasped with one hand while standing some distance away and sharing with others, not clung to as one’s personal property. As the train leaves the station, Sedaris steadies himself on the same pole as the American couple. As he does so, the American man waves his hand back and forth in front of his face, saying, “Yes indeed, this little froggy is ripe.” His wife responds, “Golly Pete! Do they all smell this bad?”
Sedaris realizes after a moment that the American couple are talking about him. The American man tells his wife that it’s typical for the French to smell bad, as they don’t bathe very often. “You crack me up, Martin,” she says, laughing.
It’s fairly common, Sedaris knows, for American tourists to mistakenly assume that everyone around them is a local who doesn’t speak a word of English, and this attitude leads them to feel free to say anything they please. Although they don’t strike Sedaris as particularly mean people, this couple are nonetheless standing right next to him, talking about him as though there is no way he could possibly understand them. Like many Americans, the couple seem unaware that English is widely spoken across the world.
Sedaris, who has in fact recently bathed and is wearing clean clothes, decides he is perfectly entitled to hate the American couple. He silently criticizes their outfits, which include baseball caps, sneakers, and denim shorts, remarking to himself that “it seems rude to visit another country as if you’ve come to mow its lawns.”
Martin then begins to show the woman a map of “his” Paris. Behaving like a tour guide, Martin suggests that he ought to take this woman to the Louvre, butchering the word’s pronunciation and adding that, while the museum is not for everyone, he suspects she would like it. Sedaris decides that these people ought to be sent back to where they came from.
When Sedaris moves his hand up the support pole as the train rounds a corner, Martin turns to the woman and says,...
(The entire section is 829 words.)