“The Tapeworm Is In” Summary
Before leaving New York for Paris, Sedaris takes a French class that encourages students to memorize French dialogue from audiocassette tapes. The fictional conversationalists in these tapes seem to spend large amounts of time at outdoor cafes and restaurants, remarking upon the color of the sky, ordering colas, and greeting passing acquaintances.
Sedaris’s past drug use has not left him with a particularly reliable memory, so he has difficulty memorizing the phrases on the tape. In an effort to correct this, Sedaris caves and purchases a piece of technology he has always felt animosity toward: a Walkman. Despite his misgivings about Walkmans, Sedaris finds that he rather enjoys listening to one. The world tends to ignore people when they have headphones in their ears, and this suits him fine. He finds that walking around New York is much more pleasurable now that he can tune out the psychotic man brandishing a toilet brush on the street and instead listen to young French people sitting down to lunch.
After moving to Paris, Sedaris realizes he doesn’t actually have occasion to use any of the phrases from the tapes, as he has no one to talk to. Although he finds the young students in his French classes nice and well-meaning, he feels too old and jaded to socialize with them outside of class. To occupy his time, he instead listens to English books on tape as he wanders the streets of Paris. He finds himself enjoying French life with English narration, noting that he feels less intimidated by the department store when he’s listening to Dolly Parton’s memoir on his Walkman.
If people who constantly read books are called “bookworms,” Sedaris jokes that he is becoming a “tapeworm.” Having quickly exhausted his favorite English language tapes, he briefly attempts to listen to some French audiobooks but finds them much too difficult to...
(The entire section is 475 words.)