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The Gallic Shrug Survives in North America

By Sam Cutler

15th September 2016

How cool it is to see people talking on their mobile phones in the province of Quebec, here in Canada. The only thing that seems to be moving when Americans and Aussies talk on their cell-phones is their jaws, whereas here in Francophile Canada people are an avalanche of animation with their shoulders heaving in dramatic shrugs and their arms waving to invisible symphonies of unknown meaning. I love it. At least one knows the people concerned are having a conversation with someone ELSE, rather than with themselves !! I find it mildly strange and disconcerting to watch people having a cell-phone conversation with some other person, yet with no apparent or visible technology .. it really looks as if they’re talking to some inner demon or addressing some unknown psychotic terror. In traffic jams in America I sometimes wonder if half the drivers are madmen (or women!) as they sit becalmed and mutter away on their hands-free mobile devices as if of some lunatic disposition! It is certainly ‘most odd’ as my mother would have said had she lived, like me, in the era of mobile telephony; as opposed to living in an era where a person talking to themselves was destined to be either laughed at mercilessly, admonished, chastised, or dragged to the funny farm. But we have been here in Montreal where the ‘gallic shrug’ is alive and well, and people employ it in every conversation. Soon (namely tomorrow) we shall return to the dear old United States where all one sees during conversations is the words tumbling from people’s tongues and squeezing between largely immobile lips. Montreal has been such a pleasant antidote … we shall miss it dearly, but Woodstock calls and we shall head south to there, then on to New Jersey, and thence to Virginia for the Lockn Festival.

Farewell to our friends in Montreal, a ‘little bit of Europe’ in the heart of North America .. we shall miss you until this time next year when we shall return. Meanwhile, rock n roll and book-signing calls in America, and we have to drive to Virginia and thence to California. It has only been a few days but we feel beautifully refreshed, and as they say in the travel game “a change is as good as a rest”. We’re ready for the next moves … “onwards James and don’t spare the horses” as my dear old mum would say, even though it was my step-father who was driving, and it was never horses but always a car! Like my mother, I cannot resist harking back to those ‘golden eras’ of long ago .. they seem so much more preferable than the days in which we live, where technology renders most of us inanimate, except that is for the people of Montreal who shrug and wave like circus performers so that one simply doesn’t know to whom it is that they are talking,  or (as my mother would say) “whether they’re having their boots mended or going to Paris”.

 

*The article has been reproduced here with the permission of the author.