Oui vs. Me
There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met. William Butler Yeats
Recently I was in Montreal and while there I figured out the real meaning of oui and it’s not what you think. I don’t know about you but whenever I arrive in Montreal I immediately want one thing – poutine. So I got off the train, realized it was too early to my hotel, so it was a great opportunity to get some poutine. So like a tourist, I checked on google maps and found a place with good reviews that was about a 25 minute walk away.
Of course, I still had my suitcase with me and it was making that distinctive rat-a-tat sound as I was walking. People didn’t even have to turn around, they just instinctively got out of the way. For some reason, the noise, the walk and the people moving out of the way reminded me that I was alone right now. I was by myself in the city.
I finally got to the restaurant and for 10 minutes, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get into the building. Just outside the building, I see four people talking and they’re speaking French and smoking their cigarettes. So I started to approach them to ask but as I got closer, I got self-conscious. I don’t want them to think. I’m an idiot, right? In my head, I pictured myself as a tourist with one of those plastic visors on my head and a laminated tag around my neck that says “If lost, please return to the embassy.” So I hesitated, didn’t ask for directions and kept circling the building.
Once I finally found the entrance, I walked in and I was starving and the restaurant was almost empty. Perfect! All I need is a table, a beer and some poutine. The waitress came over and I asked for a table. She responded “Oui. For one or multiple?”
Again I got self-conscious about being alone. She didn’t hurt my feelings or anything but I sheepishly said “Yes, it’s just for one.”
“Oui, sit by the bar.” I looked over and it’s all just lonely people sitting by the bar, drinking by themselves. I hesitated, thinking is that really where I belong? But she kept smiling and pointing at the bar, not at the dozens of empty tables. So I thought I guess that’s where I belong.
Finally, I sat down at the bar and the bartender walked over -massive guy – six foot eight, 280 pounds. “Oui. What would you like?”
“A beer and a poutine please.”
“Oui, no problem.” He walked off to fill my order. I started texting people to stave off the loneliness. But then I heard a sigh. I glanced up and the bartender looked tired and was rubbing his temple as he was pouring beer.
He brought me my drink and as he did, I put my phone away and said; “Hey, dude, what’s going on? You look a little tired.”
“Oui, I’m exhausted.”
I felt for him. “Oh man, I’m sorry. Are you finishing work early?”
“No, I got a whole night ahead of me.”
I just felt this overwhelming abundance of love for this guy and I said, “Hey man, stay strong. I’m sending you so much positive energy.” Then I extended my hand to fist bump him. The hilarious part is, he was so big that my fist looked like a baby’s beside his massive hand. He looked surprised but he fist bumped me – so hard by the way that I almost fell off my chair.
He walked away. My poutine arrived, I was working on my tablet and eating. And then, as I’m looking down, I see it. A tequila shot being put right in front of me. I looked up, confused because I didn’t order a tequila shot. But then I saw the bartender smiling and he’s holding his own tequila shot and he just points with his nose and his face at me.
So I smiled, grabbed the shot and we clinked glasses. I downed mine. He downed his. I was already starting to feel the warmth through my body. He took my glass and smiled as he walked away.
And so in that moment, I understood the real definition of oui. It’s us – we.
As soon as I arrived in Montreal I focussed on myself. I focused on my insecurities, my problems, my loneliness. I think I’m not the only one that sometimes gets so stuck in their own head, stuck in the discomfort and pain that you can’t break out. The only way to break out is through connection to others. As soon as I was not focussed on myself, I made a friend and I got a shot of tequila. When you are low, go lift someone else up and you will see how beautiful life actually is. And that’s the real key, isn’t it? Not focusing on me. But focusing on we. I love you guys.
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