It’s an Air France flight Dallas-London Heathrow. On the ground, a lethal combination of a thorough lack of snow-ploughing equipment, and light snowfall, has thrown the world’s busiest airport into hideous turmoil. Somewhere over the coast of Spain the captain comes on the tannoy, explains the situation to his anxious passengers, and rules out a Heathrow landing. “Hell!” they cry, “Can you land us in Manchester? In Birmingham?” “Merde alors!” gasps the French captain, “Birmingham! Non non non, we shall touch down in Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Tomorrow you will fly on. Cabin crew will come now with hotel coupons for this evening.”
Reality is as good as the captain’s word, and charming stewardesses do indeed start down the aisles bearing bundles of envelopes. However, somewhere around row 46, they run out. “Voila, c’est fini,” they say, and turn around. “Say feeney!” shriek the passengers in row 47 and beyond (a good half the plane). “What do you mean ‘say feeney’? We want those coupons!” The stewardesses pause to explain there are no more, and that’s it. To the Dallas Texans on board, this is incogitable. They just can’t believe they’re going to be let drop like this.
“I want eye contact!” first one, and then another American demands. “Gimme eye contact! I want you to look me in the eye and tell me there are no more coupons. I want eye contact! Gimme —”
A stewardess turns. “C’est pas nécessaire de vous regarder dans les yeux, Monsieur. Il y’en a plus. C’est tout.” And with that she turns on her heel, and leaves them all staring at the calves of her legs as she walks away.
That’s the French and the Americans for you. True story.