Near Bear Lake, Utah, two older Frenchmen sit at a table in front of a wall plastered with old license plates from around America. A TV hangs over their heads and a bear carved out of a tree trunk stares out from a nearby corner. The men have tidy beards and are wearing shorts and sandals over socks. Their wives, with tidy short hair and wearing capri pants with sandals over socks, are at the counter of a small hamburger and milkshake “drive-in” in Garden City (population: 562). They are just finalizing the details of their lunch order.
“What dressing do you want on your salads?” asks the sixteen-year-old clerk behind the counter.
The women consult each other in French and the English-speaking spokeswomen of the pair asks about the choices.
“Ranch, Thousand Island, French and Italian,” the clerk replies.
They consult in French again. It is clear that these salad dressing options have no meaning to them. The French spokeswoman asks, “Vinaigrette?”
“We don’t have that,” the clerk says.
A bystander offers that “I-talian” (pronounced with a hard “I” sound) is basically the same as vinaigrette. The French spokeswoman agrees to “Italian.”
The clerk asks what they would like to drink and the French spokeswoman says, “beer.”
“We don’t sell beer,” the clerk replies with raised eyebrows (this is exceedingly “dry,” teetotaling, Mormon Utah where it is certainly illegal to sell beer at a fast food joint). After consultation, the French spokeswomen says, “then water.”
She pays, is told her name will be called when her food is ready, and is directed with her four empty cups to a self-serve soda fountain.
She studies the soda fountain. She has no idea how to get water out of this array of soda pop brand names and black levers. Another bystander steps in and shows her the tiny button next to the “Minute Maid Lemonade” badge that says “water.” She fills the cups and the two women join their husbands to await lunch.
And so concludes another successful cultural exchange in this French quartet’s American odyssey.