On the Boulevard Montparnasse, Katherine Sanders

In Katherine Sanders, nonfiction on July 29, 2011 at 7:17 am

I saw a strange sort of caravan the other day; a young brown-haired woman was being wheeled in a grocery cart down the Boulevard Montparnasse while three men were carrying her groceries. One man pushed the back of the cart with the precious cargo while the other two flanked each side carrying her full plastic bags and talking excitedly. They were clearly aware of the spectacle, because they were smiling and occasionally laughing too. Seeing a grown woman in a grocery cart was unexpected enough that I couldn’t help laughing, and of course, afterwards, I felt guilty for laughing. What a douche I was—that poor woman had some kind of unexpected foot injury (she was wearing only one shoe), and had to be wheeled home. This was no laughing matter. And yet, I couldn’t stop laughing about it secretly. In my folly and starting to feel bored, I even plotted out the intro to a very bad short story about the drama leading up to this woman’s lamentable position:

This was not what she expected. The price of milk went up 41 cents. She filled her cheeks with air then let out a round-shaped puff of dissatisfaction as she shook her head. “C’est insupportable!” It was the end-of-the-day grocery rush at the local FranPrix, a young employee carted a box of bananas toward the produce section…

I’ve since come to my senses somewhat and realized that as much fun as it would be to turn this woman’s strange misfortune into my own entertainment, there are bigger questions at work here, like what’s so funny about tragedy? What does my sense of humor say about me? And why when I was talking on the phone and walking downstairs and momentarily lost my balance did I not fall? If I fell, who would cart me home?




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