A number of years ago, I was fortunate to spend most of the summer in France at the Avignon Theatre Festival, performing with a company of my friends.
When we weren’t in Avignon performing, we took day trips to neighboring towns. On one trip, the group decided to split up and meet back in a few hours, at the train station. Many of us didn’t speak French, so Rob, a fluent friend in the group, tutored us all to ask “Where is the train station?” in case we got lost. “Ou est la gare?,” we repeated.
When the time came to meet back up, everyone reassembled quickly except for one guy, Kyle. The train would be coming soon, and not only was it the last train out of town, but we had to get back to do a show—and Kyle was a lead. Where could he be?
Just as the train was pulling into the station, Kyle came running up, frustration showing on his face. We all boarded quickly. As we got settled, Kyle said, “I kept asking people where the train station was and they would just look confused. I must have asked four or five people before I finally recognized where I was in town and ran over here.”
Rob asked Kyle what he had said when he asked directions to the train station. Kyle spit, “Ou est la guerre, just like we practiced.” Rob, startled, barked a laugh. “That may have been your problem,” he said. “You weren’t asking ‘where is the train station.’ You were asking these nice French villagers, ‘where is the war.’”