Sunday, September 26, 2004

Cup O' Joe

There's a bar two doors down from our apartment, and we often stop in on a weekend morning for a coffee (café for him, crème café for me). Stéph likes this bar for several reasons, one being that they have Rapido, which is a lotto-pick-eight-numbers-and-hope-for-the-best kind of game. There's a tv in the corner that shows new numbers every five minutes, and you're to pick your numbers, how much you want to bet, and how many games you'd like to play. Once you've bought your ticket, you sit back and hope for the best whilst enjoying your coffee and the ambiance. It's an interesting distraction, and we generally take four games at one euro apiece. The most Stéph ever won was 50 euros, but more often it's one euro here and there and it's not unusual to win our money back.

This bar also features PMU. I don't know the exact translation (anyone?) but it designates that the bar is a place for betting on horse races. It seems every other table is occupied by someone reading the daily horse racing papers to pick out their bets for the day. I've rarely been there when there's a race on, but when I have it was absolute cacophony.

The thing that seems to set our bar apart is its international flavor. Taking up the most tables in the room next to the bar is the Asian contingent, mostly made up of (according to Stéph) Vietnamese immigrants. The women are furiously filling out rapido cards, making runs to the bar for new tickets, and sipping coffee and talking very loud. The men usually sit separately, peering over their PMU papers and taking a mid-day beer or throwing their losing rapido tickets at each other. They are often accompanied by their children, who sip lemonade and bounce between tables. In the booth under the rapido monitor is a table of Africans, chatting quietly over drinks and PMU tickets. They are an older crowd, and always look dapper in their suit jackets. I didn't know until yesterday that the tables at the front of the room are usually taken by the Portuguese guys. We usually sit in the back so I can't tell you much about them, except they seem a friendly lot, varying in age and always greet each other with a firm handshake. Scattered here and there is a table of one or two Frenchmen, taking coffee and checking out the racing schedules. And then there's us: I'm usually the only non-Asian woman in the place, save the waitstaff, as rapido and horse racing is more of a man's game, but Stéph has been taking me here since the first time I ever stayed in Troyes, and I feel comfortable there so I can't see a reason to stop. The proprietor is a warm and very friendly sort of fellow, who often stops at tables around the room to say hello to his customers.

In this country that is struggling with immigration and multi-cultural citizens, I'm glad to know there's one little corner where prejudice must be checked at the door. All these people from vastly different backgrounds coming together with one goal in mind: making loads and loads of money.

Well, you've got to start somewhere, right?

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