prise de bec

A neighboring IRM... read on in today's story, below.

prise de bec (preez-deuh-bek) noun, feminine
    : an altercation, a spat, an argument

"Le bec" ("beak") also means mouth.

In the chic town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz there were plenty of BMWs and so you might say we fit right in with our own deluxe IRM....

After watching the French movie "Camping"* (which shines the comedic limelight on that remarkable recreational species, the camper, in his garden of delights--or self-contained "tent town" replete with quirky campers like himself) my family was keen on spending our ten-day annual vacation at a campground: one teeming with portable cooking appliances, communal showers, cliques and, hopefully--oh so hopefully!--the spicy mini-dramas that only a close quarters community with its "let it all hang out" spirit can cook up.

During check-in time at the campsite, I studied the arriving vacationers (future characters for a brewing mini-drama?) and decided that our fellow campers did not look the part. Though half-clad, or "demi vêtu", as summertime campers are, they were neither racy nor raunchy, but appeared every bit as reserved as this reluctant campeuse*. Therefore I guessed, judging by their "covers", that we wouldn't be witnessing any juicy dramas unfold outside our aluminum-sided "star quarters". Oh, how I would soon regret those "covers"....

Several months back, faced with the camping conundrum that was "how to sell wife on the idea of spending our much-anticipated ten-day vacation camped out," Jean-Marc came up with a generous compromise: enter "IRM": "Idéale Résidence Mobile," which is just a fancy term for "mobile home" (which, in turn, is just a fancy name for "trailer"). When my husband mentioned that even the bed linens were included in the deal, I shouted "VENDU!"* Soon, I would spend my vacation sweetly sweeping the plastic faux-bois* floor, delighted to have a toilet and a shower of my own and to be able to stand while frying up our Gallic grits.

As for chores, sweeping the floor was as much work as I would find, for the kids would be territorial about the dishes (this, in their quest to earn money to spend at the campground's mini-market, from which they would bring back too much candy and not enough gossip).

The only thing missing from our pre-conceived notions about Campground was the mini-drama, but not for long. After unpacking my family's suitcases I went to make the beds, only to discover that sheets were not provided!

"You told me not to pack sheets," I began, huffing my way out to the terrace, where Jean-Marc was examining the BBQ. My husband snapped into defense mode.
"Oh, non. Non, non! I did not tell you not to pack sheets."
"You told me there was no need to -- that sheets would be included in the rental!"
"You may not have HEARD me, but I definitely told you to pack sheets."
"YOU may not REMEMBER telling me not to pack them, but...."

Noticing a passer-by, I slipped back inside our IRM... to continue the discussion in private. Jean-Marc followed, reluctantly.

"Most definitely you did NOT!..."
"Did too!..."
"Did not!"

Tired from the 6-hour drive, Jean-Marc had a solution.
"Look. I don't need a sheet," he said.
"Well, maybe YOU don't need a sheet... Monsieur Back-to-Nature... but the kids and I will need them."

I stomped back out to our IRM deck and promptly froze in my tracks. Up and down the narrow trailer lane, perched over their temporary property lines and leaning as far forward as gravity would permit, a half-clad audience had appeared, virtual popcorn in hand. Looking up and down the street, my eyes returned to our own mini front yard, where, at center stage before a deluxe "star quartered" caravan, I soon realized that WE were the first act in the spicy melodrama that my preconceived notions had obligingly cooked up, portable stove or not.

P.S.: On the second day, our neighbors took the relay... with a shouting match, or "prise de bec," to rival our act. I must say, I was a bit less obvious while ogling the operetta (viewing it from behind discreetly-parted curtains, where I listened, greedily, before an open window).

Share your own story, respond to this post, or help translate today's word "une prise de bec" ("argument") into another language... in the comments box, below.

Camping; la campeuse (le campeur) = camper; vendu! = sold!; faux-bois = fake wood

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Caravan & Camping France 2008
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