If you landed here as a result of a Google search to find a scholarly article on the Shakespeare play by that name, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But please read on if you are looking for ideas on how to make the world a better place. In 2014 my wife and I took a wonderful road trip through France: Normandy, Brittany, the Dordogne Valley, the Loire Valley, and the Provence region. If you want to relive it with us, a link to our blog of that trip is in the “My vacation blogs” section of the side panel. One particular stop is the genesis of this article.
Every year about three million people visit Mont St. Michel, a breathtaking abbey perched atop a rock at the edge of the English Channel right at the boundary between the Normandy and Brittany regions of France:
It had been on Anita’s bucket list since her high school days, so we spent a day there. For lodgings the nights before and after, we found a bed-and-breakfast using Airbnb in a little village just a 15-minute drive from the shuttle center to the abbey. It was a lovely home, with a most gracious hostess, Annick.
When we are guests in someone’s home, even when paying for the privilege, we practice the courtesy that we were taught in our own homes. We ask when breakfast will be served, we ask when we should be back in the evening, things like that. The only issue is that my level of French was what one might expect after only two years of college French, and Annick spoke not a word of English. But she patiently gave me time to formulate my questions in very simple and very poorly pronounced French, and then she consistently gave me an answer that I could understand: “Comme vous voulez.” A rough pronunciation of this is “kum vooh vooh-lay”. A strict word-for-word translation into English is “As you want”, more commonly rendered as “As you wish.” Hence the title of this post. In other words, she was willing to adjust her life for a couple of days to accommodate her guests’ needs. No signs saying “Breakfast 7:00-9:00” or “Lights out at 11:00”; just “comme vous voulez”, with a very gracious smile. Ever since, we have called her “Miss Comme Vous Voulez.”
I’ve given this a lot of thought in the last few weeks of these troubled times, and I’ve decided that the world would be a better place if more people who are accustomed to having that their own needs met would, from time to time, devote a little effort to meeting someone else’s needs. A little more time listening and a lot less time shouting might have an interesting effect.