I keep walking. There are a million shops here on rue Saint Antoine in the Marais district: clothes and shoe stores, dry cleaners, cafes, bookstores, two bakeries, Chinese take-aways, a wine shop, and a cheese shop. There’s even a foie gras shop.

Past the church, rue St Antoine has three busy east-bound lanes of traffic.  On the south side of the street, next to the shops, a granite-paved lane doesn’t have any markings. No curbs. It looks like a pedestrian walkway. Well, it isn’t. A truck comes barreling right up behind me. I could easily get killed here.

It seems like everyone is out shopping today. I jump into the stream of humanity and go, keeping pace with the crowd. I try to walk with confidence like I know where I’m headed, although I don’t know where I’m headed.

I walk past a fish market with a case filled with huge, pink fish lying on mounds of ice, their glassy eyeballs staring in that dazed “why me?” look. I stop and check the prices. I can never eat here.

At one point, I slow my pace so I can stand for a moment and get my bearings again. An old woman almost slams into my backside.

“Sorry,” I say immediately, then I blurt out my French translation: “Desolée, madame.

She walks past me, muttering something about my mother. Great. I’ve been on this street in Paris for two minutes and already I’ve made somebody mad. I watch the old woman go waddling down the street, her broad figure draped in a black shawl.

I wonder about that old woman, and also that man I bumped into at the Charles de Gaulle airport yesterday. They both said something about my mother. Isn’t that interesting?

Then it dawns on me—mere (mother) sounds a lot like merde (sh*t).

If I knew less French, I’d be much happier right now.