“Je voudrais un sandwich de chicken avec un donut creme de sour et un Pepsi diete, svp.”

As part of my duties with the Premier Basketball League, I travel to some of the eight cities that currently host teams (at least to the cities where I can comfortably drive in under 8 hours).

So last Thursday, I went to a place called PEPS.

No, I’m not hanging out with Salt’s rapping partner.  Although I do understand she’s a lot of fun…

No, I went to PEPS – a multisport athletic facility at the University of Laval.  In Quebec City.  In Canada.  Up north.  Very very north.  So far north, that it’s really nord.

The Albany-to-Quebec City trip is about 6 1/2 hours of driving, with about 95% of the travel on interstates and autoroutes.  Once I get on the Trans-Canada Highway, there are several mnemonic buildings and locales that confirm to me that I’m going in the right direction.

One of them is a place called “Big Stop,” a large gas station / restaurant complex in the town of St-Liboire (exit 145 on the Autoroute Jean Lesage).  The truck stop has a Tim Horton’s (Tim Horton’s :: Canada = Stewart’s :: Albany) and a Couche-Tard (Couche-Tard :: Canada = Cumberland Farms :: Albany).  And this was my opportunity to test out my New Year’s Resolution.

I was going to order a chicken sandwich – a sour cream donut – and a diet cola – in French at the Tim Horton’s.

Or at least I was going to TRY REAL HARD.

I went up to the cashier.  I told her my order.  In French.

At which point she started giggling.  And the worker behind her started snickering.

You can probably imagine that I bungled the French translation.  The cashier took pity on me and completed the transaction in English.

See, at one point or another I tried to learn a foreign language in high school.  But due to my moving around from district to district and from school to school, I didn’t even take a regular language class until the 10th grade at Abington High School (#11 on the list of 12).  So that was about four months of introductory French.

The next time I even cracked open a French textbook was in my sophomore year of college.  I tried for two whole years to learn French, but it just wasn’t coming to me. Maybe I started too late in my life – they say that the best time to absorb a foreign language is as a baby, hearing it in the household alongside English.

In the 2008-09 PBL season, the league expanded into Canada, with the Halifax Rainmen, the Montreal Sasquat’ch, and the Quebec Kebs.  Great.  Fantastic.  Two opportunities for me to practice French.

Oh man did I fail.  I tried and I tried, but after five seconds of fumbling through what I really wanted to say, I simply said forget it and ordered food in English, hoping the cashier wouldn’t be upset at my attempts.

That doesn’t mean I’ve given up trying, mind you.  One of the streaming audio stations I listen to during the day is 94.3 Energie Radio in Montreal – I get to hear all the top hits from the top pop singers, along with French-language disc jockeys and French-language commercials.

It’s audio immersion.  I’m picking up little things here and there.

The drawback to this procedure is – now I have this hankering to buy a Marie-Mai CD, cause Energie Radio plays Marie-Mai almost every hour on the hour.

But I won’t give up.  At some point I’ll be able to walk into a Tim Horton’s and order what I want – in French – without messing it up.

I just gotta remember not to try that when I’m in a Tim Horton’s in Ontario.