Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman in the Senate chamber, speaking with Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington)
One sure sign of a stranger in our midst: they use the French pronunciation of our capital city’s name instead of the thoroughly Anglicized version us Vermonters use.
So when I hear someone refer to the place as “Mohn-pel-IEH,” my ears perk up.
Walking down the main corridor of the Statehouse on Monday afternoon, I saw Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman having a chat with a young couple who were pushing a baby stroller. I stood at a respectable distance, not wanting to intrude, but I could hear enough to suspect that these weren’t locals.
Sure enough. “We’re from France. Paris,” said Akrivi Fili, who was there with her partner Benjamin Dupas and their 9-month-old daughter.
They were bemused, in a good way, by their casual encounter with the man a heartbeat from the governorship.
“I was impressed,” said Fili. “He said he was the lieutenant governor!”
“And also a farmer, an organic farmer,” noted Dupas.
This chance encounter resulted from something of a whim. The vacationers were on their way from Boston to Montréal (pronounced Mohn-ray-AHL, thank you very much) when they took a side trip through Montpelier. “We thought we could make a stop and visit the Statehouse,” Dupas said.
“We were really impressed that it’s open to the public and you’re free to enter and to visit,” said Fili. “It’s really great to feel free to visit such an institution.”
So what did Zuckerman talk with them about? Farming?
“Elections,” said Dupas. “Because we have an election right now in France.”
I felt like something of a rube for my pronunciations of “Montréal” and “Montpelier,” but I made a nice comeback with my actual knowledge of the election: a presidential runoff between centrist Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National.
“Bravo,” said Dupas. “So you want to know what [Zuckerman] said to us exactly?”
“He said, ‘Please don’t do what we did.’”
Meaning, from Zuckerman’s point of view, don’t elect a rabble-rousing, immigrant-bashing politician.
I asked if they would get home in time to cast ballots in the election, scheduled for Sunday.
“No, we have people who will vote for us,” Fili said.
“We have this system, procuration,” Dupas explained. “You can have someone else vote for you if you prepare things correctly.”
“We each have a friend voting for us,” added Fili.
It was time for Fili and Dupas to leave; their parking meter was about to expire, and I’d hate for a pair of friendly tourists to get stuck with a ticket as a memento. I gave them a business card — my first-ever international contact! — so they could look up this story online.
“Thank you very much,” said Dupas, pushing the stroller through the Statehouse’s formidable doors. “We’ll check your website.”