Paris Adventure 4: Nightly Wanderings

30/11/2012 20:44


Even Paris is a place where you can be out of luck. Two weeks ago when my computer with all the files I was going to print out that morning broke down, I thought it was just a bad day. When I became ill because of the “great” weather, which was much like on an ordinary January day in Russia and which had nothing to do with a usually dry November in Paris, I didn’t mind. When the zip on my super-warm jacket broke, I didn’t find it much annoying either. It was just a couple of things that made my stay here harder, but still not hard enough to make me desperate or discouraged. I thought that mischance just wanted to play around with me. But yesterday, it wasn’t just me who was out of luck, but also my roommate and her family who were on their way to visit her. And it pissed me off. No joke.

            When I see my roommate grin from ear to ear for no apparent reason, it is always one of the two: either she’s in love or she’s drunk. OK, she couldn’t have been drunk for several days in a row and she definitely was not in love (and if she were, then I don’t know her at all), so I assumed that my independent, worldly friend was really so excited because of her mom and aunt’s visit. She booked three tickets to Eiffel Tower, scoured both the kitchen and the bathroom, and did shopping. Yesterday, when I came home from school, I expected her mom and aunt would already be there. Instead I found some rice lying on a shelf next to my papers and five slices of roast chicken on an electric hotplate (swimming in oil in order not to get cold as she explained afterwards). Until then she had only cooked some semolina, pudding, and pasta. I was impressed.

In the corner of the room there were two bouquets of yellow roses stuffed in a beaker which we usually keep in bathroom for water dripping from a clogged pipe. My roommate was sitting at her computer, typing something with her tongue sticking out. When she finished writing, she gave me a look full of anxiety. She was trying to sell the three tickets to Eiffel Tower. It was 4 pm.  

Her mother and aunt had got on the bus from Bratislava to Paris the previous day at 6 pm. They should have arrived yesterday shortly after midday. While my friend was talking about a four-hour delay, she was nervous and angry. Her mom was not used to travelling and they had already gone through some problems when the Slovak international transport company changed the place of their departure from Žilina to Bratislava. I remember the tens of emails my roommate sent to the company in order to arrange some alternative transport to the new place of departure. She felt bad when she asked for compensation for the inconvenience caused by the unprofessional attitude of the company, but I reassured her that there was no reason for it. Indeed, after yesterday I can say there wasn’t.

It was obvious I would not let her go alone to pick them up. Making the extra mile for my friend’s safety was a must. So at 1am we set off into the night to find her mother and aunt with more than a twelve-hour delay. Later we found out that the bus had broken down and our Slovak bus drivers wanted to fix it. Unexpectedly, they failed. Unexpectedly, and this time with no irony on my side, they were delayed for God-knows-what reasons for twelve hours. Meanwhile, the meat was taken out of the pan, already pretty oil-saturated, the tickets to Eiffel Tower were rather awkwardly sold to some strangers standing in a queue under the Northern pillar at quite a significant loss and my friend’s eyes went from anxious to desperate.

We missed the last metro, and so, forced by the circumstances, we had to use the night bus (to be precise two buses as we had to change at Gare de Lyon). Since it was only the second time we were using Parisian great night transport, we got lost and finally my friend had to run after the bus with two bouquets of roses and I on high heels with two flasks of tea in a plastic bag. Moreover, we were encouraged by some black guys to get on a bus with ticket inspectors doing their rounds. Finally, we arrived at the southern Bercy station. With trembling souls we walked round the station for a while until we found the entrance to the waiting hall. Unfortunately, it was dark and closed. There was not a single person at the station! For the next hour we looked for another waiting room or a bus depot. My friend made at least ten phone calls to her mother who assured her that she was already at the station.

When we saw two bare dirty legs sticking out from under a blanket on a pavement and wondered whether the legs had a body or whether the body had a beating heart, I knew there must have been a mistake. In an hour we were sitting on the rear seat of a taxi that took us to the eastern Gallieni station. Yes, my tomfool friend failed to notice the name of the station where her mom and aunt were supposed to arrive. We paid a rather steep amount of money to our taxi driver, got out of the damned usurious car and finally spotted two women with three bags, undoubtedly full of sausages, curd cheese cakes, sheep cheese, peanut puffs and horalka wafers (I can tell you, our fridge has never been this full).

            That day I had millions of intermingled feelings. I was glad to see my friend with her mom and aunt; I was scared because of the homeless man who suddenly raised his head and uttered something in bizarre French I could not understand; I was exhausted, cold and hungry. However, the only thing I could think of was that the Slovak system failed once again and once again screwed my day, even at a respective distance of more than a thousand kilometres. And still I feel an immense love for my home and I always will.


Zuzana Rajčáková



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