Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Short Story about a Traveling Spaz who gets helped by Three French Strangers

So, Sunday night I went to bed at 3:00 and got up around 7:30.

Monday night I went to bed at 2:30 and got up at 4:30.

For those that don't like math, that's 6.5 hours divided between two nights.

Fact 1: Sarah doesn't sleep well on planes.
Fact 2: Sarah had aisle seats on both flights anyways, which doesn't help the situation.
Fact 3: From leaving my house in Orem to entering my apartment in Paris, the travel time was 23 hours.
Fact 4: Air France made me check the carry-on which had about $2,300 worth of camera equipment and clothes in it. They assured me it would come to the baggage claim along with my other bags.
Fact 5: Air France lost this bag.

When I first got off the plane, I was able to easily find the baggage claim for my flight, and my first two suitcases. The valuable carry-on, however, didn't come, even after TWO other flights had claimed all their baggage and I was the only person left, waiting with my loaded baggage cart.

I went to the baggage claim and an Air France employee who spoke some English helped me fill out the necessary forms (let's be realistic here, my brain was in no way ready to deal with this in French).

After filling out the forms, I decided I should just go home. But I didn't. I went out to meet my shuttle instead.

Once I was delivered to the sidewalk in front of my apartment building, I tried to use my phone to call my landlord and tell her I was there. No luck. My phone wasn't picking up ANY networks, even one that would entail serious extra charges.

So, I stopped a man who was walking by with his daughter and asked where I could buy a phone card. He asked whay kind (or something), and I explained what I was trying to do.

"Well, here. Just use my phone if that's all you're trying to do," sayd French Stranger #1."No need to buy a phone card."

Hello! How nice is that? 40 minutes later, I was in my apartment. It's cute. I'll show you pictures later.

A couple hours later my landlord came home and said that Air France had called her cell phone to say they found my bag!! Hooray! I called them back and they said they would deliver it to my door between midnight and 1 a.m. (Less hooray. But still good, because they technically have 48 hours to get it to me, so 13 or 14 isn't too bad.)

After getting my available suitcases unpacked and eating some spaghetti my landlord made for me, I decided to run to the grocery store. I was gross, and I had no shampoo.

Don't worry that while trying to do a simple run to the grocery store, I got lost. TWICE. I must have misunderstood the directions my landlord gave me.

So, I did the worst possible thing a girl could do. I accepted rides from total strangers. They were the nicest total strangers I could possibly have found.

The first (a.k.a. French Stranger #2) was an older gentleman (probably in his mid-60's) who was born and raised in this neighborhood in Paris, and whose grandparents moved here in 1900. I asked him if he could tell me how to get to Monoprix (a supermarket), and he basically said, "You can't be trying to walk there??!! Let me give you a ride or you'll freeze before you find it."

Seeing as I was so tired and hadn't been paying attention to the streets I had taken anyway, I thought I might as well. Plus, if I needed to, I could probably overpower him and run away.

This gentleman (I never got his name) was very nice, but didn't speak English, and he told me that although I had an accent, my French was very good. "And I'm not just saying that to flatter you." (Now picture me, beaming.)

Once I found everything I needed at the store, I walked in the direction I thought I was supposed to take, and ended up at the same intersection where I found my second helpful stranger of the day. Knowing that wasn't the right place to be, I asked a couple passing by if they could tell me which direction to go to get to my street. They didn't know, and I started freaking out. If they didn't know and they were from here, how on earth was I going to find it? (Picture me panicking and looking around frantically for someone else to ask). (Also picture me trying not to burst into tears).

Enter Kind Stranger #2. She had also just walked out of Monoprix, and I asked her if she knew how to get to my street. She (just like the guy earlier) said, "Are you trying to walk there?" (I'm sensing a theme here. But really, it wasn't that far.) I told her I was trying to walk there, that this was my first day in Paris, and I had no idea how to get there, but that's where my apartment was. Bonus: I started crying. I expected her to be bugged by this, but she just said, "No, no, it's okay! Everyone gets lost their first day!" She then offered me a ride, which I gladly accepted.

She asked me about myself, and told me that the same thing happened to her when she moved to Detroit for a few years for work.

We successfully found my apartment, and I took my one bag of groceries up the four flights of stairs to my apartment (which, really, was far easier than carting my 50-pound suitcases up the stairs one at a time). My landlord was in bed when I got home, so I put away my groceries, set my alarm for 11:45 pm, and slept until about 11:55, when I decided I should get up and listen for Air France to deliver my lost luggage.

Lesson Learned #1: Always bring at least a trial sized shampoo and conditioner.

Lesson Learned #2: It's probably worth it to pay for checking an extra bag if that means my camera stays with me no matter what.

Lesson Learned #3: ALWAYS make a mental note of the streets I'm taking as I walk somewhere. If I get somewhere, I've almost always got to find my way back.

Lesson Shared: French people are actually really nice. Don't know why the stereotype is so common that they're rude. Parisians and other French people are no more rude than people in any other country or big city (and actually, I found the same thing about New York. New Yorkers are actually super nice. It was always people who moved to New York that were really rude).

Okay, so this is actually kind of a long story. But I guess that can't be helped.


Jess said...

I am so sorry you got lost but I'm glad that you were helped by kind people. You are going to have to start taking pictures of the street signs as you walk. It's nice to know you are alive and well.

Scrappy said...

I am so glad you are there and safe. Thank goodness they found your bag!
Yeah, I know I would have a hard time finding my way around. I would probably write everything down at first. I am so glad you are finding nice people there.
I can't wait to see pictures!

Deborah said...

You're there! Your long-time dream has finally come true! "'re in Paris, baby. My town..." Best best best best wishes my dear friend. I can't wait to hear more!

Heart Mommy said...

How fun, although a stress. It sounds like a wonderful adventure....Hummm so fun.

hknight said...

Do the french people not walk any where?