I wish I could tell you I am a completely independent woman. I really do. But getting lost on the Paris metro system, missing my train to London, and having to grovel for a cheap hotel room in a bad area made me realize that I am a dependent woman. And maybe that’s okay.
It wasn’t my plan to be alone in Paris. No. When I planned my trip two months ago, with such tremendous enthusiasm and joy, I planned a great bike ride across the city. I hoped to go with a friend. But all my peers who ventured to come spend boatloads of money on a day-trip to Paris decided to spend $32 on a tour bus. A tour bus! How flipping boring is that? I didn’t want to ride a bus. I wanted to be a real citoyenne, if you will. Haha.
It’s been a month and a few days since this happened, and some things are fuzzy. I do remember
- utter amazement
- isolation—ironic in Paris, eh?
- self-destructive thoughts
I guess I’ve been afraid of thinking about my trip to Paris. Mainly, it’s a source of embarrassment. But there is an overwhelming part of me that says, “Don’t ever think about it again.” I can revisit my experience in small parts. It’s fine in minuscule sections. But when I am pulled back in, forced to relive it, an invisible person cuts me down, spilling out my humiliation and fear.
It started off okay, with me casually strolling along the river and getting lost five billion times. I eventually visited Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine, the Pont de l’Archevêché, and the Eiffel Tower. It was there that I got into trouble.
Until you visit internationally famous historical sites and monuments, you have no idea what a line or a queue is. And as a small-city girl, I underestimated the time it would take to ride to the summit of the Eiffel Tower and then get to the metro in time for my 21:13h train. Despite running for most of the way, I took the wrong métro bus, and then there was a problem at one of the stations.
So I missed my train.
I didn’t know anyone; I was alone. I had no money, because one of my bank cards wouldn’t work outside the U.S., and the other one had nothing on it. My stupid Virgin Mobile phone also didn’t work internationally (thanks for that, btw). My French was rudimentary, though I’d studied it for over four years. Strange men kept approaching me. And I was so upset that I’d let my parents and myself down. Wasn’t I an adult? Didn’t I have a job and an upcoming diploma?
I’d rather have one dollar than a hundred pennies. (A girl named Kara)
Wherever you go, whomever you are, there will always be good people. Not all of them. No, some of them are total dicks that will turn you away. But you’d be surprised to know how many people are willing to sacrifice their time to help someone they’ve only just met. I asked so many people for help. I asked street people, the police, metro and station workers. I asked bartenders, hotel clerks, and taxi drivers. I pleaded with so many people that my French drastically improved by the end of the night.
Some people won’t help you. Forget about those people, because they aren’t worth your time. They certainly don’t think you’re worth theirs. Who needs them, when a stranger offers up his cell phone to let you call your parents in another country? Who needs them, when there are people you’ve never met that would give you money to pay a bill? When I realized I had to stay the night in Paris, I was terrified. I went hotel-hopping, searching for a place that would let me pay in the morning. I found none. When I got to the last hotel I could find, I begged the concierge. He could not let me pay in the morning. “I am desperate,” I said, “I would stay in your lobby if it was okay with you.” That was okay. And he would have let me stay for free if my parents hadn’t transferred enough money to my account to pay for a room and a train ticket back to King’s Cross.
A girl I knew once said, “I’d rather have a dollar than a hundred pennies.” There is nothing like a scary situation to figure out who your real friends are, and that’s the way I learned, unfortunately.
Learn who the pennies are in your life, and donate them to someone with room to spare.