Thursday, March 31, 2005

Out of Order

Taken by a broken escalator, Line Four at Les Halles, on 30th of March. The sign assures passengers that the escalator will be fixed the 30th of April. That's right, kids, work those buttocks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Puking Stairs

As I posted in a comment recently, I'm not without my own vomit-related embarrassment in the Paris metro. Indeed, I have--on not one, not two, but three different occasions--puked in the metro.

This story could very well begin with drunkenness. But those who know me understand that this isn't likely. I'm just a meek and frustrated lightweight--not much of a drinker by any standard. I might say things like "I'll drink you under the table, boy!", but at the end of the night, the count is usually something closer to "Emily's Friend: 6; Emily: 1.5." And that's on a rough night.

My point is this: I wasn't drunk, Mom, I swear.

I'm a nervous creature. Though overly at ease in front of a crowd in English, the thought of giving a presentation in French--to French people--is terrifying. In English, I either wing it or have a few notes. For my presentations at French universities, I wrote a script, complete with, "TURN PAGE NOW" in parentheses so that I wouldn't slip up and say it aloud.

I woke up early before my first big exposé. I read it again and again to my empty room. Convinced I had finally gotten the flow of the sentences, I set off to catch the metro.

(Now you get where this is going.) On the Ten, with all the rocking and my belly nervous with exposé-induced fear, I started to feel sick. Pull it together, everything is fine. This was my mantra, albeit one that failed me in the end.

As we pulled into Odéon, I knew I didn't stand a chance. I stood to exit the car. As the doors opened, the smell of piss and moldy grime hit me hard. I ran toward the SORTIE sign, but only made it about halfway up the stairs.

That was it. At approximately 9:15am, during the rush hour commute, I clutched the rails, hunched over, and puked my guts out on the stairs. I tried to change locations a couple of times, but each time I tried to move, up it came again. So I was left standing protectively by my pool of vomit.

Commuters and tourists rushed up and down the stairs to my left. None looked at me. If they had, they would have perhaps seen how pathetic I looked and offered me a tissue or a bottle of water. But who was I kidding. There was no Southern hospitality in this station. I simply walked over to the trash can, spit a few times, and boarded the train again to the university.

With apologies to Annie...

We were spending a week in Paris--a hazy, magical week in June, before a series of concerts in Normandy. It was Annie’s turn to cook for the group, so after our visit to the Picasso Museum, I accompanied her to the supermarket. Laden with the beginnings of a promising vegan dinner, we got on the One and headed home. Content and lost in thought, we fell into our seats without a word.

Seated across from us was a young, well-dressed couple speaking quietly in English. After a moment, the man leaned cautiously towards us and asked us for the time in strained, but correct, French. At long last--a chance to live out my pretentious French fantasy and answer tourists’ queries in the local lingo!

“Il est six heures,” I graciously managed.
“Merci beaucoup.”

The One whooshed its way under the center of Paris. The Gatsbys across the way continued their hushed conversation. Then, I realized that they were talking about us. The woman was staring at Annie’s legs. Annie, who as a general rule, does not shave, was sporting a lovely blue frock that displayed her shapely calves and the fine, dark downy hair that covered them.

“Look Jim, it’s true! French women don’t shave their legs.”

At long last, decades of speculation had been supported by concrete proof. I squirmed with indecision. Denounce or refrain? Savor a secret triumph or inflict humiliation?

Annie chose the latter. The Gatsbys rose to get off at Concorde. “Have a great vacation,” she said in English, with a radiant smile.