Confound it! The batteries are dead!

Life in Paris – The Kindness of Strangers

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On Saturday I was out drinking in Paris. Since I live outside of Paris and didn’t really know when the last train left I hurried off pretty early for the train station, and to my horror found out that the last train had left, however in a second glance I found out that one of the trains going my direction hadn’t left yet, and the horror quickly turned to relief. I ran over to the train and asked a man as I entered the train wagon if this was headed to where I was going. “Yes,” he said “but it should have left 10 minutes ago. I’m not sure what is up, exactly.” Meeting this kind French stranger that could actually speak English (something which is not very common here in Paris) and having been drinking those wonderful and strong Belgian beers made me want to offer him a cigarette, and soon enough we puffed away, chit chatting about what could be happening and who we were and blah blah blah. I must say, in retrospect, that I was incredibly lucky that I found this man, because the train never left. Someone had left a bag in the train, and now the bomb-squad had to come to make sure it wasn’t dangerous (I guess it wasn’t, since nobody has told me anything about a bomb yet).

This French guy and me then went on to find the bus home, which was no easy task, and without him I would never have found it. Never. Never ever. We asked for directions, walked for 30 minutes, asked for directions once more, then took a bus to another bus, which took maybe 30 minutes more, and asked for more directions. Even this French Parisien had problems understanding what was going on, and where we had to go. As we were waiting for one of the busses we met a very nice French-Arab which told us several times that we had to trust in ourselves (in French, so my companion translated it to me) and thought it was neat that I was from Norway, and my French companion and me got to tell each other the worst issues of both our countries, and talked about dialects, accents and slang. Not a bad conversation at all really. When he left me, for his 3 hour bus ride, after guiding me all the way to my bus, he gave me his card and told me “if you ever want a cold one, just call me!”

From Paris it takes maybe 20 minutes to get to where I live by the train. The bus however took (approx.) 1 hour and 20 minutes, in which time I had acquired a banging pre-hangover head-ache. Only by a strange coincidence did I manage to get off the bus (after standing 1 hour, and only sitting the last 20 minutes), as I managed to overhear some people who asked where we were. Hurriedly, half-panic struck and without knowing really if this was my stop, I got off, and lit another cigarette, when I saw the buss sign: It was my stop. In the area I live in it seems like nobody can afford to smoke, but everybody wants to, so I always keep an empty pack of cigarettes in my left breast pocket, just to show them I don’t have any left, and this was what I did when a guy asks me, in English if he could have one. I thought at first it was strange that he asked me in English, since you can’t really see if I’m from France or not, and as it turned out he was a Ghanaian, living not far from me, which had studied in Island and been to Norway on several occasions. We had a wonderful talk home – even though my head-ache was killing me – mostly about how French people are stupid because they don’t know English, and as a good-bye he gave me his card (which I found out today I’ve lost, or misplaced). It took me around 3 hours to get home from the train station, it should’ve taken 20 minutes, and I was completely wrecked after this trip and fell asleep in my bed the moment I entered my room.

I got my fourth (or is it fifth? Sixth?) card today, when another French guy came to sit with my friend and me at Starbucks (they have cheap coffee!), and ended up chatting with us. What I’ve realized is that anyone who speaks English is very eager to talk to anyone who doesn’t speak French, and if you do start talking to them you will get their card. And believe me, everybody has a card here… I have to get one myself.

In my previous post I said I had started reading on the train and – as a last remark – I have to recommend the book I am reading at the moment! “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick (the book that became the movie Blade Runner) is by far one of the best Sci-Fi books I’ve read in a long time. Simply a wonderful work of literary art, which makes me want to stay on the metro far past my stops. I wanted to read it partly because I like Blade Runner, but this is nothing like the movie, and way better in every aspect. Don’t judge it by it’s silly title or the movie it became: its lovely!


Written by Aslak

February 16, 2009 at 21:01

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