day 4

maybe paris doesn’t suck

by sunday night, i was miserable. paris had given me, almost literally, its cold shoulder. chilly rain, an almost impenetrable language barrier, a newly developed cough, and being scratched by pauline, the apartment owners’ cat (!!), had left me feeling utterly depressed and wishing i had gone straight to sunny spain instead. however, the following morning had dawned with a bright new sky, so i put on my brave face and decided, as The Lady had exhorted me via email, to “Give Paris One More Chance.”

i studied the métro information, and it would cost only 10€90 for a book of ten tickets. that’s a mere $1.69 per ride—a far cry from london’s $5 each way trips. i had also tracked down the location of an english language bookstore (w. h. smith, same as in london), where i intended to buy myself a french for beginners book and a copy of the little prince. the bookstore would be easy to get to from my location, and, happily, it was right off the champs-élysées, so i could see some sights to boot. i was even early enough to be back for work by 3pm (9am east coast time). all systems go!

emerging from the métro was, once again, a breathtaking experience. having no knowledge of parisian geography, i got off at the concorde stop without any preconceived notions. what lay before me (and behind me and all around me) there was unexpectedly amazing. the architecture, the statues, the gleaming gold, the fountains. everything everywhere was startling for its beauty. and in the distance? la tour eiffel. not the kings dominion one i grew up with, but the real thing. and down, down the champs-élysées? l’arc de triomphe. not the washington square park one, but the real thing. wow. just…wow.

nope, it sucks—i was right at first

what could be worse or more embarrassing than telling the world (read: whoever happens across your blog) about your constipation issue? confessing that you’re an idiot who got scammed out of your money on the pont de la concorde, that’s what. remember when i said that karma would balance out my not paying for my food in brighton (see july 26, 2008)? well, the fish and chips have come home to roost. and, as expected, i lost more than i gained.

as much as i’d like to exclude this chapter due to mortifying embarrassment, i don’t want the story incomplete, and perhaps some good might come of enlightening folks about the scam. not that i think any of you would actually fall for this, but here’s what happened just the same…

as i was saying, everything everywhere was gorgeous. i would look at one thing and intend to head on to the bookstore when i’d be drawn in by another. a palais here. then a jardin there. then look—the seine! and it’s flanked by tall, gold-laden statues that flash as if the sun has lit them like torches! so there i am, walking along a footbridge over the river seine, enraptured by the siren song of a gold-domed palace, when a girl stoops down damn near next to me and picks something up, exclaiming slightly. she gestures to hand it to me. did i drop something? i don’t know—i step back to look.

she’s holding what appears to be a man’s gold wedding band. it’s not mine, i indicate, begrudgingly, thinking dammit—why didn’t i see that? but now she is saying something in french and seems to be handing it to me. huh? “it’s not mine,” i explain. “is not for me,” she says, pointing to herself, “evangeliste.” ::blink:: she puts it in my hand with this most pious of looks, saying, “good luck for you, good luck for me.” wait—she’s going to let me have it? buh?

now, here’s where i need to explain to you why, if you were to custom tailor a scam for me, this would be it. when i got engaged, it was with a very cheap ring. for my wedding ring, then, i didn’t want a plain band. instead, i picked out an exquisite ring with a center diamond and about seven other diamonds arranged like little buds along a pair of branches. i loved that ring, but one day, i lost it. i didn’t give up looking for it for a long time, but eventually i reconciled myself to having lost it in the parking lot of an a. c. moore store. someone somewhere had found my (very valuable) ring, and i’d never see it again.

so back to my custom-made scam. after a couple of minutes, the girl comes back over. now she seems to regret her moment of kindness. maybe you can give her a little money for it in exchange? you don’t have to give it back, but she’s from a poor country (bulgoslavenia? hungariakhstan?) and, “evangeliste” or no, the money could help. ::sighs:: there i am, caught up in some momentary reverie of thinking that somehow the universe was balancing out my own lost ring in a pretty much tit-for-tat way. unfortunately, this is not the way karma works. it’s not about balancing out bad things that happened to you; it’s about balancing out bad things that you yourself have done. which is to say, i had this coming. long story long, the only bill i had in my pocket was a twenty, and, like my wedding ring, i shall never see it again.

^ pauline despises me ^

i wised up to the scam when she asked if i had anything more because i could surely get at least fifty euros for the ring. at this point, i tried to get the money back, feigning that i would see what more i could give her instead. she wasn’t going for it. “good luck for you, good luck for me,” sucker. she waved and walked away. lest you hold on to any belief that maybe the ring is real, when i turned to walk back a couple of minutes later, she saw me from a distance and started to walk quickly off the bridge. then more quickly. then she broke into a full-out run across the park.

a long time ago, in atlantic city, i lost $40. not by gambling; i literally just lost it. or got pickpocketed or something. whatever happened, i had it, and then i didn’t have it anymore. i was distraught. inconsolable. i still usually get really wigged out over losing money, but this time i took it pretty well. i think it’s because i was relieved to have had the other karmic shoe drop. better to get that over with—in already shitty paris, no less—than to have it hovering over you while traveling someplace pleasant. (despite this, even though i’m a sweet, stupid, small southern belle, if i ever see that chapped-lipped hussy again, i’ll gladly catch a case for jumping her ass.)

wait, maybe paris isn’t that bad

anyway, after that debacle, i switched to deprivation mode in order to make myself financially whole again, as best i could anyway. i’d lost just over thirty dollars, and that meant depriving myself of some things. here’s how it went:

not buying a beginner french book in w. h. smith:

10€00

being parched but not buying a drink:

1€50

buying the cheap b&w little prince rather than the nice full color edition:


7€20

buying cheap detergent to handwash my clothes rather than going to the laundromat:


3€70

that’s a savings of over 20 euros right there. it’s not the same as having the money to spend on myself, but it will have to do. besides, i like to think that the lost money went to keeping just one more poor white girl from yuzegomania out of sexual slavery—and that’s okay with me.

—●●—

as i walked along the edge of the park, i happened upon a carnival…

there were rides and games as well as lots of food and other goodies (oh, how i wanted a coconut granita 😦 ). i love carnivals, so just getting to walk through there cheered me up a bit. then the carnival let out into a beautiful garden with statues and flowers and children playing with colorful sailboats in a fountain. ahh…a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

psych…it’s every bit that bad

i finally made my way back to the métro—only the exit i had come out was not an entrance. and there was no entrance in sight. i wandered. i fretted. i (still) couldn’t speak french. the sun was beaming, and i was starting to sweat. i walked back to places i’d already seen. stupid place de la concorde. stupid fountain. stupid no métro here. where is it? i started to get frustrated. by the time i found an entrance, i was at a completely different stop. no matter, i was on my way and would still be on time for work.

back at the crib, i had time to grab my grocery list and shoot back to the store for some necessities. i found everything (but put back the o.j. and the hand soap—deprivation, deprivation), and i beat it to the register. the cashier rang everything up, i gave her the exact same credit card i had used there on saturday, and…wtf do you mean i can’t use it? she shrugged and spoke a torrent of french to me, all of which amounted to “no can do, lugnut.” the manager tried to explain, but i knew what it was about: that damn gold chip.

what IS that gold chip? i mean, i’ve seen it on a card or two in the states, but it’s not the norm or anything. once or twice in london i had this problem, but it seems to be gaining momentum. what will happen to me if suddenly i can’t even use the card at ATMs anymore? also: why the ‘ell is paris so ‘orrible for me???

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1 Comment

Filed under life, paris, travel

One response to “day 4

  1. Jonathan

    Hang in there. Paris really is fantastic. Also a lot of people do speak some English (there are a LOT of Americans in Paris as well – wait long enough and one’s bound to walk past!). In shops, just walk in and say “Bonjour Monsieur or Madame” and “Parlez-vous anglais?” If they don’t then smile, shrug your shoulders and try anyway.

    It is a scammers city though – the metro stations at the main train stations are prime locations, and pickpocketing is rife at the tourist spots.

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