That pretty much sums up yesterday’s afternoon, as I’m sure you can infer from the title.
Let me give you a bit of context before I dive into the juicy details. It was my third day of school in France, and things had been going pretty well- I’d been introduced to my teachers, had met some pretty interesting people, and was settling comfortably into the new school environment.
The transportation to and from school is quite different than what I’m used to, though I’m sure urban students in Canada wouldn’t be able to sympathize with my bumpkinly woes.
We have to walk to a bus stop in the morning and ride the bus to Grenoble; at our drop-off, it’s about a five minute walk to the school. However, sometimes, when Muriel goes to work at the same time we go to school, she’ll drive us to a tram stop, where we travel to a different station and then walk to school. Usually, to go home, there’s a bus that we can take from the school straight home, or sometimes we’ve got to take the tram to another spot where Muriel will pick us up. However, note that the buses aren’t solely for the students; they’re city buses, and anyone can take them.
So, Antonin went skiing- I think it’s kind of like an after school club or something- and I had to take the bus home alone. He got two of his friends to show me to the right bus, and I said my farewells after they had confirmed with the driver that the bus was headed to Quaix. So, after awhile, I noticed that we’d driven by a turn that the bus had always taken in the past- but it was only the third day of school, so I thought that maybe it was just a different route or something.
My doubts really set in, however, when we went into a part of town called ‘Claix’. Now, in case your French isn’t that great, ‘Quaix’ and ‘Claix’ sound very, very similar. So, I asked the bus driver if we were headed to Quaix-en-Chartreuse, which received a resounding ‘non’. Shit. It turns out that we were headed to Vif, which is literally on the opposite end of Grenoble from Quaix-en-Chartreuse. Fuck.
The chauffeur then gurgled something that I assume was supposed to be help, but to me it sounded like someone trying to swallow a handful of marbles. She asked a few passengers if they spoke English (none of them did), and there was naught to do but sit and wait for awhile. Finally, when we were in Vif, the bus was completely full. The bus driver said something to the person sitting next to me, who drew a map from her purse and carefully explained how to get to Quaix-en-Chartreuse in soft and careful French that could’ve been a different language from the street drawl of the chauffeur, for all intents and purposes. I needed to get off at the next tram stop, take the tram to Pont-de-Vence, and wait there for bus 61. Okay.
With much thanks to the woman who’d helped me, I was soon patiently twiddling my thumbs on the tram waiting for Pont-de-Vence- until I looked at the damn map, and saw that Pont-de-Vence had the numbers 32 and 41 next to it, whereas Muret, the stop just before Pont-de-Vence, had a 52 and a 61.
I wasn’t really savouring the idea of getting off at the wrong stop and missing the bus, so I resolved to ask someone on the tram for further clarification. There was only person within earshot of me, but they were a little intimidating; bulging muscles with fiery tattoos, shaved head, leather jacket, a whole host of piercings, a resting bitch face- not exactly the most approachable. I’m really not one to judge a book by its cover, but as I was completely lost in a foreign country surrounded by a language I didn’t really understand, my guard was up; also, as a flaming homosexual, I was a little reticent to ask for help from someone who kind of looked like a skinhead.
I took a good lesson in prejudice and judgement that day- he actually turned out to be incredibly concerned and helpful, and the correct stop was indeed Muret. He even got off with me and made sure I was at the right stop on the right side of the tram before leaving, which was pretty awesome. So, after he left, I checked the bus’s schedule- the next pickup was in an hour and a half. I had missed the last pickup by about eight minutes. Hooray!
Luckily, I had my chromebook with me, and there were some ebooks on it that I had downloaded months before and forgotten about, so I wasn’t completely without entertainment. However, about two pages in, I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming need to find les toilettes. Shit. Well, no, not actually shit, urine, but you get what I mean. There wasn’t any public bathrooms anywhere, so I tried a drug store that was just across the street. Fortunately for me, the pharmacist was willing to lead me to a bathroom squeezed like an afterthought into the back of a crowded storage room, albeit incredulously- I suppose the French typically consider their bowel movements more carefully before getting lost. That would have been fantastic, arriving home three hours late , soaked in my own urine. Sarcasm intended.
I returned to the stop, my composure still kind of intact and my pants unsoiled, when I remembered that Muriel hadn’t gone to work that day, and had expected me home two hours ago. I decided to ask a stranger if I could use their phone, but then I realized that I had left my journal- which had Muriel’s phone number in it- at home, as it had only been a half-day at school.
When I finally arrived home, three hours behind schedule, I was met with a relieved embrace and a warm meal, and all was well. Plus, I got to see a Roman aqueduct in Vif, along with some camels (one of them was a Bactrian camel!) and an old fountain. I’m sure that my little adventure was useful in building character and confidence and whatnot, and I also got to speak French with strangers, which is always fun. Also, mistakes are great for personal growth and improvement, right? Oh, wait, no, that’s only if you learn from them. Check this shit out:
Oh, the irony.
So, I started this post yesterday and intended on finishing it today, when (of course) I fuck up again.
So, Antonin stayed at his uncle’s house last night after an extracurricular workout club thinger, so I had to take the bus home by myself that night. There were no problems there, but only after making certain that the bus’s destination was indeed Quaix-en-Chartreuse. However, I also had to take the bus in the morning alone. It’s not that difficult a task, really, but the ‘brilliancy’ that got me to France in the first place was hell-bent on pushing limits and making exceptions.
Mélanie, Antonin’s younger sister, goes to Collège Barnave- a Collège is basically the French equivalent of an elementary school.I was told the night before (and in the morning by Mélanie) that I had to leave the house at 7:10- which is exactly what I did, after saying my farewells to Muriel, who’d just woken up, and Mélanie, who was eating breakfast. When I strode out of the door of the house (at exactly 7:10), contendedly admiring the early-morning birdsong and crisp mountain air, pleased that I had finally met a deadline since arriving in France, I saw the bus pull up to the stop- about 300 feet away. So, I did what any sensible person would do when they stepped out their door at exactly the right time to catch a bus, which had happened to arrive a bit earlier than expected: I sprinted like a withdrawn crackhead towards a lighter, frantically waving one arm in the air while clutching my half-opened bag with the other. So, when I got to the bus, I was met by a devilish grin from the chauffeur, who (I think) said something along the lines of ‘that’s the way to start your day’* or something along the lines of that. I sat down- obviously relieved that I caught the bus- and started a mental ego-stroking session, as any self-centric adolescent is wont to do after overcoming the near insurmountable odds of catching the bus in the morning. Smugly looking around at the other passengers, my eye was first caught on a Dora backpack. It was then that I realized that everyone else on the bus was several years younger than me.
I sank into my seat with an exasperated sigh, that defeated ‘fuck‘ feeling extinguishing any trace of my former haughtiness. Such is the hilarity of life, I suppose.
However, I was able to make it to school all in one piece, though whether by the inconsistent whims of a manic-depressive divinity or my own merits, I do not know. The bus dropped me off at Muret (which, if you recall, is the stop I waited at during the first debacle) and caught the tram- just barely, though, the other passengers had to stop the doors for me- and was on my way. On the tram, I recognized some boys from a few of my classes, and was able to follow them to the Lycée. I’m quite grateful for that, otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue where to get off, and the stop was about as farmiliar to me as Beijing.
Whew! My dearest Mother, reading this, must be so relieved to hear how bright her son is. It’s kind of funny, actually; before I came to France, I got my G1, and had been chastised nearly every time I drove for my complete lack of sense of direction. Often she would ask how she could trust me to go to the other side of the world** if I couldn’t even navigate the roads of my hometown. Well, let’s just be grateful that I haven’t yet been mugged by the French Mafia or kidnapped and sold by a child prostitution ring- all is well. She’ll one day re-read this and laugh.
Remember to like, comment, and follow! Bonne journée!
* (gasp) the spirit of Dr. Seuss lives within me!