I have heard it said that to get to know a new city, one should ride the bus. You can sit, look out the window, and see the buildings and surroundings, as opposed to walking, where you see the lower part of buildings and the sidewalk as you avoid other walkers and dog’s digestive remains. Riding the bus has never really appealed to me but I had it in the back of my mind that I would ride one day and just check things out.
That day came sooner than I had expected (yes, I’ve been here 6 months now) as Liam and I got tired of waiting out a freak, three hour thunderstorm and jumped on a bus. Now, I am NOT that confident in my emerging French to just jump on any bus, but the number 82, which always stops outside the American Hospital, was open and waiting. I knew I had seen this bus somewhere in the vicinity of the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower…or maybe it was the Luxembourg Gardens? Anyway, I had seen it somewhere around town and knew it would go somewhere with which I was familiar and we could get on a metro from that point. That’s not the best strategy when the skies have opened up and the lightning is dazzling the sky in celebration, but seeing as I had already claimed “Winner!” In the wet t-shirt contest just getting to the bus stop, 100yards from the hospital, it was the only option for me. No need to parade my prize around any longer than necessary.
As you know, when it is extremely humid outside and the air is warmer inside the vehicle, fog covers the windows. And the rain was coming down in such full sheets that one couldn’t see out, even if said fog wasn’t present. So much for seeing the city…or looking for landmarks to get us to a metro. There was a route map above the door, so I found something familiar, then sat down to count the stops until we reached it. Very disconcerting, not being able to see out the windows, very uncomfortable as the bus driver laid on her horn, joining the cacophony of stentorian blares, insisting on being part of the maelstrom on the round-about~that was at a standstill. The water against the construction (which seemed to contribute to the congestion), was up past the door of the bus. The poor little European cars, while sensible most days, were practically floating, and the ever efficient, if not slightly vexatious, motorcycles were trying to get up on the sidewalks, anything to get out of the flooding.
Apparently behind schedule when she finally arrived at our stop, the bus driver rolled to a California stop as Liam and I (and a fellow passenger who was not impressed with this act of nature) jumped off~ and into the torrents. Liam and I hustled to the corner, about 25 yards up, only to find ourselves with umber colored water up past our ankles. Yes, our tennies and our socks, not to mention the bottom of our pants, were in this disgusting water.
We sloshed over two streets and came upon the metro, jam packed with commuters, hiding from Mother Nature. Meandering around the people and the gates, we got to one of the tunnels that lead to our metro, only to find a line of about one hundred and fifty people waiting. What? I knew the metro would be crowded but I have never had a line to get near the tracks! As it turns out, it wasn’t a queue to embark, it was to get through the eight inches of water that was pooled at the dip, gushing in from the walls. All we could do is laugh out loud. Truly! And the best part was? Others joined us! It was a bona fide giggle fest for a few of us. We still had to get through the swamp so leave it to the (already soaked) Americans to lead the way and forge through the bog! Now, before you think I am completely arrogant, I know we were already soaked and were wearing sneakers. Many of my snickering fellow Parisian neighbors had nice suits and dress shoes (but, of course!) so it really was a predicament for them…but it made me feel proud for a split second. Onward and upward!
Finally on the metro, and and two transfers later, we were off at the end of our street. The rain was still coming down and the lightning made us feel like the paparazzi was above (no, my t-shirt had not dried at this point) but we were going to make it! We got to our flat, took our shoes, socks and pants off and into the washer…and settled in for some hot chocolate and a jolly recap!