DAVID ‘S FIRST DAY GOING TO WORK ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN FRANCE
It’s a big day. The first day on the job. Everything set and ready to go, timetables present, Navigo-Decouvert in pocket, Attache, etc, so OUT the door he goes for that coveted train! Not so fast there David! What? NO!! He gets to the station right on time for his 7:00am train. He’ s allowed a full hour since we’ve already timed this and it’s 40 minutes max from our station to Invalides to his NEW JOB.
When he arrives at Enghien-les-Bains he sees a BLANK screen. Not only is the screen blank but the faces of the passengers are more than blank. It’s dark, it’s rainy, people are going back and forth kind of like little mice not knowing how to get out of a trap in a cage – and there is NO ONE, not a soul to ask about information because it’s too early for anyone to be there. Hump! he says. “I know” he says again………”I’ll go to the little snack bar and see if they know what’s going on.” Wrong. It’s closed. It’s saturday.
SO – he’s sees a gentlmen about 40-ish, wearing a black leather jacket, nicely fitted, and he appears to be some sort of businessman that might know something. David watches him go through the turnstiles sees him look up at the screen and sees words to the effect that there is NO service on LINE H. At this point the black leather jacket gentleman looks again, mutters a few expletives, whereupon David asks him “Are you going to Gare du Nord?” The gentleman looks at David, says an emphatic OUI!! and then gives the “french shrug” and continues, don’t know if I’m going there NOW.” He then goes back into the station and David follows him. He looks at the sign once again, then miraculously the ticket window flies open and they both ask the woman, ” what is going on?” whereupon she gives the French shrug and says “NO SERVICE ! You will have to TAKE THE BUS! ” Everyone is peering into this little window now and waiting for her to say something else. Then someone says “WHICH bus?” And then she says in super fast French – (something something something) and the passengers say “HUH?!?” and she repeats “154” whereupon the entire line turns en masse looking towards that bus-stop. Off goes the black leather businessman and David right behind him, the crowd trailing behind THEM. They never say a word to each other — and now they’re walking super fast down towards the bus-stop and when the bus finally comes, the bus driver looks shocked because now an entire train load of people are there to get on his usually very quiet, very uncrowded bus!!!!
The BUS DRIVER starts arguing with the Black leather guy and then he hears the Bus Driver say an emphatic NO!!! (French say NON! -VERY nasal) – and continues…HOW did you find this out? The BL guy says – “well, the lady in the station said this is the bus!” The BusDriver says, ‘WHY ARE YOU TAKING THE BUS?!?!” BL guy says “BECAUSE THE TRAIN IS *NOT* WORKING!!!!!” – so they continue their French diatribe back and forth for what seems like many minutes………..AND THEN, (there’s this long pause )- while EVERYONE (like atleast 50 people) are WAITING to hear a response from the BUS DRIVER.
The BusDriver then says, “You’ll have to take the BUS 154 -” And everyone is looking at him like………AND……….DOES it COME HERE???
NON!!! THIS is the bus stop for 256!!!
Everyone leans forward…………
“WHERE, do we GET this bus 154???”
Bus Driver: You must go to the right and then in front of the station whereupon everyone turns around (again – en masse) and off they go down the road to stop 154!
Now, all these people begin to look at this long pole where there is a teeny tiny Schedule afixed to it – and it’s dark and they’re trying to figure out when the bus is actually going to leave. There is much muttering back and forth about the time, because the Bus Driver (256) never said what time….oh! That would be too much information for him to impart, oui.
Then, David ‘s “friend” in the BL jacket is nervous now and starts pacing up and down the street shrugging and muttering, “Where’s the bus, where’s the bus”….. They wait. And they wait. More people arrive.
The bus (154) finally arrives. So now, EVERYONE gets on the bus and someone confirms that they are, indeed, going to Saint Denis – where they will pick up the RER to Gare du Nord!
David is in a packed bus at this point. He can hardly see the BL guy anymore….The bus is on the way and then it stops about 2 blocks away to pick up more people and then another 2 blocks does the same and this continues and David looks up at the schedule on the bus and between where they got on and Saint Denis, there are a whole lot of little dots. “Surely,” he thinks, “this bus is not going to stop at EVERYone of of those little dots??” Hmmmmm. Yes, it is a fact, that this bus or any bus that is 154 from here on after is going to be stopping at all those 24 little dots!!!
David checks with his BL friend who is, by this time, looking out the bus window very despondently. There is no eye contact. Sometimes, he can’t see his friend at all, it is so packed, but every now and then the bus sways and there is a slim crack between all those bodies and he can still see his “friend.”
Just as David is getting very used to all the stops, there’s a braking of the bus on one of those 24 stops and with a slight opening towards the back David’s friend all of a sudden looks towards him and gives David “the NOD”. David jumps towards the door and out he goes and so does the BL friend.
They’re out now, but there’s no BUS or TRAIN STATION and he’s wondering why they got out here. There are no words exchanged. David’s friend starts huffing and puffing towards the station in an eery run down area with lots of cement and weeds growing up all over it . Suddenly there’s a slim little opening lined with bushes and a tiny narrow bridge over a little canal and all these lochs. David’s friend climbs over the bridge walking very very fast now and David’s keeping up with him and thinking, “Where the heck are we going?” A large ugly building is right before them now with more ugly cement and weeds growing hither and yonder but! They are at the BACK of the Saint Denis Train Station where they both go into the terminal and lo and behold, the TRAIN is WORKING!!
They get on the train, David and his new Black Leather Friend, David thanks him profusely in French and his new friend gives him a big smile.
Had it not been for this “black leather friend” with ne’er a word exchanged, David would never had made it to his NEW job, on his FIRST day, on TIME.
Aren’t the French grand?!?