My mind was swirling. Part nerves, part jet lag, and part just plain old fashioned FEAR, (there’s that ugly word again). We had just landed at Charles de Gualle airport. This was it! We were on French soil.
The weeks leading up to this moment seemed far, far, off in the distance. At first it seemed this day would never come, and now it was here, and I did not feel ready. Riding around in my car with my CD’s, I felt quite confident in my French speaking skills. Now, my mouth was so dry, I couldn’t form a french sentence if I tried.
In this photo, Scott and I are about to board our flight. Notice how well rested we look. I only wish I had a
picture of how we looked at 7am Paris time, the next morning. It was not pretty.
Now I must explain. At this point, Scott only brought me to Paris to humor me, (and make me shut-up). Every detail of this trip had been planned by me, completely winging it. I made a good show of being a Paris expert, but in my heart I knew better. As we exited the plane, the list in my mind was long and confusing...find customs, get bags, get euros, find a taxi, etc. Scott takes the lead in our lives in America, now it was my turn.
We followed the crowd and things were going pretty well. The first thing I noticed, was that none of the signs were in English. For some reason, this surprised me, and continued to for the rest of our trip.
Secondly, everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing. I felt like Scott and I were floating around whichever way we were pulled.
Bags...check. Customs...check. Now we needed some money. I had read over and over that it’s best to exchange money in France, that American airports charge too much. Scott thought we should get some in Philidelphia, I insisted we wait. So here we were, walking around the airport, penniless. The money-exchange places weren’t open yet. We needed to find an ATM. We searched and searched. Nothing!
As Scott gave me the evil eye, I had visions of having to spend our entire vacation in the airport. Without euro, no cab. I realized I was going to have to ask... a French person! Just the thought intimidated me to no end. I noticed a woman at a rental car desk. As I walked over to her, I felt like I was walking the plank. From all my research, I knew to greet her properly, in french. But as I walked toward her, I felt like a fraud. One word, and she would know. So, I just looked at her and said very timidly,
She yawned. I asked again. She rolled her eyes. I guess she realized I wasn’t leaving, and she said, as if in pain, “Number four.”
That was it...number four. As I walked back over to Scott, I was about to cry.
What did number four mean?
The woman wasn’t rude, not exactly. I knew the “rules” and I ignored them. Mental note to self...always start with a greeting; when in France, do as the French; they can smell timidity a mile away. For the rest of the trip, I followed the rules carefully, and it was like a magic key. It opened the door to everything! People began to bend over backwards to make us happy. At the heart of it, I found the French very shy, but very happy to help.
Have you figured out yet, what number four means? ;-)