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Tuesday, March 01, 2005


On our second day in Paris, we took a trip to the Vimy Memorial, via the town of Arras. The day started with the Alamo Incident...

As part of our trip to France, we had planned to visit the Vimy memorial near Arras. I looked at taking the bus (couldn't find any), taking the train (expensive) and renting a car. In the end, we decided to rent a car. Because none of us can drive standard (except Daorcey, sort of, but not well enough to do it in France, apparently) I booked an automatic.

So, when one makes a car reservation--indeed, a reservation of any type--one expects the car to be there. Apparently, this is asking too much. We were picking up--or, I should say, we planned to pick up--the car from the Gare De Nord (the train station we had come into the previous day). We wandered a bit, looking for the Alamo desk, and finally found it. Daorcey (his french is by far the best) went up and handed them our confirmation number, and said we were there to pick up our car.

So Buddy--as I shall call the guy behind the desk--Buddy flips through some papers, looks around a bit, and then asks, in French: "Does it have to be an automatic?"

We're like, um, yes. (I'm thinking: Why the hell would I rent an automatic, which is more than twice the cost of a manual, if I didn't need to?) Apparently, there isn't an automatic at this location.

So Buddy starts calling around to other locations, and I start getting angry. I don't really mind getting angry, when the situation calls for it. I've been well trained by my mother to tell people exactly what they're going to do to fix the problem that they've caused. And I don't mind telling people off, if I think it's going to get me somewhere. However, try doing that when you don't know the language. I have never been so frustrated in my life. I kept walking up to the desk, where Daorcey would update me on the situation and outlook, and then get mad, yell in Daorcey's general direction, make angry sounds, and then stomp off, completely unable to properly express myself to Buddy-boy or let off any of my constantly building frustration.

So Buddy--he really was trying--keeps calling around, looking for other Alamo locations that may have an automatic.

Given that it was snowing outside, and at this point I was pretty sure were weren't getting a car, and to be honest, I just really needed a walk, Anne and I went back to the Train station area, and looked to see if we could find a train to Arras.

We did. It was leaving in 45 minutes, and would be more money than the car, but not by too, too much. So, feeling better, we ran back to Alamo-land, and told Nat and Daorcey. We sat, discussing what we were going to do, and then Buddy finds a car. It was at another location (we're pretty sure he was offereing to send us there in a taxi, but it was hard to translate) but it was also a higher class of car--one I'm pretty sure under-25s can't rent... but again, I didn't know how to ask that, so we just ended up taking the train.

We've got about twenty minutes, at this point, to catch the train, so we try to buy it on one of the ticket machines, but that doesn't work. So Daorcey gets in the frighteningly long line up, and we wait... and wait. I ran around looking for a bank machine--which I never did find--among other things. Oddly, in Gare De Nord, one can buy all sorts of odd things: socks, handbags, magazines in Russian. But try and find a drug store or a bank machine, and forget it.

I go down to the Metro level, and find nothing, and eventually admit defeat and return to the ticket line, where Daorcey is just getting to the window. I admit I was sincerly worried we wouldn't make the train--but I shouldn't have worried. We got our tickets, ran across the station, and hopped into our carriage with a whole two minutes to spare.

I think that whole morning was the most French experience we had in the whole three days.


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