My new least-favorite-thing about France: the general abscence of You Are Here stickers. I mean, really. How hard is it to place a little round sticker that reads Vous Êtes Ici on those big maps in malls and metro stations and outside very large hospital complexes. S'il vous plaît, tout le monde!!
So my friend had to spend the day back at the hospital having a procedure . . . she has to sit there ALL day attached to an IV, so I offered to come spend a few hours with her. The last time I went to see her, it took three buses and over an hour to get there, so I thought, SURELY there has to be an easier, faster, more efficient chemin via public transportation. I searched the internet, and sure enough . . . take the RER B train from Massy to Denfert-Rochereau, change and take the Metro #6 toward Nation to Daumsenil, change to the Metro #8 toward Créteil-Préfecture and get off at Créteil-L'Échat (okay, so maybe you didn't need to know that, but I like typing in italics and using ácçënt marks when I type . . . that and I can't tell a short story.). Simple. And it was. Until I got out of the metro.
The way I know on the bus drops me off right in front of the main entrance of the hosptial, but I decided to forgo what I know and try something easier . . . more time efficient . . . which put me out on the side of the hospital. But I wasn't sure which side, since they all look the same. Oh, but wait, there's a big map of the complex! Fantastic! I LOVE MAPS!!
I began to search for the big round red Vous Êtes Ici! so I could commence my journey. Hmmm. Where is the big round red Vous Êtes Ici!?? Not here. Not there. Nope. No Vous Êtes Ici!. WELL, I began to think, I KNOW I'M HERE! SOMEWHERE, BECAUSE I'M STANDING RIGHT INFRONT OF YOUR MAP HENRI MONDOR L'HÔPITAL! I began to compair the buildings I could see with the 2-D map in front of me. But the shapes didn't seem to match. That's when I realized they must be posted north-to-south . . . but which way was north. I checked the location of the sun. HEY! WHERE'S THE SUN?? Today was a perfectly typical Parisian day . . . the sun was neatly tucked away behind all the clouds.
PlanB. (I love PlanB's . . . I always seem to have to come up with them . . . but they are often very short lived and eventually it's PlanD, E, or F that works) PlanB: wander around the complex until I find the main entrance. I figured if I stuck close to the outer wall of the hospital I'd get there eventually. Well, Henri Mondor l'Hôpital won't let you walk it's perimeter toute de suite . . . and there's no yellow-brick-road either. I wandered outside the hospital until I eventually found an entrance.
It was the mortuairy.
The next door I found was the med school. Strike two. I retraced mysteps to the metro station and turned left instead of right. I found the ER and the helicopter pad . . . and then, there it was. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow . . . the main entrance. It was beautiful.
I wish I could tell you all that this was the only time today that I got lost. But when is my life ever so uneventful. After I left my friend at the hospital, I headed toward the bus (because even though I could get back to the metro with my eyes closed, I needed to do a little shopping on the way home) and went to the mall. After I got what I needed, I made my way to the bus stop. Now, I know from past experience that the bus would only be running until 8pm, so I figured if I got there by 6:30 I'd be fine.
I checked the marquee indicating the arrival of the next bus, ten minutes. Parfait. 10 minutes came and went. Then 15. I checked the marquee again: ten minutes. Wait a minute! Ça ne marche pas! Hmm. I thought. I checked the posted schedule. Wait, what's that!?!? There were three pieces of paper over the schedules. Something about holiday hours and the schedule for the week of Christmas and certain bus stops, but they had the number of the other bus, not the 319. Finally someone came to the stop.
Excusez-moi, je parle un peu le français. Est-ce que le bus trois sent dix-neuf va arrêter ici? (Excuse me, I speak a little bit of French. Will the 319 bus stop here?) He read the posted message. Oui. Je pense. (Yes. I think. Famous last words . . . even in French.) After 45 minutes waiting at the stop, a small crowd of about 10 people formed waiting for the 319. Everyone read the sign and all came to the same conclusion. Yes, the 319 will in fact stop here. But it hasn't. And it's cold.
A collective decision was made to dash across the parking lots to the opposite side of the mall and hope that the 319 would be stopping at the TVM bus stop. I had no idea what was going on, so when a woman who was also heading to Massy grabbed my arm and said On y va! (Let's go!) I went. Sure enough, the 319 pulled up as we all arrived at the stop. Merci seigneur! We elbowed our way through the even-in-France-there-are-last-minute-Christmas-shoppers crowd and boarded the bus.
The kind woman who made sure I got on saved me a seat next to her. At one point I thought she might be an angel, but I think if she had been she would have also been able to speak English, or at least speak French slowly enough for me to understand her.
The first twenty minutes on the bus we didn't move. The pre-Christmas-traffic was HORRIBLE! But my neighbor was chatty, so I didn't notice . . . too much. The trouble was, I couldn't understand a single word she said to me. I just kept smiling and responding to match her facial expressions. We were going along nicely like this for quite some time when I heard a phrase I did in fact understand: Nous sommes perdue! (We are lost!) Now, I think she used far to few exclaimation points with that sentance, but at the moment I was just happy that I understood something she said . . . okay, more, bitter-sweet, considering the context.
I looked out the window . . . even though it was dark, I could tell she was right. This was not the typical way home! She went up to talk to the bus driver. She came back and said Ça va and shrugged her shoulders. When the bus finally pulled over for the first stop, but it was really about number 15 into the route. Guess the traffic was so bad and the bus was so off schedule he had to do something to catch up.
Good news is, I got home. Finalment! I think I will give up public transportation for lent.