In honor of my friend MB who has just this morning quitté la france, a funny memory to fill the gap.
So a while ago, MB and I went to the little city of Tours to stay with one of her friends. Since it was only a two hour drive (or at least it is if you take the highway and not the 4-hour-scenic-tour-via-the-back-country-roads, oops!) to the Loire Valley and we had planned on visiting a few of the chateaux that the region is famous for, we decided to hire a car.
I'm sure it's possible to rent an automatic in France, but it's expensive! So standard it was. MB doesn't drive standard (yet), so it was up to me. After all the practice I had down south this summer, I was feeling very comfortable . . . well, at least until we found le bouchon (litterally: the cork in the bottle which is also used to say 'traffic jam') 10 minutes into our drive.
Being a hater of all things first-gear, my heart began to race and my palms sweat. 'What if I stall?? HERE!! In the middle of all this traffic??? Okay, stay calm Deb. STOP OVER REACTING!!' I took some deep breaths and prayed that God would pull a Genesis move and part the Rush Hour Traffic Sea.
As the road bent and we made our way around the corner, I could see the problem ahead . . . a roundabout. Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal . . . in this case, the road inclined just before the entrance to the circle. This meant, if I the traffic didn't move at exactly the perfect speed, I was going to have to stop-and-go on that coline . . . that's right, a hill start!!
In that moment, I understood why the Sea handn't been parted . . . I can't use up all my miracles 10 minutes into the drive!
But my prayers paid off this time . . . the traffic moved and allowed us to make it to the top of the knoll before stopping. Within no time we were passing through the centres villes of small Parisian suburbs. Before long we found ourselves stopped at a light at what felt like at 20% grade. Crap! Another hill start . . . this time for real!! With the help of my parking break (and the second miracle of the trip) I pealed up that hill once the light turned green . . . much to the shagrin of the pedestrians on the sidewalk. All this because we ended up on local roads instead of highways!
With each red light and pedestrian crossing I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I was terrified of stalling. Because, you must understand, when I stall, I don't just stall once. No, it's like an OCD habit . . . I always stall twice!
As the weekend went on, it sort of became a joke between me and MB . . . because it happened EVERY time . . . each parallel park took twice as long . . . every K-turn . . . every parking garage exit . . . you get the idea.
On Sunday, as we were driving to see one last château before heading home, we finally found the highway! Within moments we came across the first payage (toll booth) . . . 2euros60. Being copilot, it was MB's job to count out the toll from a cup of change I had given her to use up on the tolls. She handed me 2euros60 in 5centimes pieces. Which I, in turn, handed to the guy in the toll booth.
His first response was 'Are you serious?!?!' which was followed by 'Oh well, the money's not for me.' As he began to count it out, I started to appologize . . . but he graciously calmed my people-pleasing-fears, telling me n'inquietez pas! (Don't worry!) So I didn't.
We were sitting there for what felt like an eternity (because he was piling the coins in stacks of TWO!) and so I said to MB, 'I can't believe we did this to this poor guy! And I had better not stall pulling out of here!' I looked in the rearview mirror and saw three cars pulling in behind us. The toll booth operator leaned out and waved them to the next line . . . we were going to be a while.
MB started to laugh. 'NOT NOW!' I said to her . . . but she couldn't stop! 'You and I both know that after all of this, you are going to stall! And not only once, but twice!'
And sure enough! As the gate went up and we were free to leave, I simultaneously eased off the clutch and stepped on the accelerator, and we jerked forward in a halting stop. The guy in the booth held back his laugh. I turned the key and started the engine again. Take two. Clutch . . . accelerator . . . jerk . . . stop. This time all three of us laughed outloud!
Third time's a charm . . . and c'est ma vie!