The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
My adventurous spirit restored, we escaped into the streets of Paris. Shunning such pedestrian ideas as visiting the Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees, armed with our Europe on a Shoestring, we set off to explore. Aided by the efficient Metro, we were soon in the bowels of ‘real’ Paris. By now it was close to suppertime and we used our guidebook to find an authentic Parisian open air market, eager to taste its wares. It was a very warm autumn day, eating out in the fresh air appealed to both of us after fleeing the darkness of the hotel.
We noticed the city’s strong smell immediately after stepping off the train, and were somewhat disconcerted to find the smell even stronger as we neared the market. Nonetheless, we strolled hand in hand in the late afternoon sun. As we glanced from stall to stall, I suddenly recoiled in revulsion. An alleyway of horrors opened up before me. Dangling from awnings were what appeared to be inside out rabbits whose eyeballs had been gouged out. As companions in death, headless chickens were suspended next to the lifeless rabbits. The carcasses were turning a sickly shade of yellowed green and swarming with flies. The smell immediately set my stomach into motion. (I have an aversion to cooking any meat that is in the shape of the animal it represents. Coming from a cold fridge, it is merely an aversion; hanging in the hot sun it became a repulsion.)
My stomach churning I announced that we had to leave immediately. Supper would not be found in this market! Ever agreeable, Rob accompanied me down another street, away from the carnage, past a man relieving himself in a corner on the street, and into a passably hygienic looking sandwich shop. Undaunted by our previous brush with death, he ordered us both a sandwich, mostly using hand gestures as nobody in this part of Paris seemed to speak English. Famished from our long day, he tore into his sandwich with gusto. Normally, I am a healthy eater whose appetite is not easily suppressed. However, this day I only picked half-heartedly at my meal, my stomach ominously warning me that in a show of unity with my emotional state, it was not able to handle much.
While Rob ate with enthusiasm, I lamented our unexpected misfortunes of the day. He cheerfully suggested a quick metro ride to the Eiffel Tower would surely brighten my spirits; was this very landmark not on the cover of my favorite novel? I quite liked his idea, and debated using the bathroom facility in the café before leaving. While I was loath to use public bathrooms, I knew that they were hard to come by in many parts of Europe. Convinced my stomach would settle upon leaving the neighbourhood, I decided against it and we hopped on the nearby metro.
The train rumbled along underground. My stomach rumbled along with it. This did not bode well. I rocked anxiously in my seat, questioning Rob about how many more stops until the Eiffel Tower. He consulted our trusty guide-book, concluding that there were several; could I wait? I shrugged. Time would tell. Minutes ticked by like hours.
Suddenly, with absolute clarity, I knew there would be no waiting for the Eiffel Tower. I bolted off my seated and ran to the train doors. Rob followed, concerned. I moaned and began crying for the doors to open so I could get off the train. My concern was focused solely on my neither regions, not on the passengers sharing our train car. Rob, on the other hand, was very concerned about how we appeared to them. He spoke nonchalantly, but warned me sternly with his words to cease this behaviour immediately. What would people think? I cared not for the opinions of the French at that point. My only thought was that my first day in Paris would not end with me dirtying my pants on the Metro.
I cradled my stomach, rocking and moaning, clutching the post by the door, begging it to open. At last the train glided into a station, and I bolted through the doors shouting loudly for Rob to look for bathroom signs. Based on the severity of my cramping, I would alternate between shouting at Rob to look while I stood and moaned, or I would run around frantically myself, looking for that sign. Rob plastered a calm, friendly expression on his face, but kept hissing at me under his breath to stop looking so panicked and desperate. As the smoke from 9/11 still rose, military police were in every train station, eyes peeled for anything suspicious. He was convinced we were sure to be branded as terrorists and locked in some jail cell in the bowels of Paris. Far more concerned about the rebellion in my own bowels, I paid him no mind.
Like an angel rising from the mist I saw the sign for a bathroom, and ran towards it. Three attendants sat in front of the doors, waiting to collect their money before opening the doors. I shouted at them to open the doors, my husband would pay them after I was in. They refused. It appeared they too were unpracticed in the English language. In utter desperation I attempted to engage them in a game of charades. The stakes were high. I frantically mimed opening the doors while simultaneously yelling at Rob to hand over the francs. His level of panic did not equal mine, and he placidly rifled through the confusion of foreign coins, looking for denominations to match the signs. By now I was weeping loudly and had the attention of the entire train station. It was not my proudest moment.
Suddenly the door sprung open. I leapt through the turn-style, into the cubicle and bolted the door. Knowing the doors were on a timer and would spring open automatically after a set period of time unless further payment was made I shouted at Rob to keep feeding the lady French coins until I came out on my own. Sobbing in shame, I surrendered.
Some time later, I emerged from the cubicle. I mustered what dignity I could and kindly thanked the lady. In what I had decided was quintessentially French behaviour, she too shook her head and muttered at me. Much to my chagrin, Rob was howling with laughter, unconcerned for my embarrassment. I calmly waited for the next train to arrive. We were going to the Eiffel Tower. The following day we would see the Champs Elysees. Perhaps I could not handle the ‘real’ France. Perhaps it could not handle the ‘real’ me. We had reached a détente. I was a tourist, and would conduct myself as such.
Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.