Something stinks. Something really fucking stinks. It’s either me, the sad,limp and horrendously stained little slip of pink cushion beneath my head or the towel misguidedly wrapped around it in an attempt to protect said head from said stains.
Or maybe it’s the mysterious lumpy object in the toilet that spooked me from turning on the light and illuminating it’s precise nature. Was it a huge turd or just toilet paper? Or a huge turd topped off with a wad of toilet paper? Sometimes, these things are better left unknown. Then again, I have spent the better part of an hour musing over my new room mate. “Could a turd really be that big?” “How long has it been there?” “Can feces mould?” I’m totally enthralled, intrigued. Then again, there’s not that much else to look at.
I’m sleeping in the charming surrounds of Paris Beauvais airport’s ‘loft’. ‘We will take you to the loft,’ the intimidating airport lady ( well I don’t know the official title and lady is better than chick so you can lower your sectional gender studies 101 glare Thankyou very much) had said. The loft! It sounds so frenchy!so chic! Imagine my disappointment when I was led to a lonely portable consisting of a table, three rope chairs (mostly ripped), a broken coffee machine and a bathroom containing My New Roommate.
It’s like some sort of cruel riddle- figure out how to sleep in a room containing only these items. Usually, I head for the floor. I’m no stranger to a bit of scratchy carpet. No luck here, nothing but filthy lino for miles. Combined with the chug and neon glow of the coffee machine that appears to be practising caffeine free alternatives to sleep deprivation, I’m in for a fun 6 hours til they free me. ‘You are here til 6am, do not open the door for anyone,’ I had been told on no uncertain terms. Like I was expecting gentlemen callers out here in the middle of the ugliest carpark in Paris. I wouldn’t let them in anyway, this place is in no state for entertaining guests.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. It’s actually quite kind that they let me stay here after I managed to miss 2 flights in the one night. The first was kind of my fault. I got lost, missed a bus, took a train and arrived at the airport 10 mins after check in closed – a particularly frustrating style of fuckery that I seem to be developing quite the penchant for. Especially in Paris. Everything is so beautiful and sleek here, I always end up looking like a big,clumsy idiot.
My first morning here i attempted to get breakfast. I wanted to know what was happening in Syria but with their nationalism or whatever, the newsagents weren’t selling any English papers. I eventually settled on a French one with a lot of illustrations and maps, figuring I’d be able to understand ‘le rebels’ and get some sense of things. But you know what reading a French newspaper does? Makes you look like you can speak French. The waiter was flitting over to me every 10 seconds and talking French at a machine gun pace. I realized it would be impossible to explain why I was reading a publication of which I can’t speak a word, and I suddenly had that awful sinking feeling you get when you realize you’re doing something totally pretentious.
I guess at this point any normal person would put the paper away, pretend it was already on the table or something. Not me! I began nodding and saying ‘oui’ incredibly fast and slurred for some reason- I guess it’s a very Australian way of doing things, thinking that when you’re properly fluent in a language you suddenly stop speaking it properly. ‘straya mate. All was going well until the waitress came out and cleared my plate and suddenly asked another question. A tactic I picked up in Japan is to think, ‘what could she possibly be asking in this situation?’ I’d already eaten and drank, she must be asking if I want the cheque.
‘Oui!’ I nodded a little too enthusiastically,feeling like a pro.
She looked confused. I stared at her blankly. Shit.
‘Une cafe, une jus…?’
Ahh! She was asking if I wanted another drink! I got this!
‘Une chocolate!’ I announced proudly.As soon as it came out of my mouth I cringed. The ochre Aussie accent echoed around us, tainting the sweet Parisian air.
‘Une sho- co-lah,’ she repeated accusatorily.
I nodded meekly. My cover was totally blown. Now I just looked weird. When I paid and left she waved to me and called out, a little harshly, I thought ‘Goodbye!’
But back to the loft and how I came to be here.
The second flight i missed was definitely not my fault. I mean- I was already in the bloody airport, how can I miss a flight? Well it turns out my 15 euro(!!) bottle of extra strength sunscreen is some sort of high security risk and after I put it through the X-ray machine the airport pretty much went into melt down. I mean i get that the French love the sun, but really.I had to go behind the scenes with French policemen rabbiting at me the whole way and putting big, scary looking x’s through
my passport. To be honest I thought the whole thing was kind of an over reaction, but apparently a bomb had to be detonated at Gare du Nord station earlier in the day, so I can forgive them for being on high alert.
What I cannot forgive is that after this ordeal I had to stroll into departures and be informed by two very obvious Queenslanders that my flight had left. Speaking of which,i think the Queenslanders were way more suss than I was. Who ACTUALLY wears matching leather cowboy hats and rugby union guernseys complete with xxxx beer sponsorships? It’s like they googled how to look like an Australian cliche.
But I digress. Some tears and $110 euro later I’m booked onto the next available flight to Edinburgh, which actually isn’t for 2 days. By the time we figured all this out all the taxis had left so the airport staff conversed and agreed to put me up for a night of luxury in the loft.
And I know this all sounds very bitchy and cynical, but I have to add that i don’t know where they got the bad rep because the French have been some of the nicest I have ever met. When i bought a train ticket from the airport to what I now realize is one of the dodgiest neighbourhoods in Paris, the conductor instructed me to hide my valuables and wear my backpack on front. When I arrived at 11.30pm in said neighbourhood, a lovely man waited with me outside McDonald’s as I scabbed their Internet and then let me use his phone while I called my couchsurfing host. ‘I will wait with you until he arrives,’ he insisted and I was glad. Clement, the charming Parisian who’s floor I slept on for the duration of my stay patiently lined for pastries with me and led me on a midnight walk around his beautiful city, answering all my inane questions and inflating my mattress for me when we made it home at 4am. I asked a bearded bohemian for the time in a cafe, I ended up with a private tour of the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop in Notre Dame. And finally, at the airport a woman saw me crying and, freshly landed from a delayed flight herself and probably aching to get home, sat with me and comforted me with broken English and cookies. The stoic airport staff rebooted computers and stayed overtime to rebook flights for me, and even $110 euro is cheaper than what Jetstar charges.
So with this kindness in mind I settle down on my broken chair, try to ignore my room mate and prepare for the next 5 hours in the ‘loft.’