Isabelle M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Wilmington Friends School in Delaware.
The past two weeks I have been on vacation. The first week was spent on a school trip, in Marseille, where everything was carefully planned and organized by the teachers. It was calm, reposant, and simple. The second week, however, was different. As the result of a miscommunication, I ended up alone on my commute back from Marseille to Rennes. In theory, the trip should have gone off without a hitch. The problem stemmed from the connection in the middle of the journey. Unfortunately, the train tickets I had booked required me to stop in Paris at the Gare de Lyon and transfer to the Gare de Montparnasse in order to catch the train that would deliver me to Rennes. I knew this ahead of time, and I didn't expect it to be a problem. Upon arrival in Paris, however, I plugged the Gare de Montparnasse into Google and found that it was an hour and thirty minute walk away. I only had an hour before my next train left the station. To the girl I was at the start of the year, this would have been an incredibly stressful experience. The girl I am now, though? She knew she could figure it out.
My first instinct was to hop on the metro, but I recalled the last time I had taken the Paris metro and decided I did not have the time to make stupid mistakes like ending up heading in the wrong direction. My next thought was a bus, so I checked on Google for when the next one would arrive. Three minutes. Perfect. I headed over to the bus stop and walked on immediately. I took a seat near the back of the bus, where I remained for a minute or two before I started to get concerned. Why was the bus taking so long to move? It had been multiple minutes and we hadn't moved more than an inch from the bus stop. Ahead of me on the bus, I could see some kind of commotion brewing, so I got out of my seat and looked forward. A woman, another passenger, had collapsed on the floor of the bus. The driver was frantically calling someone on the phone, and we were all ushered out from the bus. Back on the sidewalk, I checked when the next bus was coming. It wouldn't arrive for ten minutes. Thinking that would be fine, I stayed at the bus stop for about two minutes, but when I turned my phone on again, I realized that if I waited for the bus, I would be too late for my train. See, the bus came in eight minutes, and it was a thirty minute ride from there to the station. That's 38 minutes assuming traffic was good…but it was a weekend, in Paris, over vacation. In other words, traffic was not good. No, traffic was very, very, bad.
For those of you who don't know, I'm from Wilmington, Delaware. It's the second smallest state in the U.S., small town-y, and lacking any real public transportation systems. There definitely aren't any easily accessible taxis. This is why, when it occurred to me, standing at the bus stop, frantically checking the time on my quickly dying phone, that the only way to make it to my train on time might be hailing a taxi, I tried to find any other alternative. I considered biking, pulling my suitcase behind me somehow or another, or even just running, like really, really fast (I am awful at running). An available taxi passed by, the green light on its roof glaring me in the eyes, taunting. I let it pass. Another went by, then another. I checked my phone, now at five percent battery, for the time, and realized just how close I was pushing it. I looked back out to the road. Just behind a bus, approaching me quickly, was a single available taxi, followed by a procession of occupied ones. It was this taxi or nothing.
I don't know how you're supposed to hail a taxi. In movies, people whistle. In New York, I have seen people stand on the sidewalk waving their hands. In Paris? No idea. Not a clue. Regardless, in the moment, with my train leaving in forty minutes, I stopped caring, and I shot my hand up into the air. Surprise, surprise, the taxi pulled over, and somehow, I made it to the Gare in time.
I know that to most people, hailing a taxi isn't a big deal. For me, though, it's a testament to how much I have grown this year. I am not used to cities, to navigating their busy roads, and especially not doing so in a time crunch. This experience, though, proved to me something that SYA has been trying to teach all the students all year long: With trust in oneself and the resilience to just keep trying when all seems to have failed, everything will work out in the end.
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