Sometimes I feel like it must be written on my forehead or on my bike helmet « Don’t know where you are going? Ask me for directions ». Happily I usually can point them in the right direction and don’t mind doing so. I find it to be a sort of compliment and it underlines to myself that I live in this beautiful city called Paris. This time though the experience was a bit trying – at first.
I was riding my bike back to the office along the Seine. There is a section right by the Eiffel Tower that is a bike path and it is just wide enough for one bike. It is not a sidewalk, but there are always tourists on it and it is kind of a pain to get past them. I ding my bell and they usually step off onto the dirt between the the trees and let me pass. That night I was behind two women. One in silver lamé pants, high heels and a short white furry jacket. I later saw a sparkly necklace too. The other in conservative pants, shoes, long sweater and a hijab. Given their unmatching appearances I wasn’t sure if they were together. They were walking quickly as though focused on getting somewhere but I was still traveling faster. I rang my bell asking to pass. Sans réponse. I rang again. I rang insistently. I called out « s’il vous plait« . No response! Harrumph… #@!!$% tourists. I sighed and slowed my pace to bide my time until I could get around them. Then suddenly the conservatively-dressed one turned around to check on Sparkles trotting behind her in her high heels and she saw me too. I thought oh good now I can pass, but she did not step out of the way, but stood square in the middle of the path and stopped me altogether… to show me a map. Directions needed once again. The light was poor, but I managed to figure out they wanted to go to the Ile des Cygnes, the long thin island in the middle of the river which was accessed from the next bridge. So I said in English « next bridge, just ahead » and pointed. They looked at me quizzically. I tried French. Nope. So I pointed and directed some more. Then I managed to slip past. They walked faster as if to keep up with me as the bike path split into separate path and sidewalk. I stopped at the traffic light and realized they were still trying to catch up to me. So I waited. Then I saw their map again and saw the logo for « Capitaine Fracasse » – that’s a dinner boat that leaves from the island. So now I was sure as to where they were going and again gestured to the bridge. « It’s just there ». One gal mouthed « thank you » and the other made a sound I couldn’t understand and still seemed worried. Then it dawned on me, they were deaf. That explained a few things. I got off my bike and waved them to come with me. We crossed to the other side of the bridge and I pointed at the boat. Their faces lit up and they took a few steps towards it. But then couldn’t figure out how to get to it since it was below the bridge. So I walked with them just a bit farther and showed them the stairway leading down to the mooring. They were very happy and mouthed thanks and patted my arm. I rode home continuing across Pont Bir-Hakeim, one of the prettiest bridges in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower over my right shoulder. It was crépuscule, my favorite time of day in Paris and I thought to myself Bon appétit ladies, so glad you could come enjoy this beautiful city and thank you for asking me for directions and reminding me patience is a good thing.
Written by Lisa Vanden Bos, one of the authors of 90+ Ways You Know You’re Becoming French