When Nikki left, I felt a bit lost because, I suppose, a piece of my soul just drove away. And then, my world seemed to change.
When you are fully sleep deprived and have a large amount of accumulated stress in your body, you fall into a universe ruled by Murphy's Law. It's a new theory I've come up with. I think that's what happened to me in Paris. My fledgling whirlwind adventure started feeling like I was dropping deeper and deeper into quicksand. The deeper I got, the more Murphy's Law took effect. The more things went wrong, the more exhausted I got. It is not a pretty story, but it's one you may relate to, that is, hopefully far, far in your past... and soon to be in my past as well.
Here (below) is my sad-sack story, told to you from the Universe ruled by Murphy's Law.
I arrived at the Yves Charles Hostel in Paris Tuesday morning, with maybe an hour's worth of sleep in me. To explain, my flight left JFK at 5:15pm ET. By the time I wound down and felt exhausted enough to be taken over by sleep (at what would have been 2am ET), we landed, at 7am Paris time. When Nikki and I arrived by taxi to my destination it was 8am Paris time.
I had known I would not be able to get into my bedroom at the hostel until 3pm. I had planned, though, to sleep on a couch in their "large common room with couches." That did not happen. As tired as I was and as much as I wanted to sleep, all around me people were speaking French. And well, something in me wants to hear that.
Finally, I decided to have an espresso and chocolate croissant. "Why, Ami," you may be asking, "would a carbohydrate intolerant body like yours eat a croissant?" Well my friends: when in Paris...
Yes, it's true... I was told that French bread is different, that people with food allergies to wheat and grains do not react badly to French bread, that the wheat in Paris is different. My friends love me. I trust my friends. It was a French chocolate croissant. Of course I believed them.
This little indulgence, strangely, did not help me sleep. I felt bloated and even more foggy and uncomfortable. I decided to go for a walk. I didn't know where I was. I didn't know where to go. The weather was chilly. So I decided "I'll follow the sun."
If you're like me, just reading that phrase, the Beatles are now singing in your head. Because I had thought that, the whole time I was walking, I was humming "I'll follow the sun." Even now, because I mentioned it, it's playing again in my mind's ear.
I walked and walked and, even with the Beatles in my head and the sun in front of me, I felt... uninspired. Gay Paree was anything but joyful. Paris seemed quite depressed. It looked dirty and broken down. There were many very old people, some of them pan-handling. There were young "hipsters" in a homeless camp by a canal.
I walked for what felt like miles through an open market mall, with vegetables and fruits and clothes and a crowd of people trying to push around each other. Young people pushed around old people, people with canes, and people in wheelchairs. Old people stood in the way.
When I got to the end of the mall, was tired, and wanted to go "home," I turned around and proceeded to walk... in circles. I could not orient myself toward the hostel. I was hungry and dehydrated, exhausted and frustrated, and lost. "Why, Ami," you may be wanting to ask me, "didn't you stop for food and drink, rest, ask directions, and take in Paris?" That is a good question, my friends.
I sort of did. I asked for help. But between the language barrier and being in a sour state of mind, the attempted help did not... help. I did stop at a restaurant by a busy park intersection for a while to drink a liter of seltzer water, and then use the toilet. Sitting there, rehydrating, watching Paris walk by, though, felt... lonely.
At one point, I did see a funny little thing: a little bit of Vermont in Paris. Though you may note in the picture (below) that inside this box there were not delicious pints of cow-related frozen treats, but rather, plastic bottles of water and sodas.
And I did see a restaurant name on an awning that made me think of my friend Louise.
That's it, though. That's all the cute I've got to share.
I walked and walked. Three hours later, I finally found myself standing in front of the Yves Charles hostel. Inside, seeing that the one couch was taken, I sat in a chair, where my head fell back as I slipped comatose into sleep. When I woke, it was 3:07pm.
I literally stumbled to my too many and too heavy bags and made my way with them upstairs to my designated shared bedroom. In the bedroom, there were four beds, two claimed and one unclaimed on the floor below an unclaimed bunk. I claimed the remaining bed on the floor. No one was there. I closed the drapes, got into my bed fully clothed, and fell into what I believe was a deep sleep. It's hard to know what a deep sleep is. It's been so very long since I had one. I think I was pretty deep in there, though, until my roomies came back... around 9pm... from which time I remained awake for the duration of the night.
It's not like I didn't want to fall back asleep. It's not like I didn't try. I laid in my bed and hoped for the best, as I often do these days. Around 1am I decided more sleep wasn't going to happen this night, got up, and took my laptop downstairs to the common room to write.
It was then that I realized my laptop charging cord did not fit into the universal plug I'd brought. A bit bleary and possibly not of sound mind, I decided to use my laptop anyways and run down the battery. I figured (woefully, wrongfully so) that I'd have plenty of time at the airport before the flight to both shop for something compatible to charge my laptop with and charge it to its 100% charged capacity. I actually believed I'd have time to write! After all, I reasoned, I'd be at the airport the recommended 3 hours before flight time. Plenty of time, I thought. No problem, I thought.
When the sun arose and people began to file in, toward the stairs going down to the cafeteria, toward the included breakfast buffet, I brought my (now battery dead) laptop back up to my bedroom and showered in the eco-shower.
The whole of the Yves Charles hostel is an eco building. When showering, one needs to literally bang on a button on the wall to restart the water to wash each limb. Needless to say, I did not wash my thick hair. After the sort-of not-so eco-friendly shower, I dressed in clean clothes, repacked, and proceeded down two flights of stairs to the cafeteria for breakfast.
Here's where the spicey meets the dicey... where the blades in the food processor of life do their chopping thing.
From the breakfast buffet, I chose (another) chocolate croissant, a couple of hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and coffee... with milk. I think there's something extraordinary about the milk products in Paris. I say this because both the yogurt and coffee were extraordinary. I have never tasted anything so delicious. Ever.
While sitting at a table, joyfully sipping coffee, moaning in ecstasy about the yogurt, I looked down at my phone to see that my flight was at 11am. I moved immediately into a panic with a full body stress sweat.
It took, I knew, an hour to drive to the airport. The airlines advised arriving 3 hours early for international flights. The time was now 9am. "How could I have planned so badly" I thought. "I am an idiot" I thought.
Let me say here that I was wrong. My flight, which had been scheduled for 12:45pm had been delayed to 1:45pm. I knew this when I'd set my phone alarms. I'd added "11am" to my calendar as the time I needed to be at the airport - the 3-hour before mark. That morning, though, with what I can only label as a maladjusted brain, I didn't remember that. I didn't remember any of that. When I went into a panic, I didn't remember anything. I don't think I could have told you my name. My executive functioning brain was offline. I was in straight-up survival mode.
Off I ran. To be more accurate, with too many and too heavy bags, my moving was more like an awkward one-step-forward-two-steps-back dance. Up the stairs, nearly throwing my room key at the hostel attendant, out the door, to the street, where I plugged into my phone the info needed to hail an Uber.
It was in that 3-minute wait, sweaty, stinky, stressed-to-the-max, that I realized I was not late. I was on time. It would be Ok.
I breathed. I enjoyed my Uber ride. I enjoyed my Uber driver. All was going to be Ok.
So I thought.
Remember, my friends, I'd landed in a Universe ruled by Murphy's Law. The Odyssey was not over, not by a long shot.