Saturday, January 28, 2006

Metro Accident

Friday, after a matinée of Secret of Brokeback Mountain and lunch out with some of my friends, I grabbed groceries (barely resisting the urge to say "À Demain!" [See you tomorrow!] to the checkout guy) before taking Lucy for a walk and heading to school to get the girls. I usually arrive around 4:30, and they come out of the school at 4:35-4:40 ish.

Not today.

4:50 rolls around at P and I are still waiting for C, who hasn't come out yet. I assume they are on a field trip, but not back yet, so I ask the teacher at the door. She asks which class C is in (P provides the answer--I can never remember the CM2 vs. the CP1 or whatever--it's not first through sixth grade here.) Turns out they are delayed, and we are welcomed inside to wait where it is warm. This is much appreciated as the temperature is around 25 F, and with the wind whipping down the streets, and the cold soaking through the bottom of your shoes as you stand on concrete, it gets a mite chilly.

So we head inside. I pass my number to a mom of a girl in C's class who wants me to start giving her daughters English lessons, and then settle in to knit while I wait.

"Oh, I forgot! You all must move. There is a karate class about to start. Head to the back of the room, please. No problem!"

The principal of the school is the kind of guy who makes a great principal. He is smiley, interacts well with the kids (who listen to whatever he says with a smile on their little faces), and is very relaxed. I can tell just by watching him that he'd be a good one to work for (reminds me of a couple of principals I had back in WI, in fact. Hi Michael and Tim!)

So, we move to the other end of the room. I look for a spot to sit, and see a bench. As I am sitting down, a young girl comes up to me.

"No, you can't sit here!"

"Why?"

"We have our class. Our karate class. It is here! You can't sit here."

"OK, I see a chair. Can I move that over there?"

"Yes, but you can't be on this end. This is our karate class."

She seems very proud as she runs over to her bag to pull out her white outfit--the pants, belt and wrap top, your standard Karate clothes.

I move the chair, and watch the kids settle in to watch the class while we wait. The principal comes to let us know that there has been an accident in the Metro, and the lines aren't running. The class is now on a bus, and will be here soon.

I pull out my knitting and begin. As I do, I watch the young boys and single girl as they get ready for class. Right there, in front of everyone, they strip down to their underwear and change into their karate uniforms. They giggle with excitement as they tie their belts in a knot.

As soon as they are all dressed, the principal walks over and begins to move the upright ping-pong tables so they block our view of the class.

For privacy.

You know, kicking and yelling is something that should be kept private, while changing clothes and showing the world your underoos is perfectly acceptable out in the open. Welcome to France.

The spectators (the kids, that is) groan their disappointment, and scoot up so they can still watch by lying on their bellies and looking under the tables. The kids kick and turn and watch out of the corners of their eyes, to make sure we can all see how good they are. They look thrilled with the unexpected audience.

5:20 comes and the class is back. C joins us and we head down the boulevard, while she tells us all the details of the metro accident (very grave involving passengers, the announcement said), and how the teacher didn't have any more tickets (they had used one hundred and twenty!!!), and they couldn't all walk back from Pont Neuf, and how la maîtresse explained it all to the bus driver and he let them all on to bring them back to school.

We arrived at our bus stop, shivering and hoping it wouldn't be long until it arrived. At this point, I am cursing the thin gloves I am wearing that have already got a hole worn in them, and wishing I hadn't lost another one of my good ones last week. We checked the little board that tells you how long it will be.

11 minutes.


"Onze minutes?!?! Oh là là! C'est trop longue d'attendre! Non! On prends le 83."

(11 minutes? Oh, no! That's too long to wait. Nope. Let's take the 83.)

We walk to the nearby stop for the 83 bus, which takes longer to get home but may be coming sooner. Since it is not as popular of a line, there is no little sign to tell us, but we can still see the other stop should that bus come earlier than this one. We wait maybe 5 or 6 minutes and it shows up. It's full, though, as due to the metro line being down and the fact that it was too cold to walk very far, most people switched to the bus. We jammed in, and watched as the bus literally filled to capacity--there were people pressed together with their backs against all the doors as we headed down the street.

I said a little prayer as we careened down the avenue. Please God, don't let us get in an accident. The weight of all these people would squash us to death.

We arrived home safely, and I rushed to call Dr. B to tell him about the line. He takes it from the furthest end, and would have to arrange a different route home. Knowing it was Friday and no one would be staying late, I wanted him to leave ASAP so he could get home before 9 PM.

While I was discussing this with him, the girls were preparing a snack. They chose items from each column of a list provided on the blackboard by their mom. A slow-release sugar (bread), a faster-release sugar (chocolate) and a dairy item (yogurt.) They asked if they could add a little water to the small square of chocolate, put it in the microwave, and spread it on bread. I said fine, as I was occupied with trying to figure out a bus line Dr. B could take home, and where he could catch it.

After we figured out his transport, I headed into the kitchen.

There was C, at the sink, with a dish, a scrub brush, lots of soap, and a guilty look on her face.

"What happened?"

"I don't know. But it's all stuck in the bottom of the bowl. The chocolate. See? Please, can you help?"

Seems the girls had left it a bit too long in the micro-onde (microwave), and it had turned to chocolate cement.

I sighed and took the dish from her, as she began preparing another to eat for her snack.

"Did you use cold water, or hot?" I asked.

"Cold! Of course!" she said, reassuringly.

I smiled, as I presented the now clean bowl to her.

She may have the brilliant idea to create a homemade chocolate tartine (spread), but she doesn't realize that it's a lot easier to clean a dirty dish with hot water.

Eleven years old, I remember you a little too well...

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