We left Germany on Friday, when P drove us to the train station, a little after 11. No problem, we thought. We'll grab a bite in Metz (an hour 15 away) and then take the train back to Paris, with time to go to the grocery store before supper. Perfect.
So, I looked up at the big board, saw the Metz train (the only one on the board) was at platform 2. We climbed on, and saw a sign saying "Forbach" inside. I went up to the men who were in the cockpit (is that what you call it?), showed them my tickets, and asked. 'Are we on the right train?'
'Yes! This is it. You will have to get off at Forbach, and step to another train for the rest of the connection, but they are usually waiting right next to the platform, and then you go on to Metz. That's how it always happens this time of day. No problem.'
So, we sat down, and prepared for departure in 3 minutes.
OK, getting a little worried.
Oh, nope, it's fine. We are under way.
Here's Forbach! OK, where's the other train?
Found the same guys. They looked at our tickets. 'Oh! No! You got on the wrong train! Did you book this on the Internet? (Of course we did.) Oh. Well. There isn't a train now. You have to wait. Here's a conductor with a book. (looking at schedules) OK. No problem. There is another in an hour.'
'An hour? But our train to Paris is in an hour! We need to be in Metz now!'
'Oh. Well. You have to wait. There is another train to Paris. You can ride that one.'
'Are there seats?'
'Well, you can see. The other train. It will all be fine. Ha ha! No problem.'
He scurries away.
Needless to say, Forbach is not exactly a metropolis. The station had some benches, vending machines, and no heat. We were afraid to wander into town with a huge suitcase and a large, muzzled dog and try to get lunch in 45 minutes, so, hello vending machines. Lunch was a Snickers bar and some Vittel water, for 4 euros. Note: Snickers doesn't satisfy you.
Finally, the other train comes, to take us to Metz, where we can catch our connection (that already left 45 minutes before). Note, that Metz is only a 45 minute drive from Saarbrucken, and it's so far taken us about three and a half hours to get there.
Dr. B asks how we are going to get ourselves on the other train--because they are French, and will want us to pay again (they seem to always want you to pay some more for everything.) It is the end of the month, and frankly we don't want to shell out another 90 euros for something we already paid for.
I answer, 'Simple. I will throw a Paris fit and get us on that train. Don't worry. I know how to do it now. I've been watching.'
You see, the Paris Fit is about the only way to get what you want here. That North Dakota "cold, quiet anger" does not register at all with Parisians. They seem to think that if you don't get really ticked off, if your voice doesn't go up 3 octaves, and if you don't get indignant and make some sort of "Pfft!" noise, well, then, you are not really upset at all. And it's all just fine.
I have learned. My natural reaction, the cold voice, raised eyebrow and steely glare get me nowhere here. I've tried it--they just seem to assume I am not bothered, and ignore whatever problem I bring up. So, I have learned to throw the Paris fit. During the ride, I plan my attack.
We arrive at Metz, with 15 minutes to grab the train to Paris--not enough time to run back to the train station for a sandwich. Grr. Getting cranky. Good. Will need it for the 'Paris fit'.
We meet a conductor on the platform. He says our tickets are no longer valid.
I explain what happened, that it was not our fault, that an SNCF worker told us the wrong thing.
He says that train already went!
I start to let a little bit of agitation come into my voice. I repeat that it wasn't our fault. I say we need to get back to Paris. I tell him I don't know what to do, but we already paid for these tickets, and the worker told us to take the wrong train!
I'm not even close to hysterical at this point, but he seemed to recognize the beginnings of a Paris Fit. Either that, or he's just a nice guy and felt bad for us. Maybe he just likes breaking the rules (the French seem to make them to break them, you know.) Or maybe it was the Christmas Spirit. I don't know. I don't care.
He said, 'Get on the back. Last car.'
We went in. Found 4 seats facing each other with no tickets above to claim them.
We settled in for the 4+ hour ride back to Paris. Reading, knitting, listening to the iPods. Eating cough drops and gum, because we still hadn't eaten a meal since breakfast, and it was now 3 PM.
We arrived in Paris. Fought our way through the metro (we weren't the only ones returning, it seems.) Of course, Murphy was right, and we dealt with non-functioning metro tickets, full platforms, lots of stairs. Dr. B was toting our heavy suitcase and I was trying to keep the dog from rubbing her face on everyone she passed hoping to get the muzzle off. Dr. B is very angry at this point, and won't talk to me on the metro. Of course, some Russian guy takes this to mean "single woman" and keeps smiling at me and waggling his eyebrows in a sort of "come hither" way. Yeah. Just what I need.
We arrive at our station, and head up the 4 flights of stairs to the cobblestone slab in front of the town hall.
The lovely snow that had blanketed Germany has melted into ice, followed by rain, which was rapidly freezing into sheets of black ice all over the streets and cobblestones.
Home, finally. 8:15 PM.
I turned on the heat, and headed out, thanking God that our local grocery store was open until 9. I got pizzas, breakfast stuff for Saturday, and beer. (Necessary at this point.)
Came home to some rather foul language coming from the bathroom.
Seems Dr. B took Lucy for a little potty break. When she's nervous, she doesn't 'go'--she'll wait until she's back on home turf to do her business. He came home to wash her belly of the sand and mud that a rainy night in Paris inevitably leaves.
And found out, once again, that our hot water heater was dead. Kaput. Nada. Il ne marche pas du tout.
Ice cold showers. Heating water just to wash dishes, or give yourself a sponge bath. And of course, it is the New Year's holiday (which is almost bigger than Christmas in Paris), and that means it will not be fixed until Monday.
Seems it's still the 18th century here in Paris.
Just so you know.