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Checking In

[The following was written on the Powerbook in Paris at 6 am today, and is being transcribed in an internet cafe in Tours now. I’m not sure how much posting I’ll actually wind up doing from here; the cafe is fine, and darned conveniently located, but I’d completely forgotten about the AZERTY keyboards here. Typing is really painful when those few letters aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Please forgive any strange looking typos; I’m trying to catch them, but it’s hard.]

After a sleepless night on the plane — I’m constitutionally incapable of sleeping on command, no matter how luxurious the circumstances; if my body says it’s only five in the afternoon, and if there are the least number of distractions around me, I’m wide awake — I managed to navigate my way from Charles de Gaulle to my pal Marcus’s apartment with only a few hitches. Those few were, of course, not insignificant, and one of them reminds me how much easier it is to travel when somebody’s got your back, literally.

Of course, in my jet-lagged exhaustion (je souffre de la décalage horaire, I learned last night), I’m dwelling on the few things that have gone wrong thus far, beating myself up for my stupidity, and so I’m hoping that getting this into writing will stop the little voice in my head that just won’t let it go.

The first thing that went wrong was this: After having successfully negotiated Charles de Gaulle without a hitch, and after managing to purchase my RER ticket with no problem; I completely, stupidly forgot that whole French put-the-ticket-in-the-machine and take-it-out-again thing. Most particularly, I forgot the you-need-your-ticket-in-order-to-leave part. And I sleepily marched right on through the turnstile and left my ticket there. So, of course, when I arrive at Chatelet to transfer to the Métro, I can’t get out through the turnstile. In order to leave, I need a ticket. A Métro ticket will do. But all the points-of-sale for tickets are on the other side of the gate, which I need a ticket to get through. The good news is that I was able to use my limited French and my general American cluelessness to persuade someone to help me out; a somewhat disgusted looking man put me and my suitcase in front of him and pushed us both through as he left. So I was then able to purchase my Métro tickets and continue the journey relatively without incident.

Except that — and this is the real source of the voice in my head which warns me that traveling alone when massively sleep-deprived may not be a good idea — when I arrived at Marcus’s apartment, I discovered that the back bottom pocket on my computer backpack (the same pocket I’m forever zipping up on R’s backpack, one that’s apparently easy to forget) was open. The good news is that, as the plane was landing, I’d already gone into that pocket and taken my wallet out of it; putting it in my pocket for ease of access and safekeeping. All that had remained in that pocket were my keys — still there, happily — and a small change purse, which was gone.

So I don’t entirely know what happened. It’s almost certain that I simply left the pocket unzipped after taking my wallet out, and the change purse could have fallen out on the plane or anywhere along the way. Or, which seems all-too-likely, someone somewhere snagged it. Whatever. I feel terminally stupid, either way.

The good news is that what has, in either case, gone missing is a small pouch of U.S. change — and mostly pennies, at that. But the case also served a second purpose for me, which was as the carrier of all those miscellaneous cards one carries as a card-carrying member of American consumer society: a small stack of my business cards, sure, but also my Continental frequent flyer card, my Sam’s Club card, my video store cards, my grocery store cards, my museum membership cards, my bookstore and car-wash and coffeehouse buy-ten-get-one-free cards. None of these things has any real monetary value, and what little value they have cannot be exercised in France, and so none will be remotely useful to anyone who’s got them — and so perhaps I should think of this as a freeing experience; no longer weighed down by the baggage of my past consumption practices, I can now choose to reacquire only those cards that are actually useful to me, sort of like a consumer fasting detox.

This doesn’t make me feel any less stupid, though.

[UPDATE 04.08.04, 7.35 pm: As it turns out, the folks in the internet cafe have shown me the trick to making the computer think it’s hooked to a QWERTY keyboard. The catch is, of course, that I have to touch-type in order to make it work, because the thing itself still has the keys in all the wrong places…]


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