18 August 2010

I made it 3 weeks

I'm already thinking about going back
I thought it would take me about 6 months before I began thinking about returning to Europe for another vacation. But no, it took me three weeks before I popped up that calendar to try to guess at possible dates. Can you believe it? yes you can. I am expecting to receive my Irish citizenship any week now and I have entertained the idea of returning to Ireland as a citizen. I've also thought about returning to Belgium, I like Belgium. And of course there is always France, there is no place like France.
I need to be honest though, not every day in France was an easy day. I had some trials and tribulations while I was there, but I got better at handling the stuff that comes up in life. I will share one such story with you now, it happened on my second to last day in France. 
I had planned to travel by plane from Toulouse to Paris to see the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées. I had packed my one suitcase and one bike box and left them parked in my leased car in the economy parking lot at the Toulouse airport. By this point in my journey, I was consciously unloading any weight possible. I knew I was very close to my 50 lb bike box weight limit and my 50 lb suitcase weight limit for British Airways. I was trying to pare down, however, I unloaded 0.5 ounces too much weight in Paris.
I unknowingly threw away my economy parking lot slip, you know the one needed to get my car out of the parking lot upon return. I could picture that slip, sitting in the trash can in my hotel room in Paris. Without this slip my car was not exiting that parking lot in Toulouse. In a moment my entire vacation flashed before my eyes. In the next moment, I calmly said to myself, "you have until tomorrow morning at 10:00am to figure this out". It was 4:55pm the night before I was due to fly back to the USA.
I took a deep breath, thinking, thinking. Okay there is no attendant, I will go study the machine. I bravely walked up to the car park exit machine laying defiantly with crossing gate and no personality to barter with. I studied the machine carefully, and there in the upper left corner I found my button of hope. A small red button labeled "info". 
I pushed that button with every ounce of hope left in me, and a real voice answered! My first words of desperation were in French, when he said he spoke English, my second paragraph was in the kindest English I could muster up, already halfway accepting my fate. He spoke with the most gentle kind understanding voice you can imagine and responded "somebody will come". I waited.
A small white car approached and a man popped out with a newly created receipt in hand ready to bar-code scan my exit to freedom. I greeted him as if he had saved my life. By my fifth week in France I had learned that it was all about making the connection with a person, being in the moment, smiling, taking time for them. When he left he said, "Thank you for your smile," he could have easily said you idiot American woman, but no, he was more than kind. Thank me? Thank him! If it hadn't been for the kindness of this one person who made the impossible possible for me, I would have been royally messed up in Toulouse, France, on my own with an over-leased car and a missed flight. 
It just goes to show you how the random acts of individuals make our lives so much better. And why I have one-more reason, to add to my other 100 reasons, for why I love France.