Sunday, October 23, 2011

When it rains, it pours

Wednesday I woke up from a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. By the time my arm reached the phone I had already missed it. I checked the voice mail and it was the mother of the student that I had been tutoring.
“Josh, I’m so thankful for the effort that you’ve put in with my daughter but she’s had a change of heart and would like to find another tutor.” The word that she used was “tutrice” So what she meant was that her daughter wanted a woman, not a man for a tutor.

Of course she has a learning disability so I completely understood that she needed to be as comfortable as possible. I remembered her telling me that her other tutor was like her sister and she missed her.

I felt like calling the mother back and leaving a message, “Dear Jane Doe, I will wear a wig and stuff my shirt full of socks. Thanks.”

I tossed the phone down and put the pillow over my head and sighed a very sad sigh. I wanted to go back to sleep, but I was too frustrated. Disappointed. I couldn’t manage to get settled enough. So on my day off, I got up early and walked to the shower.

I stood under the shower. A hot shower can do a person wonders. I stood under the showerhead letting the water hit my head.  Then out of nowhere the showerhead itself fell off the wall and hit me square on top of the head.

This morning was turning out to be a shit show. I should have known then to stay in bed all day. But alas, the story goes on.

I got dressed and walked to the bank because I needed to withdraw some cash. Walked up to my favorite Mrs. Stick Up Your Ass at the bank counter and asked for a receipt of my bank account. She huffed and puffed and handed me a receipt that sais 11 euro.  WHAT?!
“Please check again.”

Huff and Puff. “That is what it is, sir.”

PANIC. Could this day get any worse? What on earth happened to all my money? I racked my brain and I remembered that I rented a bike in the city and the machine said it would take a 150 euro deposit out of my account until the bike was returned. But I had returned the bike. I was positive. That was Saturday and this was Wednesday. Something must be very wrong.I walked back to my apartment with my heart beating and somehow sweating on this chilly day. I called my friend Robert who had lived here for 2 years and inquired about the bike.

“Oh yeah, “ he said, “they don’t put that back for up to a week, man.”

“What the hell?! A week?! I will never bike anywhere again.”

What was I going to do for food? I had 11 euro in Paris and since they even make you pay a breathing tax, I was barely going to make it an hour on 11 euro.

I remembered my sister had sent me a Western Union check that I hadn’t deposited. That would give me about 80 euro and keep me above water till the deposit came back in my account.
I walked to the post office that advertised a Western Union branch.
I had on my black leather jacket and my scarf, the only thing I had bought in France that wasn’t food or alcohol. I would love that 14 euro back and have a cold neck. Like usual, the line was long and minutes ticked by. I was second in line when I looked down at the paper and saw that I needed a piece of I.D.  I was determined to lie through my teeth about how my passport was in a safe at the school I was working and I was a poor little foreigner and give them the puppy dog eyes.
I was next in line and this woman with a little girl probably 5 years old came in front of me and flashed her handicap card at me.

(people in france have cards that prove them to be “old” “handicapped” “a veteran” “deaf” or “blind”….to be honest, the last one isn’t really fair. That person would have no idea what kind of card they were holding up. It could be a picture of an alien eating an Ice cream cone.)

The little girl with her had a tumor on her cheek. But she didn’t let that stop her from having the most beautiful smile. In my shitty day, I was not having to deal with a large mass on my face. And she had a smile for god’s sake.  They stepped in front of me and the little girl turned around and cupped her hand next to her mouth and whispered slowly,  “Excuse us.” It was the most adorable thing. I cupped my hand and whispered back “Don’t worry, “ and she smile and said with the most serious face “Okay, sir.”  She turned around and giggled.

The little girl affected me. She was so cute.

Finally I made it to the counter and the puppy dog charm worked and I handed them my money order and they said that they couldn’t take the order there. I needed to go into Paris proper to receive the money.  As humans do, I forgot the smile of the little girl  in about 5 minutes and I was again wearing a frown. I took the train into the city and went to western union after western union. I was being sent on a wild goose chase. “Go here, they will do it for you.” “Sorry, we don’t do that here.” “Nope, not here.” Finally a genius told me the main office for Western Union was in front of the Louvre. I briskly walked the location that had all the answers supposedly.

It was closed. It was 4:15 p.m. and it was closed. I put my head and hands on the glass and the glass squealed as my hands slowly slid off the glass.

My brain was numb with frustration.  I turned around and I was directly in front of the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens. A black and gray cloud had rolled in and the wind picked up and blew my scarf. I walked into the gates of the Garden to take in the view. This is the best view in the city if you are on eye level.  You are facing west and it’s a complete straight shot to the Champs Elysee and you can see the whole garden, the Eiffel tower to the left, place de concorde and Arc de Triomphe. It’s quite breathtaking. I started to walk west.
If you stood still and panned your eyes a complete 360 degrees you would see a rubber band of bright blue on the horizon. This would be just a passing storm cloud. It started to sprinkle and of course I had no umbrella. I started to laugh out loud with the irony of the dark cloud looming over my head. In the distance, i could see the wall of water rushing towards me so I decided to take shelter under a tree that hadn’t lost all of its leaves. I stood there leaning against the trunk, looking at the red and yellow victims of fall that I was shuffling with my feet. I people watched and took note of a couple with their arms wrapped in each other to make enough a room under their blue umbrella, a business man holding a newspaper over his head who must have been just as caught of guard. Within 10 minutes, the rain had stopped. I started walking towards Place de Concorde. I zig zagged and hopped over the fresh rain puddles and passed a fountain with a flock of seagulls bathing and squacking  along side ducks who were dipping there heads in the water and shaking off their feathers.
I made it to the Place de Concorde. I walked across the cobbled stone and stood at the pedestrian walk across from the Metro. I was headed back home. It was a busy intersection and I stood there thinking about how shitty my day was and I was just ready to jump in bed and do a proper pity party.
Then, a flash of light bounced off the cars passing by and I turned around and there it was –the sun.
It was majestic with its size and power and it turned from night to day. The city sparkled from it’s recent shower. I stood there and let the sun envelope me.  I could barely see anything because it was so bright. I saw the outline of the Eiffel Tower and the fountains and the Obelisque. And I smiled. It was so beautiful I snapped a photo.
A thought entered my head and my problems washed away next to my feet with the little river in the gutter down the sewer drain. …
“Oh yeah, I live in Paris.”


  1. (I'm writing a comment on your blog for a graduate class)

    That's a crazy story. The part about the girl wanting a female tutor really gets me. I have a friend in Mexico who makes money by being a private English tutor. He's getting along pretty well now, but at first, he had a lot of trouble finding enough students. I know you're not surviving off what you make from tutoring, but I understand the frustration of that since I tutor in Murray, Ky.