Monday, September 27, 2010

Travel Story: The Kindness of Strangers

Last Saturday we arrived in Paris from the Loire Valley on the TGV. At Montparnasse we joined the queue for taxis since we were lugging two heavy bags filled with wine and everything else you need for a long trip in France. After a lengthy wait, a taxi driver pulled up and started talking in French. The couple in front of us begin to discuss this in English, with the guy saying the taxi driver was telling everyone the streets were closed and taxis could not go any where.

And so the fun began....

I asked the couple what was going on, and he repeated what had been said. He had some basic French and was able to get the gist of it. We all decided to head to the Metro (they also had two heavy suitcases) and try our luck. Along the way, I found out they were from Canada.

We all found the Metro together and after the guys lugged the heavy suitcases up / down some stairs, we went our separate ways. And then there we were all in the same ticket line - they had gone the wrong way and ended up back in our area of the Metro and in the same ticket line. The line was huge - tons  of people were being diverted to the Metro. Finally, I took my turn at the kiosk and more frustration set in. The damn thing wouldn't read any of my credit cards. I had euro, but only bills and it required coins. I honestly think I just blanked out for a minute and stood there staring in frustration at the machine. I turned to the Canadian couple behind me and told them the issue (why I was taking forever to get tickets) and the women offered me the 3.40 euro to get tickets.

Let me repeat that - she freely offered up the coins I needed to get the hell out of there and continue my journey. I gratefully accepted and tried to offer her paper euros or American dollars and she declined both.

We ran into them again heading to the train lines and finally departed at the split for different directions on the #4 Line. I never got their names, they didn't get mine - but I was sincerely touched by their help. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was far more than most people would ever offer to a stranger in need.

I hope they enjoyed Paris and I hope their good deed comes back to them soon.

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