Friday, August 10, 2012

The Night Bus: Noctilien 12

Yup, I took my first trip on the night bus of Paris.  I knew that eventually I would miss my metro ride, I just wasn't expecting it to happen because I had been chilling watching a TV show at a friend's house.  I figured it would occur because I broke my ankle running with heels through the maze of the Parisian underground known as the Metro.  Alas, it was far less dramatic, I even had my running shoes on. 

The metro closes at 2 a.m.  On the weekends.  Well, this night was a weekday, and I had forgotten that.  Thankfully, my hostess, Olivia, hadn't and we diligently went online to see when the last train was leaving from the metro stop closest to her.  All was well.  Until I got to the intermediate stop on my journey where I needed to switch lines.  I got off the train and started running to get to the other platform.  I passed fellow latees running in the opposite direction.  And then I watched my train pull out of the station as I ran down the steps to catch it. 


Crap.  Zeros on both times basically indicate you are screwed.  And then they switched to XX's.  Not better.  I texted Olivia to let her know and she texted back with the info that I could take the night bus.  Oh boy.  The bus that the drunks take.  The bus that everyone has a story from.  The bus that would be fun to take if I wasn't all alone, dressed in a REI hiking shirt and flare jeans, and wearing the I AM AN AMERICAN tennis shoes.  My outfit could not have screamed more that I was not Parisian.  It's like wearing a sign that says, "Please, bother me because I can't speak your language."

Well, I made it to the bus stop, made it on to the bus, and even made it all the way to the last stop on the line, without any problems.  No creepers, no awkward moments, no puking on the seat next to me.  Nothing, until I got off the bus and realized I had no idea where I was.

It's 2:15 a.m. and I am walking towards what looks like an industrialized part of the outskirts of Paris.  There's a man stumbling across the road obviously drunk.  My heart is attempting to increase beats-per-minute while my mind is attempting to keep everybody calm.  Thank the Lord for maps.  And for Muslim women who are also somehow walking in the same direction as me.

You heard me correctly.  There were three other people who got off the bus with me, two drunk boys who needed to take the Noctilien 12 back in the other direction because they got on the wrong way, and an older, Muslim women. 

"Pardon moi, Boulogne-Billancourt?"  I pointed to try and indicate my question. 

"Oui, Boulogne, là, et Saint Cloud est là."  She pointed towards where Boulogne is and pointed out Saint Cloud in the other direction.

I was on the right street, walking in the right direction, and by some divine power we were both walking to the same place.  We didn't speak another word to each other, but we also kept our paces relatively similar, walking silently together.  My heart slowed, the knot in my stomach began to loosen, and I marveled at the blessing of a stranger on a road that could have felt and been far more dangerous alone.  

Ten or more blocks passed and I started to recognize the scenery.  And then I was on the street where I had parked my car.

"Merci et bonne nuit," I said to my silent companion.

"Au revoir."

The night bus should have been where I got my story, but the story definitely came after walking off the bus.  I'm just thankful I made it home safely and that God sent both of us someone to walk with through the quiet and potentially intimidating streets of Paris.  As much fun as it was to ride the night bus and putting myself into a potentially dangerous situation, next time, I'm leaving earlier than necessary to catch the train.  Sorry, night bus, I just don't think you're my cup of tea.  Unless I have a nice Muslim lady to walk with me (other alternatives include friends, family, boyfriend that doesn't currently exist, coworkers, etc.).  

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