My French arrival was messy to say the least, thanks in part to the fact that I insisted on bringing my beloved velo de route (which of course, at the behest of the airport, was completely dismantled and packed inside a cardboard box big enough to live in for free rent.) To sufficiently pad the bike and reduce the cost of my other checked bag I had stuffed sweaters, jeans and underwear (des culottes) through the cardboard holes — so, for the sake of putting the bike back together and being rid of the house-box, I thought it would be best upon exiting the airport to unload most of this clothing and replace it inside my duffel. Alice informed me that I may tuttoyer her (address her informally) on account of how she’d now seen all of my panties scattered about on the sidewalk.
My new amis dropped me off in a parking garage below the station where I was to meet Laurie, the program coordinator, who informed me that we were a floor level and two blocks away from where I was to meet my hosts in ten minutes. I hadn’t managed to fully extract the bike at the airport, so I hurried to do it now.
Unfortunately, it turns out that putting a road bike back together is significantly more complicated than taking it apart, especially in a ten-minute window with a half-mile to walk uphill. My crooked fork and detached handlebars made it absolutely impossible to steer the bike anywhere while rolling, forcing me to hoist it onto the back wheel and steer it gripping only the frame, while also outfitted with a fully-packed hiking bag, a messenger bag with my documents and books strapped across my chest, multiple pairs of jeans and sweaters tied around my waist and slipping every moment, and in my left hand a plastic bag of culottes just waiting to leap out onto the ground. Laurie, thankfully, took charge of the duffel.
Together in this fashion we shuffled our very embarrassing half-mile through the belly of the Lyonnaise train station, and I was acutely aware of my marked Americanism. Drenched in sweat and gasping for air, this is how I met my hosts, Stéphanie, and her two boys, Théo and Paul. While it is likely that they found me utterly ridiculous, they betrayed no sense of disdain. They graciously exchanged cheek kisses with me in spite of the sweat and helped carry all of my overstuffed bags to the car, then into the apartment when we arrived.
This, of course, is where I realized my messenger bag was missing.
“Il y a quoi dedans?” asked Steph, “What’s inside?”
“Oh, rien,” I replied with a sigh of misery and self-loathing, “Juste mon ordinateur, ma passeport, mon portefeuille.” “Oh, nothing, just my computer, my passport, my wallet.”
I’ve never seen a grown woman drive so fast in my life.
Shockingly the bag was still there, a new car parked next to it so close that a wheel pinned an edge of the strap to the pavement. I almost cried with joy and hugged Steph, who said I was “Vary loo-cky”. I think we would all agree.
If there is one thing I’m sure of so far, it’s this:
Whoever said the French are rude has not been here.