A friend on Facebook asked recently how everything that happens to me in France sounds like an adventure. Wish I knew.
I do have a theory: Perhaps we mistake the “drama” in our lives with “adventure.”
Last week, for example, my French teacher loaned me her car. It’s a 20-year-old blue French “something.” I didn’t really care what it was before I borrowed it. I could use almost anything with wheels to help me run some errands. Particularly , I needed to take my ancient Raleigh bicycle to the repair shop for a new tire.
My teacher, Annabelle, met me at the public parking lot in Uzes on the appointed day and she gave me a few instructions about driving the car. She showed me the “reverse” gear, but I drove straight ahead to get out of the parking lot, not needing to back up.
There’s only one way to get out of downtown Uzes. That’s to go all the way around the circular main street. The parking lot where I picked up the car was as far away from the street where I needed to take the bike as you can go on the circle. Traffic was stop and go because there are tons of tourists here. Nevertheless, I made it out of town.
Reaching the bike repair place, I realized I didn’t have my bike! Back I went, all the way through town again to my apartment.
Getting the bike into the back of “Old Nellie” wasn’t an easy job. And there wasn’t one person passing by who offered to help a poor old woman in distress. C’est la vie. Finally, with bike in tow, I jumped into the car to back out of the parking space in front of my building.
With the car in gear, I stepped on the gas …. and headed straight ahead … for the stone front of the building.
Slamming on the brakes I put the gear into reverse again. And again. And again. Each time I went forward, closer to a stone-on-bumper impact.
When I was literally inches before crushing into the building, I called my friend, Geoffrey. Annabelle is Geoffrey’s girlfriend, so I assumed he would know her car. Fortunately, he answered. and quickly got the picture.
“Do you know where neutral is on the gear shift?” he asked.
“Of course I do, ” I replied smuggly, wiggling the stick in the gear.
“Are you sure,” warned Geoffrey, speaking in his most calm British accent. He knows me well.
“Oh!,” said I as the gear went into a new place. “So that’s neutral?!”
“Put you hand on the gear stick and pull it up, then up to the right, ” said Geoffrey.
Obediently I pulled the gear into position and said to Geoffrey, “you’d better hang up now.”
“Why’s that?” he asked, puzzled..
“I don’t want you to witness this,” I said.
Hanging up the cellphone, I pulled up the emergency brake and gunned the gas pedal.
“Voila!” The car moved backwards., away from the stone wall that was no more than two inches away.
On my way…
Around town again on the traffic circle, I finally reached the repair shop and dropped off the bike. The next destination was Carrefour. It was time to stock up on house supplies.
No more than a block down the road, I realized I’d left my billfold and money behind. There was only a ten euro bill in my handbag. Unwilling to drive all the way back to town and around the circle again, I said to myself: “what is it I really need at Carrefour?” Plant food.. Fortunately plant food was less than five euros. Mission accomplished.
Not so fast!
Back in the car and ready to return home for money for the bike repair, I turned on the ignition. Nothing happened. Except that every light on “Old Nellie’s” dashboard was red.
“Good grief,” I cried, “now the car’s out of gas!”
Fortunately the car was parked close to the Carrefour gas station. Hoping there was a gas can in the back, I jumped out of the car. No can.
I turned around to look at the gas pumps. A man on a motorcycle was at one of the tanks. He had a gas can! Never afraid to talk to a stranger when I’m desperate, I walked up to the man who was facing away from me and I tapped him on the shoulder. He was dressed in motorcycle attire from head to toe.
“Do you speak English?” I said to the startled man.
Motorcycle Man turned quickly around and took off his helmet. Talking with a German accent he responded “yes, I know some English.”
I explained my dilemma, including the fact that I had only six euros on me to pay for gas. Hoping he wouldn’t think I was giving him a “pick up” line, I was anxious for his reply.
“No problem,” he said as he filled the can with gas.
“Whew!” I was saved.
Not so fast
“Does the car use gas or diesel?” he asked.
“It’s not my car.” I replied. “I have no idea.”
“There’s gasoline in this can now,” said Motorcycle Man, “and I’m pretty sure that cars burns diesel.”
“Bummer,” I said, although thankful he thought of the potential disaster before it happened.
“Here’s what you should do,” said Motorcycle Man. “Ask some young people over there to push the car to the gas pump.” He added, “I have a bad back.”
With that, I turned around to find some lucky suspects. Meanwhile, Motorcycle Man disappeared.
To the rescue
Sighting two young men who were just coming out of Carrefour, I ran up to talk with them. Fortunately, they both spoke enough English that we could communicate the problem.
I asked if they knew if the car used diesel or gas fuel. Looking under the hood, they announced: “Gas”.
With that, I got into the car. Thinking about the red can with “gasoline” Motorcycle Man had offered earlier, I unconsciously put the key in the ignition. It took a few seconds to realize the car started. It wasn’t out of gas at all. In fact, there was over a half tank of gas.
Thanking my new friends profusely, I tried to assure them I wasn’t a nut case. They agreed to let me take their picture for my blog.
Ahmed and Walid, this is for you. I really do have a blog.
And to you, mystery Motorcycle Man, “Thank you wherever you are!”
Categories: Around France, Blog, Chapter 4: Life in France Part Two