The first time I saw this meme, it was on Whatsapp I think, I laughed non-stop for a few minutes, recovered, and then laughed some more. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be in that man’s situation. Alas, if I’ve learned something, it’s to never say never or laugh [too hard] at someone else’s misfortune.
I was at the tail end of my crazy European adventure. It was my last full day and I was in Paris planning to fly back to the US bright and early the next morning. So what does any normal person who has a few hours left in their holiday do? They explore! They do all the things on their list they never got to do earlier in a very hurried manner- 5 minutes or so per attraction, dashing all around the city frantically before things close for the night.
When it was sufficiently dark, I decided it was time to call it a day [night]. I had done all I could in just a few hours, which was quite the impressive list really, and it was time to conclude my final night in the city of Love. That day I had walked along the Seine River and seen the bridges with the lovers’ padlocks, seen Arc de Triomphe, walked along Champs Elysees, visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and even took part in mass a little bit, watched several very talented street artistes perform-from dancing to singing, gone to the Eiffel Tower and taken as many pics and selfies on the border of obsessive, visited the Louvre, and people watched at Gare de Lyon while enjoying a nice lunch on the patio of my hotel restaurant.
So anyway, when it got dark I decided to head to my hotel and I went into the metro station. It was crowded, so I started to get nervous- single, female, at night, in Paris, underground, foreign language, unfamiliar surroundings- the usual triggers. But finally, I saw a bunch of Police officers so I instantly felt safer. I smiled, I put my ticket into the machine- my only fear was that I inserted it the wrong way- I fumble with these things; at home, I never use public transportation. Anyway, to my huge relief, the barrier opened and I walked right through- simple!
One of the police officers started to make her way towards me, so I thought awww how nice. This nice officer wants to come over and chat to the tourist in Paris. Probably to warn me about the dangers of traveling alone at night or to make sure I knew where I was going and what platform to head to and what stop to get off at. That sort of thing.
She let out a string of French with a very straight face so I said ‘Je ne parle pas Francais’. And I was so proud of myself in that moment- remembering the right words, being able to construct them into a sentence, and using them at the right time in the right context- Madame Orakwusi (high school French teacher) would be proud too!. She sort of rolled her eyes, sighed, and said “Why are you using a child ticket?” My eyes grew wide in disbelief! I was like what?? How preposterous! Why would she be accusing me of such? So I said she must be mistaken and that in fact, I have many more tickets! Just to show that money was not an issue here.
I opened my wallet and produced about 5 more similar tickets and she said they were all child tickets. I couldn’t believe it! Nothing on the ticket said enfants or petit, which as far as I knew were the words for ‘children’ and ‘little’. So she said I had to pay a fine. Then I had a great idea- I would just tell her I am sorry, I am a tourist, I didn’t realize they were child tickets, and in fact I am heading back home tomorrow. All true statements. So I handed her my driver’s license which I thought would corroborate my story.
That didn’t help- she said I had to pay a fine or go to the police station (it was between 40 and 50 euros, I can’t remember- but definitely a hefty fine). And she could take cash, check, credit cards, and traveler’s checks. Dang! I thought about it and decided that jail was not the best place to spend my last night in Paris. I was bummed because I had been saving those euros to buy something nice in Duty Free at the airport but I guess all those fantasies would have to be buried. The good thing was I had at least been saving some money while denying myself some luxuries throughout my vacation. So that’s how I parted ways with my hard earned euros.
So I guess you are wondering how I ended up with a stack of child metro tickets? Well, at the beginning of my vacation, I was with my sister and her 2 kids and one day we were traveling by metro. We went to the counter to buy tickets and long story short- due to the language barrier, we ended up with a booklet of child tickets but we didn’t know they were child tickets. In fact, we had used a bunch of them over several days and when I was leaving my sister, she gave me the rest of the tickets because I was coming back to Paris in about a week and they weren’t.
In fact, because I had so many left and didn’t want to waste them, I was trying to use them up by basically stopping at as many metro stops as possible instead of walking to places- walking may have been faster for me actually.But being
cheap fiscally responsible, I wanted to at least use them. It just so happened that on my very last train for the night, I got ‘caught’. I guess I should be thankful that that was when I got caught because that may have ruined the rest of the day for me if it had been earlier and I may not have gotten to do all I did that day.
So anyway, needless to say, I don’t laugh as hard whenever I see that meme anymore.
And now, I will make sure that before I go to another foreign country, I learn all the possible words for ‘child’ so history doesn’t repeat itself.
Now, I can laugh about it and I get to share the experience with you all :).
Has anything similar ever happened to you?