|Thanks to fellow Erma Jason Tudor for the photo.|
Me, the Internet, and stress are an interesting combination. During the day it will most likely be political arguments. However, if it’s after midnight, I often end up with plane tickets. My version of the fight-or-flight reflex.
That’s how, in the week before the Oklahoma Bar Exam, I found myself booked on a flight to Paris. I had originally wanted to go to Egypt, but knew Paris was more suited for solo wandering. I’d visited before, knew how to use the subway, and still had all my guidebooks. Other than that pesky language barrier, I looked forward to an uneventful week in the City of Lights shaking off the after-effects of writing test essays about the Uniform Commercial Code.
A secret about Paris: In August, the middle-class flees to the countryside, the tourists are in the Bahamas, and the city is blessedly quiet. Lines are short, and for a Midwesterner, the temperature is balmy.
Okay, most of the lines were short. On my obligatory trip to the top of Eiffel Tower, the queue wound round the second level. There may not have been many tourists in the city that week, but they were all determined to go to the top of the tower that day. The voluble French complaining also told me that a good number of locals were visiting as well.
Two polite, but insistent, guides packed the elevators sardine-style with the sort of rude insistence that only the French can pull off with style. Shoulder to shoulder with my fellow travelers, I began the trip to the top.
When I travel, my goal is to blend in as much as possible. No loud t-shirts with funny sayings. No obnoxious hats. No fanny packs. For Paris, I packed khakis, starched white shirts, and an array of silk scarves. When sightseeing, if it doesn’t fit in my faux-chic shoulder bag, it doesn’t go. Even my camera is discreet. (I know I’ve pulled it off when American tourists approach me, maps outstretched, saying, “See-Vu-Play . . .” with a pleading look.)
I evidently didn’t look too touristy that day in the elevator because my week became less uneventful when I realized there was a hand firmly planted on my backside. I shifted slightly and so did the hand. The hand wasn’t being overly obnoxious, but there was no doubt that this was no accident.
I had a choice. I could go all American on the offender and raise a ruckus in a packed elevator, or I could cultivate my European elan a bit more and see what happened at the end of the journey. However, one minute and forty seconds is a lot longer when you have an unknown hand on your butt. I’m sure there’s something in Einstein’s theories about that.
When I left the elevator, the hand didn’t follow. I looked over my shoulder and saw a pleasant looking young European with his eyebrows arched in a question. That’s when I decided to channel my inner Parisian. I smiled, shrugged, shook my head, and got an adorable Gaelic pout in return. I took it for the compliment it was.
In a city full of eminently grope-able women, I had made the cut.