I have another “lumberjack” sleeping in my room. And it's only a three person dorm! What are the odds. Ahh – you ask what is a lumberjack in quotation marks. A valid question. It is a person whose snores sound like a chainsaw cutting through lumber. Last night I wanted him destroyed – but I was all tuckered out to the point that I couldn't care for long. Also – I was quite distressed that someone in Brugge is about to inherit a lovely, freshly laundered, blue microfiber towel. One which I was so lovingly lent by my most delightful counterpart. And why? Because I didn't want it to get smelly in my bag, so I left it out – set to pack it in the morning. Yeah. Well that didn't work out. And then(!) I just went to my room – after coming home soaked – to check my stuff, to find (at nine o'clock) my proverbial plaid wearing bunkmate already asleep, and already clear cutting. So all of these things combine to set me in the mood to tell you why:
I HATE PARIS!
First off, the wifi in the hostel never works. And I know that's not Paris' fault. Hell I know that they do their best to give me as much wifi as I can handle. McDonald's give it for free, the parks all have hotspots, so much of the city wants me on the internet. But not in the hostel. For the wifi I paid for! I quote Phillip, from Bruges (and if you're out there, pop me an e-mail because I had to leave on an early train and missed getting your details. Have fun with the collage girl when you get to Paris!), when he said, “you know, I wouldn't bloody mind paying for internet if it ever worked properly!”
Lesson learned, my momentary friend, lesson learned.
Second, my god are the subways hot. Call them The Metro, Le Metropolitan, I don't care. they're still way too bloody hot. And sure the windows open, but when it's October, and the locals are sweating – there is a problem. Mind you they were dressed in three layers, with big jackets to “keep them warm” on a 25 degree Celsius day. (I've discovered talking to Americans about weather is fun. It was 25 yesterday. “Oh my, but it's so lovely today.” Hmm – right. It was about 78 yesterday. “Oh, well isn't that lovely then.”) I do not like being gross and grimy because of the subway.
Workers need some bloody better customer relations. I paid for my meal that cost three euro, five cents. I hand over my bill. Head lolling to the side, “uhh, do you have five cents?” Nope, I respond – this isn't true, I'm kind of at fault here, but I love pissing off the shop keeps. Also, I want change. Vending machines need change. I need to use vending machines. But my god, when I said no, you should have seen her. Her life was ruined. I recall this happening once in a McDonald's earlier in my trip (when I canceled my sixty cent mayo order.) A flash in her eyes told me she would kill my first born, if ever given the chance. And all I could think was, “my god woman, just bloody count to ninety five. One fifty cent, two twenty cents, and a five cent. It's four coins. Get over your Parisian self. I don't care if you are hot and sweaty working in a kitchen, maybe you shouldn't bloody wear a jacket just because the fashion season has changed. Dress for your climate, not for your audience. And where is my bloody ninety five cents already?!”
Now – I want to counter this by saying that all people working in this job area are not jerks. I had a lovely girl in training who knew no English when I tried to order a “Strawberry Milk Shake.” We awkwardly danced around my order for a while, and my goodness when she asked, “will that be all,” but not in English, in French, it took a long time to understand the question. Her manager whispered – in French - “don't ask complicated things to the English.” I understand that much. And I suppose that was quite helpful rather than snide. Although – I just want to point out that Strawberry Milkshake in french is pronounced “Milk Shake Fraise.” The only other two options would have been Chocolate Milkshake, “Milk Shake Shaw-co-lat” or Vanilla Milkshake, “Milk Shake Va-Nill.” So, I'm not really sure why all the confusion. But, that's that. As I was leaving I thanked her in her language, and she mustered up all her courage to return the parting words, speaking – what I assume is her only knowledge of the English language – “Thank you. Good. Bye. Mister.” It was adorable. It was fantastic. And it made me forget the angry five cent girl across the street. I tell you, fast food workers are the unofficial ambassadors of countries. It also helped that the Quick Burger chocolate shake (...they were out of strawberry. Of course.) - only one euro – just happens to be the best bloody shake I've had in a long long time.
O.K. Enough of this cushy love-in. Back to why I hate Paris, and I do – if only in an ultra secretive clandestine way.
They play the “lets hose the tourist” game. Metro passes. I am a tourist. I buy the five day pass for the perfect sum of twenty four, or twenty seven euro. Something like that. My sneaky friend (with a metro card as she's a “local”) gets the seven day week pass for seventeen. Thanks Paris. What a lovely way to meet and greet us. You think we tourists wont find out! You think you're smart. But you're not. Sure you have my money, but I'll find one way or another to proverbially pee in your pool, before this week is up.
The obnoxious “give me money scams” - one I'll save for a special next entry. There is a “trick” where someone will ask you to put your finger through some strings. Do NOT put your finger through the strings. They will tie a knot in it so fast, that you can not get your finger out until you pay them. And if you try to just break away – well they are very big, very distressing, looking people. You try if you want. Best to just avoid it – don't put your finger in the strings! No I did not do this – but I was warned. Perhaps I'll watch it all play out some day this week.
The friggin' Romanian (I saw Romanian because my guide books – albethem outdated – say that's what they are. If I am wrong, I apologize.) beggars. “Do you speak English?” If someone who doesn't look like they are a stupid lost tourist (like you do, apparently which is why you've been targeted) do not respond. Or look them in the face and say no. They will be girls about 17 – 22. And when they say “Not even a little?” stare them down and say, “no I do not speak English. I couldn't possibly understand a word of it, and have a hard time even making out what you're saying. Sorry.” Oh you'll not listen the first time. You'll assume they're lost and say, “yes.” And then you're hooked. Let the game begin.
The game begins, you see, by them showing you a postcard. It says they're from Bosnia and so poor, and hungry, and other sad sad things, then it asks you for money at the end. Ahh but you're a seasoned traveller. You know better. You know they're like seagulls, so long as you feed them, they'll always be around. So you give – Wait? You gave them money?! Dammit. You're the reason they're here! Shoo birds, shoo!
But no, you've said you have no money. Then they ask for “english money.” What is English money? It doesn't matter – because some people will cave here. When they see your pack, after you refuse once more, they'll ask for fruit “oh please, just a piece of fruit. I'm so hungry. Oh please sir. Please.” And when they step towards your pack, move faster than them, and grab it. I don't know if they'll take it – but these are not nice people. These are people who have honed their craft, and prey on tourists. And they are – straight up – assholes. There is no other word.
You tell them you have no money. None at all. You say you have no fruit. I mean, come on, my bag was open – she could see all inside of it. There was no fruit! But no, she persists begging you for just a small piece of fruit. You see, her father is dead, and she has to raise her brothers (a new development! Why wouldn't you lead with this? Because you're a bloody liar!) At this point you've had enough, and may be tempted to ask to see the death certificate, and then you'll consider it.
But do nothing. Just out wait them – like gulls, they are good at hovering – but make no sudden movements. And definitely don't reach towards your pockets. It's nothing but a signal.
You see – like Raptors- they hunt in packs.
As soon as the first left, I was approached by two more, and could count five wandering the park, in total. For the final two I simply shook my head, no, when they asked if I spoke English. And with that they just kind of wandered away. Which was great. No breadcrumbs here for you today.
But then, as I entered the subway, I realized that there were two of them hiding in the bushes that I wasn't even aware of. How did I know this? Because I counted all seven, as they pushed to the front of the subway entrance turnstile, to then hop over it, climb under it, or snake around it before jumping on the car. As one of the tourists said, “man they have balls here!” Don't they though.
And I hate these people. And I run into them all over the world. Even once in Toronto. But never have they been so brazen. If you want to beg, just bloody do it – if someone's resolved to say no, leave them alone. You'll only end up causing racist thoughts in people who may think that everyone who looks like you, acts like you. And it's not true – but people have hated entire groups of people based on less. But if you are scamming off of tourists, my god, have the decency to use a fraction of that to buy a bloody metro ticket. Even Homeless Santa pays to ride the TTC between Ossington and Union!
So that's why I hate Paris. I'm sure there will be more reasons in the coming days, but that's enough complaining, because I can't hate this city for too long. It's just so wonderfully beautiful and full of life.
We now return to our regularly scheduled love in.
Bhutan: Trekking in the Bumthang Valley
6 hours ago