Sunday, October 19, 2008

Guess I Didn't Really Need That Shoe After All

Now I’ve done it. This is probably a story I should bury in the “Secret Annals of an Awkward American in Paris.” But what fun is public humiliation if you can’t share it with your friends?

Yesterday was beautiful. When I woke up, there was literally a small French child singing “Frère Jacques” outside of my window. I ran a few errands and then made afternoon plans to wander around the magical Jardin des Plantes before having tea at the Mosquée de Paris with a friend. This day was perfection, and I was in happy-daydream-mode as I waited for the metro.

I quickly exited happy-daydream-mode when I stepped into the metro car and realized that something was not quite right. I looked down. Ah, yes. One of my shoes was missing, and I was standing in the middle of the train with one bare foot. Quite strange, really, because this foot had had a shoe on it not two seconds earlier... I was sure of it. I turned around just in time to see the little bastard slip into the gap between the platform and the train—plummeting to its death on the tracks below.

I didn't need to gasp in horror because everyone around me on the train had already done so. So I just froze in a state of stupefied shock. Luckily, there was a go-getter next to me who pulled me back onto the platform and immediately started scheming about ways to get the shoe back. In the meantime, the conductor noticed the commotion and turned off the train, which, as you can imagine, made me quite popular with the hundreds of metro-riders within.

My shoe was down there, but it could not be reached with the train in its current position. My friend gave up (apparently not such a go-getter after all), and the conductor told me to wait there. The authorities were coming. Il faut pas descendre. Do not try to go onto the tracks. And like that, they were gone.

The platform was now deserted, save for me and a dazed homeless guy on a bench. The platform across from me, however, was full of people who seemed equally perplexed and amazed at the sight across the way: me... a poor man's Cinderella... but dirtier and more forlorn.

So, I waited on the bench next to the homeless guy; we made quite a pair. He covered himself with a bag and fell asleep, and I tried to look as blasé as possible, as if wearing one shoe had been a carefully calculated fashion decision with which I was entirely comfortable.

I sent a few text messages to alert some friends about my loss of shoe. One response read: “Guess you didn’t really need that one.” Guess not.

A few trains came and went, with passengers eyeing me, some in disgust, some in pure awe. I considered trying to jump into the tracks, either to retrieve the shoe or to put myself out of this misery; but I decided that the mortification of losing a shoe and electrocuting myself would be simply too much for one day.

Still, no assistance came, so I strategically positioned myself at the end of the platform so that I could speak to the conductor of the next incoming train. As he pulled up, he seemed unsurprised to see me standing there. I knocked on the window sheepishly.

“My shoe fell in the tracks.”
“Yeah, I heard about you,” he replied. “They’re sending someone.”
Oh good. The word had spread.

I returned to my perch next to my homeless friend. As the next few trains passed, I noticed the conductors watching out for me with that unmistakable look of amused disdain. Finally, one of them got out and yelled, “The girl who lost the shoe?”

Yes, that’s me. How could you tell?

Finally, I spied two RER workers slowly approaching me from the opposite end of the platform. They were in no rush, nor were they amused by the havoc I had caused.
They looked at me.
They looked at my shoe on the tracks.
They left.

A few minutes later, they came back with a broom to fish the shoe out. No luck. One went to get another broom.

His partner stayed, and I decided it was a good time to make awkward conversation.
“Does this happen often?” I asked.
Then she told me to go sit down.
I obeyed.
Then she conceded, “Well sometimes people lose phones. But not shoes.”

Finally her counterpart came back and embarked upon an elaborate shoe rescue endeavor. While the woman watched for oncoming trains, he used the two brooms in a “chopstick-like” manner and eventually succeeded in lifting my shoe from the tracks below. It was frightened, but intact.

“Thank you so much. I’m so sorry about this,” I giggled, immediately realizing that I shouldn’t be giggling.
He sort of smiled.
She didn’t.
They left.

I looked around the platform for someone to share in my joy—or at least in the absurdity of my shame—but, strangely, no one wanted to associate with me, not even my homeless guy.

The next train came and I hopped on, both my foot and my ego thoroughly soiled.

As the train pulled away I wondered, “How would a cool French girl have handled that situation?”

It’s pretty clear. A cool French girl would never have been in that situation because (1) she would not be a complete spazz, and (2) she would have been wearing cool French boots, which are what I intend to wear for the remainder of my time in Paris.

Once again, bravo l’Américaine.

The culprit.

*P.S. Today I took my shoe to my special secret fountain to cheer it up because it was ashamed.


Anonymous said...

Made me laugh out loud. Love your style. Keep writing, want to hear more of your stories!

- the mother of a friend, in Paris

Anna said...

One of the best posts I've read. Ever.

While I have not (yet) had a rogue shoe moment, I live in perpetual fear of it. Particularly on open public staircases or stadiums.

If the worst indeed happens, maybe our shoes can have lunch and commiserate together.


annawithlove said...

this makes me feel better b/c this is SO something that would have happened to me!! you are a fantastic writer!

Anonymous said...

Lots of ladies on purpose wear shoes that easily slip off. In the old days a married woman and I were lovers and she enjoyed wearing loose mules. Quite often one slipped off her foot and her practical joke was ignoring that loss! Only after some ten paces Emmy would stop, look giggling at her feet and say Oops! My mule...

Anonymous said...

Hilarious as heck! I'm so glad I found your blog to keep me more than highly entertained. From your new follower all the way in New Zealand!

Anonymous said...

What a fun and funny story! It has happened to me too - countless times. I live in Los Angeles, and most of the time I wear flip flops or sandals. I loose them on the street, on the beach, in restaurants. It's especially bad when one of my shoes slips off on the street because Losangelenos are probably the worst and the most impatient drivers in the world, not to mention their exceptional desire to honk at everyone and everything...

Forest said...

too funny! I, too, once lost a shoe on a Paris outing. I did not get it back and the details of the adventure will remain secret! ;)


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