In life, there are rare moments when you come across strangers who leave an indelible impression on you. My husband and I had one such travel experience recently, which has touched us in more ways than one.
It happened during our journey back home from Paris two nights ago. The last leg of our Euro trip was in The Netherlands, however, our flight home was to depart from Paris.
We arrived at the Paris Gare du Nord train station from Amsterdam roughly around 11 pm on Thursday night. From there we were scheduled to catch the Metro to Charles De Gaulle airport.
The Paris Nord station was almost deserted, which was a strange sight to see considering how busy it is normally. The few people still around were in a rush to catch the last metro. Ticketing counters were already closed for the day leaving us only the kiosks to buy our metro passes from.
What was somewhat more unnerving was the repeated announcements about the station not being a particularly safe place. The public announcement system kept on telling us to contact the authorities in case of an emergency. The lady at the information center very clearly told us not to spend the night at the station. She said that airport would be a safer place (given that our flight was scheduled for the next morning).
Naturally, our immediate course of action was to catch the last metro and reach the airport.
Our troubles began when we realized that the kiosks would not accept bills, only coins or cards. We tried swiping our cards as we didn’t have enough coins.
After about 5 failed attempts with 3 different cards, we began to panic a bit. We looked around to see if we could find someone who could help us in buying the tickets. We could pay them back in cash if they allowed us the use of their coins or card. Unfortunately, though, not a soul was around.
With 5 minutes to go for the last train to arrive, we desperately tried to push any buttons we could find on the platform entrance booths, hoping against hope for the doors to open miraculously. Each of us was silently weighing our options of where to spend the night and sadly no brilliant ideas came to either of us. This was a first, in all our travel experiences.
Suddenly out of nowhere, there came a gentleman, in a hurry to catch the last train too! He saw us fidgeting unsuccessfully with the check-in booths and tried to tell us something, in French. We tried to explain to him how our cards wouldn’t work and we needed to get to the airport on that train.
Unfortunately for us, he couldn’t understand or speak a word of English, and we couldn’t understand any French beyond “Bonjour” and “Merci”. Somehow though, we managed to understand that he would be kind enough to allow us to use his Metro pass to make our way to the platform. We thanked him as profusely as we could and made our way to the platform with his help.
Almost when we thought our troubles for the night were over, we noticed that the metro that was to go to Charles De Gaulle was canceled. The train that was due to arrive had Mitre-Claye as the final stop. Once again, we were at a loss of what to do. Should we wait and see if the train to CDG airport comes through or should we just board this one? Even if we board it, how are we to change lines with our card troubles?
Miraculously, the same gentleman came to our rescue again! He leaned against the automatic train doors preventing them from shutting close and frantically beckoned to us to board the train.
As if in a trance, we simply proceeded as he directed. We had no idea where we were headed and how we would get to our final destination. Our guardian angel tried to explain that this was the last train and we would need to get off somewhere along the way and try to get to the airport via another route. At least that’s what we thought he said.
Guess what, not only did he get off with us at the intermediate stop, but he also allowed us the use of his pass once again to exit the station! It doesn’t end here. He made sure that he leads us to a bus station, waited till the right bus came along and helped us board the bus that would eventually lead us to the airport!
It was only later that we realized that most parts of Paris and most routes were closed that night due to some renovation work that was scheduled. Had we not boarded that particular train and that bus, we never would’ve reached the airport that night. We would’ve made it to the airport only the next morning, probably not in time to catch our flight. That would have been another heck of a travel experience!
I believe God works in mysterious ways through people, to help us when we’re in trouble. We were left speechless at the kindness shown by the gentleman.
The French are said to be rude and unhelpful. This stereotype couldn’t be more wrong! He reinforced a fact that night, that is slowly being forgotten. The fact that you don’t need to be related or acquainted with someone, or even know their language to be able to show kindness or humanity. He probably wasn’t the hero we deserved, but he was the hero we needed. And we need more like him. Let’s all learn to be more kind, more humane to others. That’s really the key to making this world a better place 😊