A policeman in a stiff uniform and proper hat motioned for me to sit down in front of him. He pulled up a small black typewriter, stuck in a triplicate form and began firing away questions in French. I couldn’t understand a word he said. I told him so in English, but he asked another question — in French. I just stared at him dumbly. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes with exasperation.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I asked. No response.
“Hablas Espanol?” I asked again. No response again.
Tired and fed up, I blurted out my story in English, pausing briefly between sentences for breath. When I stopped, the policeman stared at me a minute and then began typing in a two-fingered fashion. He did understand what I was saying! Or else he was typing, “This stupid American girl doesn’t speak even one word of French. Who knows what she is gesturing wildly about?”
When he was done, the policeman spoke again in French and pointed me to the door. So that was the end of that.
Later I heard that there had been a rash of train robberies that month. Now, I was in Paris with less than $20 worth of currency in my pocket and no credit card. A fine state!
One bright spot — before setting out for Paris, my uncle had given me the name of a place to stay. “The Palais de la Femme,” he suggested. “They were very nice. And don’t worry. It’s inexpensive.”
I looked at the slip of paper now, fingering the little money I had in my pockets. I hoped the hotel was cheap; otherwise, I’d be sleeping on the street. For now, I had the whole day ahead of me, so I tossed my backpack over my shoulder and set off to at least see SOME of Paris. I grabbed a map of the subway system and went exploring.
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