At this point, I should go on and on about that shuttle ride, because it had enough material in it for at least three stories. But I really want to pretend it didn’t happen, because it was a shuttle ride from hell. It involved one very belligerent and inconsiderate middle-aged woman, sleet and traffic jams, two white racist French people who spent two hours asserting that they weren’t racist, but they just didn’t like… (and this in front of the driver, who was not white), and one too-nice and not assertive-enough young girl who realized as soon as the shuttle hit the highway that sipping nervously from her water bottle on the train had not been a good idea. Especially since the bottle contained 2 liters, and the shuttle was in such a rush that the driver was not about to stop, even for 5 minutes…
The intense mental concentration I had to put myself through in order not to die in the shuttle (and the fact that I was sitting in the very back) made it literally impossible for me to participate in the row that was taking place between the middle-aged belligerent B… I mean Blond, of course, and the other girl, who turned out to be the only normal occupant of the vehicle. And the only normal one actually capable of arguing intensely in French. The Belligerent B… I mean Blond claimed that we had promised we would take the shuttle to Geneva train station and demanded we take her there first – even though she didn’t actually have a specific train time or ticket, whereas the girl and I both had very specific take-off times which were mercilessly approaching.
I’m confident speaking French. But sometimes when I get into high-stress situations of completely unexpected and unwarranted hostility, my mind blocks. This happened to me once when I was trying to get onto a tram in Brussels. It was a bit crowded, but I was going with some colleagues to a meeting at a different company and didn’t want to be late, so when my colleagues got in, I stepped onboard as well. Except there was an elderly man who started cursing at me and pushed me through the open door and off the tram with all the strength in his body. He could’ve just moved over – there was enough room, plenty for someone of my stature. But apparently he was trying to make a point. “There is no room on this tram!” in furious French was all I caught before my mind went completely blank. I pushed myself to the side and looked at him continuing his tirade, but I did not understand a thing. He might as well have been speaking Inuit. It was like watching a Russian gangster movie without the subtitles – you understand the emotions behind the words and figure you should be upset, but as the action is only on the screen, not affecting you, you don’t bother.
This was exactly what happened to me in the bus. I shall spare you a detailed description of the verbal abuse that was spewed forth by Belligerent B… I mean Blond. Suffice to say, the other girl and I opted for the sake of peace to allow for a detour to Geneva city center (she opted actively, I just shook my head and bit my lip); therefore around 7 PM we found ourselves literally in the middle of a Geneva street with our suitcases, obligingly unloaded by the driver.
I then found myself in a car with the girl’s parents, locals, who were serving as a sort of high-speed Geneva taxi, careening through back roads, crossing empty gas stations in manic shortcuts, all the while keeping up a steady stream of conversation with their daughter and her new-found friend.
We braked icily to a complete stop in front of my terminal; I grabbed my carry-on, said my speediest and nicest “Merci” and ran, ran, ran to the check-in counter. I ran right up to the airline representative and… wait, that isn’t right. If I was able to run up to him, it meant that there was no one in line, which meant that they had closed check-in, which meant…
“I’m sorry,” he said as he looked up at my gust-ridden scarf and the red face that was half-hidden by bangs gone crazy.
“The flight to Warsaw is already boarding. I can’t check you in.”