I’m in Paris for research.
And no, not into all the different kinds of baguettes. Although there are a surprising number of kinds of baguettes.
I’m in Paris for research for my senior seminar about Deaf people in 19th century France, which sounds like a snore to absolutely everyone but me. This trip has been in the planning stages, real and imagined, for a year.
But I’ve been interested in Deaf culture and history since I was eight, after reading an abridged version of Helen Keller’s autobiography.
So I was overwhelmed when I stood at the door of the world’s very first school for Deaf children, founded in 1760, from which flowed all the leaders of the global Deaf community. This school survived the Revolutions of both 1789 and 1848, led the fight for the rights of Deaf people for three centuries, and produced the greatest Deaf thinkers and scholars the world has ever known. This was the school I’d been studying intensely for a full year; this trip was the culmination of over a decade of interest and passion in Deaf culture. And I was standing right where it all began, at the very doors of this hallowed place.
And then I realized I’d forgotten to make an appointment.
There are a lot of things about living alone in Paris that have been frustrating.
Realizing that I had spent a year planning this trip, and then forgetting to make an appointment was like spending hours and hours trying to fix the TV before realizing you’d just forgotten to plug it in.
But there were other things that had happened before this; the hostel I’d booked had had no locks in, on, or around it, so I had to move. I had lost my parents’ credit card, and I had gotten caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella. Plus, laundry was expensive and the bus system was clearly holding something against me.
There are upsides to all of these things: I did manage to get an appointment with the school after a lot of phone calls and banging on the door and ringing all their doorbells (“Do they make noise?” my dad asked. They do). My dad and I split a fabulous Airbnb on St. Louis Island, in the middle of the Seine. My parents’ credit card definitely wasn’t stolen because I had put it in my anti-theft purse, so there aren’t any crazy charges on it. I’ve learned the bus system and made friends at the laundromat. And I got a really nice umbrella.
As an added bonus, I finally understand why Parisians have a reputation for rudeness. All week I’ve been walking around, internally screaming at the tiniest inconveniences.
For example, I have a newfound hatred for American tourists because they talk loudly and take up way too much time in a public restroom at the Luxembourg gardens making sure every single one of their million children has gone to the bathroom.
But I’ve learned new and nice things, too. I have a new appreciation for bus drivers, (even though I detest the despicable form of public transportation they have chosen as a profession) because they will always stop for me if I run fast enough. Baguettes do not go stale as quickly as I thought they would. The libraries in Paris are breathtaking, but their entrances are as well-hidden as the backdoor of a speakeasy. Sainte-Geneviève is open late and doubles as a university library, so all the people are young and after the sun goes down, it has a cool nerd-themed sleepover vibe. The metro is not as confusing as everybody warned me it would be. And you can literally wear anything and people will think you’re avant-garde.
The loneliness has probably been the hardest problem to solve. It’s what makes me want to punch every cute couple in both of their faces. I don’t eat out much because I hate the host’s face when I ask for a table for one. I remember being a hostess––I know they’re judging me. And there’s nobody to share my successes with.
But I’ll be home on Tuesday, back with my family. And after that, I know I’ll come back to Paris soon. No matter how hard she tries to push me away, I can’t stay mad at anything this beautiful.