Double check you double checked. Lessons from the Paris Metro

Check, then double check. That is a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way after a backpacker’s scramble through Paris’ metro maze, racing the sunrise at the mercy of times hands, figuratively and literally. Pun Intended.

06:00 My cheesy preprogrammed iPhone alarm chimed next to my ear. The vibrations through the stiff hostel mattress were what would have woken me if I wasn’t already awake.
06:16 We left Caulaincourt Square Hotel to walk the deserted street towards the metro stop Lamarck Caulaincourt on line 12. We would take the metro from there to line 4.
06:29 Transferred to metro line 4, the pink line.
06:34 Arrived at Gare du Nord, one of the 3 train stations in Paris, earlier than the recommended 20 minutes. An ex-girlfriend’s father once asked me what on-time means to me. I said 10 minutes early.
06:40 I Scanned the TV screens showing train departures for our destination Figueres Vilafant.
06:40 Put on my glasses and searched again.
06:41 Again.
06:41 Checked train billete (ticket).
06:41 Son of a witch! Mother trucker! Sugar Honey Ice Tea! We were at the wrong station in the wrong part of the city!
06:45 T-minus 30 minutes.
06:50 We squeezed through closing doors on Line D to get to station Paris Gare Lyon.
06:51 Waited. The car was bigger than the others we’d been on. It had two stories and was a lot more full than the smaller metros. My pack squished against the wall to make room for the somebodies around me. George Orwell describes public transportation crowds as liquids in “1984”. It was elegantly articulated and would inspire word envy in any writer/blogger.
06:55 tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock
07:00 Fifteen minutes until train 9711 would leave Paris with two empty seats.
07:05 I tightened all my backpack straps until I could feel them cut into my bones. We would have to run to make it.
07:06 The metro doors opened and I tried squeezing through the liquid crowd towards the stairs marked Sortie (exit).

Whoever said crowds are like liquid never ate Jello.

07:08 I ran jester-like towards the departure screens to find our train in a fleeting panic.
07:09 Scanned TV screens showing train departures for Figueres Vilafant
07:09 Scanned again
Scanned again.
07:10 Found it! Departure at station 17. Our seats were on the very furthest car.
07:14 We made it.
07:15 Departed Paris for Barcelona.
08:34 Got kicked out of our seats. We didn’t double check those either.

So Remember! Double check you double checked! I hope that nothing like this ever happens to you. If it does, you’re an official backpacker. Welcome to the club 🙂

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