Just Go With It
Stumbling out of Gare du Nord, I resist the urge to repeatedly punch myself in the head. A poorly booked, non-refundable ticket has left me 15 minutes to get from one side of the city of love to the other. And there I was, thinking I’d have time to sip on a cafe au lait under La Tour Eiffel. Fuck. Note to self – London and Paris might be close, but they’re in different time zones.
Stepping into the Parisian sun, having said au revoir to one rather crucial hour of my life, I realise I might be saying adios to my connection as well. So I set off, ready to clatter surfboard, hiking pack and giant toblerone between as many yapping tourists and unimpressed locals as necessary. But I’ve barely had time to squint at the lengthy queue for taxis when a pony-tailed dude shakes a bunch of keys in my face.
“15 minutes to get to the other side of Paris?”
“Pas de problème.”
It is at this point I notice the suspicious lack of a taxi. We both laugh – one an attempted chuckle, the other a derisive snigger. Or is that just my imagination? He takes my laugh as a yes and starts walking. I follow him deep into an alleyway. I wonder if this is dodgy. He gestures for me to get onto a motorbike. I realise it’s actually his and that he hasn’t led me to a violent mugging. I silently congratulate myself on this successful judgment of character, then gesture to the surfboard, bags and toblerone and shake my head, hoping it will come across as I’d love to but really can’t.
But this guy’s a problem solver. He opens the back of the bike and put my bags in. He picks my board up, puts it in in my hands, and starts the bike. I don’t have the balls to confront him and he fucking knows it.
Obviously at this point, even though I’m too embarrassed to tell him I’ve changed my mind, that I want him to stop touching my shit and I’m going to leave, I should at least ask how much it’s going to cost before we set off, right?
But the monkey that usually clangs around the symbols for me up in the ol’ brain box is busy negotiating the pros and cons of getting on the back of some random’s motorbike in a city known for its insane drivers. So I don’t ask.
0kmph can become 60kmph very quickly on a motorbike. And the pacemaker effect is doubled when you’re holding a surfboard, which threatens to pull you under a bus every 30 seconds. We pull out, overtake, and then squeeze in front of a smartcar – just before a truck going the other way screams past.
Inner thighs aching, I pretend I’m not dry humping a guy who represents everything I hate about myself. Fucking cobblestone. Surfboard bouncing alongside, in rhythm with our hips, I wonder whether this is the best or worst decision I’ve ever made.
It’s irrational, of course, but it takes a bit of mortal danger (it’s my story to embellish and I’m sticking to it) to focus the mind. And pretentious thoughts lose their grip when you think you’re about to die. Never has a bad decision tasted this good.
For the sake of cliché, we should put ourselves in these situations more often. Jumping red lights on a stranger’s motorbike, I remember where the whole “my heart’s racing” expression comes from. Because how can you get high on someone else’s hectic experiences when you haven’t lived a bit yourself?
You might cop a few 10-minute 70 euro “taxi” rides along the way, but don’t be deterred. What’s the worst that could happen?
Cover by Alice Donovan Rouse