7 July 2010. 22:30. Eiffel Tower, Paris.
In retrospect, we should have taken heed of the red flares as they released clouds of amber apprehension into the air. But as twilight encroached on that balmy summer evening, impending peril was the last thing on our minds. The day started out innocently enough. My intrepid partner Sophie and I, Robert Langdon, had just caught our breath after a surprise run-in with the French gendarmes after we tried to burn down the Louvre to see if the charred embers would settle into a treasure map showing where the Knights of the Round Table hid the real James ossuary—no, not James the brother of Jesus, James and the Giant Peach, obviously. Oh shoot, I just blew my cover of using that Dan Brown pseudonym…
Back to the Dan Snyder adventure:
So Tira and I appraised Delacroix and mimicked Michelangelo’s models at the Louvre, gazed at the grandeur of the Parisian skyline from the top of a Ferris wheel, and window shopped the showcases along the Champs Élysées. So far it was your pretty average, mundane day as university students. But, as the evening wore on, our stomachs begged for nourishment and we yearned for sustenance. We then made the fateful decision to turn left and leave the lovely lane of luxury, questing after more thrifty fare. Apparently, our meanderings were not meant to come to fruition. Perhaps the change in the air was provided as a premonition, but we were presently only perceptive towards any potential purveyors of provisions.
After finding no such establishments (in what we later realized was the business district) we stumbled upon the Eiffel Tower. There, a throng of thousands of Parisian youth were passively filing into a motivational talk entitled, “Geriatrics and Geraniums: Rediscovering the Joys of Gardening with Grandma”. Some of the more uncouth jeunes were calling it by its more commonplace soubriquet, “World Cup Semi-Final between Spain and Germany”. So after we all had our interest piqued in getting botanical with Grandma (many in the crowd seemed to read a nationalistic subplot into the speaker’s message and were either really excited for or mad at Spain) nevertheless we all tried to calmly exit the venue amidst controlled explosions of fireworks, limited jubilation, and a hushed murmur that only added to the tranquility of the evening.
It was a good thing that Parisians are renowned for being so orderly and courteous, otherwise Tira and I might have been clutching each other’s hand, dodging unruly gangs of rabble-rousers who may have been inciting senseless violence, and running to safety away from a frenzied mob back to our group on the other side of the Eiffel. But instead I say, kudos to you Paris for making Public Courtesy courses mandatory for all secondary students—worth every euro cent!
All in all, a gloriously unforgettable day, which finished with swing dancing beside the Eiffel. And to paraphrase the Bible: swing dancing covers a multitude of sins. So Paris, your slate is clean, no hard feelings. Well, maybe a few for only getting chips and a muffin for supper…
Lesson learned? Europeans are to the World Cup as Canadians are to the Stanley Cup playoffs; different sports, same crazy fans. Some things really are the same after all!