Because my boy had some business to attend to (so to speak) near Lille this weekend, and as his one sister lives right nearby, we decided to make a speedy trip up for the day on Saturday night, staying until Sunday evening. The original plan was to head back out late Sunday, after all the Parisians had settled into their homes and cleared up the highways, but I knew from the get-go that it was a dubious plan, especially since my boy has been particularly exhausted in recent times, and that the prospect of him making that two-hour drive back was going to be tough for both of us -- since car rides always either make me feel nauseous, even at my ripe ol' age, or fall asleep. And I don't know which is the lesser of two evils, when I'm meant to be keeping my boy company and preventing him from falling asleep at the wheel himself. And we certainly aren't helped by the fact that his car radio-CD player went on the fritz recently, due to some electrical problems, and he still hasn't had the opportunity to get that taken care of so we can have some tunes to keep us company on the road. Something I literally live for when making any kind of long car ride.
And this is where my lack of a French driver's license kicks in and makes me guilty, as usual. My boy has never made a big issue out of it in the past, because to be honest, up until now I haven't really needed one, what with us living in the Paris 'burbs and using public transportation on a daily basis. The only time I do honestly regret it is in moments like this: when fatigue or sheer exhaustion hit my boy and I know I could be taking the wheel if I simply had the legal paperwork allowing me to do so. I rarely miss driving, though, to be honest; I did have a car of my own in the States, a slate-blue Honda Civic that I bought on my own, and paid off over a four-year period -- the only major purchase I've ever made as a responsible adult! I was quite proud of that fact for the longest time, that no one had to co-sign or help me out and that I used a downpayment I had saved on my own. If only I'd kept up those good habits of saving now... (I'm trying to mend my ways, but it's slow going...) I sold that car and got the Blue-Book value just before moving to France, so it's in the distant past now. But I sometimes get nostalgic for it... Even if in the end I didn't even drive it all that often. I would walk to the office or take the bus in most cases.
I did kinda like cranking up my favorite music and singing along as I trekked back and forth between my place in D.C. and my parents' up in Northern Maryland (and is it just me, or did longer distances just somehow seem shorter over there -- in spite of the fact that we have to go slower on the highways?! I would just get in the car and go, without a moment's hesitation...), but that was really the only part of driving I enjoyed -- the music. Which, as I've mentioned before, seems to be the case for many things in my life, so it's become a recurring pattern. The music was the only thing that made the longer trips seem shorter and kept me occupied on the road. Because of that, I'm sure I never could have done a lot of traveling by car for a job or the like... And the fact that my boy's car now cannot play any music puts more than just a small wrench in the mechanism for me. There's no lyrics to sing along to, no funny voices to imitate, no rhythms to tap out on the dashboard. And my voice certainly isn't entertaining enough to make up for it! We chat about all sorts of things, of course, but talking only seems to go so far. And it's impossible for me to read in the car.
But he's been badgering me about it a bit more often recently, and it doesn't help that one of his closest friends has been haranguing me as well, repeatedly emphasizing how astonished he is that I haven't gotten my French permis de conduire so that I can drive if I so desire, or if the need arises. I guess I'm realizing with time that I probably eventually will need it, especially since we may move further away from the city in the long term. So this of course begs the next question: do I start studying for le Code? Just the possibility, the very idea of having to do so is daunting to me... I've heard so much about the difficulty, the stress -- some of my colleagues have told me time and again that they would hate to have to go through with it again, so I already dread it, and I don't even know all that it entails. And then there's Sam's recounting of her experience, which has put the fear of God in me as well... Of course, she just recently passed le Code, which is an amazing feat in and of itself. So I guess that's proof that it is possible. And I do have other expat friends who have managed to attain the coveted Code and subsequently the permis. But my anxious nature often plays hijinks on me, and I just have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to take a heck of a lot of work on my part to succeed. Especially the driving part. Namely because I don't know how to drive a stick shift. (*Cue raucous laughter*)
Our trip up to Lille and back, in practically 24 hours' time, was basically a wake-up call to me... I knew in advance that my boy was never going to be able to muster up enough strength to drive back to Paris on Sunday night, especially after a long day and an early rising on Sunday morning. I briefly considered taking the TGV back on Monday morning and heading straight to work, but there were no reserved seats left on the train, and at that price I' m not about to spend the trip standing. The whole point of taking the train is to relieve the stress of driving and to be able to relax, at least in my book, so it seemed pointless to pay a fortune and not be able to sit down. So we woke up at 5:00 a.m. on Monday and hit the road a little after 6:00. I did make it to work only two minutes late, but the drive wasn't easy, for either one of us. It would obviously help things if we could take turns on the road. I tried to talk my boy out of even making the trip in the first place, because I wondered how reasonable it was, but any opportunity he has to spend with his family is precious to him, and I understand how he feels.
So there's another task to add to my growing to-do list these days... We'll see how productive I manage to be in the coming months!