Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Paris-Lille, 24 Heures Chrono

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!

18 comments:

jchevais said...

You can do it.

First step? walking into a driving school and getting the documentation. Then it all seems to snow ball.

Vas-y! I was so glad to get my license... and darling... it made my life with babies so much easier. Trust me.

Ms Mac said...

Everyone says they'd never want to do their driving test again. Just think how brilliant you'll feel when you've done it!

Go on, do it!

ColourMeCrazy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ColourMeCrazy said...

I take it you don't have the luxury of being able to just swap your license? I feel for you but hey - lots of people have done it so I'm sure you'll just breeze through it! (fingers crossed!)

Anonymous said...

I don't have mine either...I know, I know...
delphine

Samantha said...

Dude, if I can do it, you definitely can too!

Nicole said...

I got my French driver's license while pregnant the first time. I passed the conduite 2 weeks before my due date. The poor inspector looked like she was afraid I'd try to give birth in her lap.

Linda said...

I am still using my American driver's license. If I get stopped I just speak mostly in English and say that I only live in France part time. Not technically true but there you go. I'm too old to go through the hell they put you through here.

avec amy said...

I’m been thinking about the very same thing (shortly after reading Sam’s blog entry, I started thinking about it more seriously too!) In August my California license expires, thus, I will be without a license. For some reason this freaked me out! I’m not sure why. I think it’s because I remember the older women in Chinatown that relied so much on their children to do everything for them. And b/w my language, and the driving, I fear I’ll end up like that too (I’m already slightly like that with Fred). We don’t drive really, we don’t have a car, but it’d be nice to rent one and go on a road trip like you’ve described. If you had the courage to pick up and move to France and start a new life for yourself here, you can take on the Code! Go for it! (And then tell me all about it, selfish, I know! But I need to work on strengthening my French first).

Poppy Fields said...

I did it and it was kind of a good way to improve my french at the same time. as for the stick shift, I went through hell for a few months before getting the hang of it!

The Late Bloomer said...

Yeah, yeah -- I know I just need to get on with it rather than talking about it so much. Story of my life.

I'll definitely let you gals all know if I make any progress in my preparations and if any definite decisions are made. I mean, I'll keep you posted, you know?!

But I am seriously dreading this... I wish I could get away with what you've been doing Linda -- I've actually even considered that in the past, but I don't even know how to drive a stick shift, so I at least have to take care of that. And I have a feeling in my case it would be wiser to go through the whole process -- even if it's going to cost me a pretty penny.

Oh, and Amy, you reassure me that I'm not alone! I can help you out on the French part, if you ever feel the need. Maybe that would give us an excuse to meet up one night?! Are you taking any courses at this point? I think it's amazingly brave to move to a country where one doesn't speak the language; I've told my boy in the past that I'd be willing to move with him to Germany if that's where his heart would take him, as he's half-German, but I know it would be tough for me as I don't speak the language AT ALL. I would do my best, but it would make for an enormous change.

For the time being it looks like we're staying here though...

La Page Française said...

I have to get my French drivers license too, as I'm technically no longer permitted to drive on my California license. So I can totally commiserate with you. I've heard lots of horror stories too which has caused me to put it off but I'm now planning on starting the process at the end of the summer (too much going on during the summer to be able to focus on it).
Like you I don't need to drive on a regular basis, but it is nice to be able to rent a car for vacations and the bi-annual trip to Ikea

Scribbit said...

I let my driver's license expire accidentally and had to go in and get a new one. I was terrified they'd give me another road test. It's not like I don't know how to drive but the testing part is tense. I feel for you.

little fugitive said...

I'm finally driving more, after really struggling with the stick shift (see previous post) though I can't even begin thinking about a driving test without relishing the feeling of mastering a new skill for a while. You will love it Late Bloomer, it is such a feeling of freedom. Just take your time. Being an alert, supportive passenger is a valuable skill in itself so give yourself credit for that!

adelyn said...

driving in paris is crazy but maybe it's won't be as bad when you're farther from the city. i say go for it!

Aralena said...

I'm totally in the same boat, er, car - being in Paris is the greatest excuse for not having a license... but sometimes I feel like when I depended upon my parents for transportation, especially when we head to Toulouse! Pour JB! (Actually, I don't think he minds not having to relinquish the wheel to my Mario Andretti/Mr Wheeler tendancies!)

By the way, I just had to say that it warmed my jingle-crooning heart to know that you were an advertising maven yourself! Where does this pub phase come from, I wonder?

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh yeah Michelle, even if I was back in the U.S. I'd hate to have to take the driving test again; I had a hard enough time relaxing the first time around... So you can imagine how stressed I'm going to be here, where the test is KNOWN for being very difficult, and where I've heard of people failing it numerous times and still coming back to attack it again... (Plus, apparently it costs a pretty penny every time you take it, so I don't know if I can see myself taking the test five times!)

Page française, I probably won't be attacking the process right away either; I may plan to start in the fall. I don't necessarily have THAT much going on this summer, but I've just got a lot of other stuff on my mind right now anyway. (Of course, that's nothing new.)

Little Fugitive, that's a really nice thing to say, to boost my confidence -- I'm actually not so good at staying alert, though; I'm trying to improve on it! I think your post on driving the stick shift was one of the things that reminded me of how nervous I am about undertaking this challenge... It's something that haunts me on a regular basis.

Oh, and Aralena, from what I gathered, at least you took your publicity-love in the right direction and are now using your jingle skills in your professional life! I just used to love to jingle and sing to myself in mirrors... Who knows where that came from, perhaps just a desire to keep myself entertained when bored at home! My brothers certainly weren't very good at keeping me occupied...

DestinationMetz said...

I am actually really looking forward to giving up driving- right now I am having to drive huge distances from home to work and to the city (an hour there, an hour back)and driving and traffic makes me really stressed and agitated and I admit I am a crap driver so I can't wait to start taking the bus or something. At least for awhile. Then I think I'll have to work towards getting some kind of scooter or mopod.

Amy- I have the same visions of myself, we have a lot of Italian women and Asian women who don't speak any English and rely on their husbands and children to translate for them, I'm so afraid I'm going to be the Australian equivalent!