One rolling cart, four bags, and two lost American tourists in tow, we roll out the door of Conforama in search of the 1 train. As we left the store, I whispered to Benoit, the most helpful security guard ever..."um, Chatelet metro....a droit et a droit, oui?"
Yes, he smiles and I try to hide my frantic look at the map to see which way this La Defense place is that I have never been to but am now apparently the designated tour guide for. I am carrying Shirley's bags for her, she waves her cane at me and says...
SHIRLEY: I feel great! We should walk! My pill kicked in!
ME: Oh yeah? What pill is that?
SHIRLEY: My Vicodin.
ME: (pause) Vicodin. You're on Vicodin right now?
SHIRLEY: For the pain. I feel GREAT. Let's walk!
NANCY: Let's get a drink. Ah don't drink but today ah feel like drinkin'. Let's get a bottle.
SHIRLEY: And two straws!
NANCY: THREE straws!
ME: Uuuuh...well Shirley, I don't know how smart drinking while on Vicodin is....
SHIRLEY: I feel great! Let's stop and get a drink!
ME: Aaaaaactually....let's just get to La Defense first before it gets dark, OK ladies?
As the last sentence comes out, I grab Shirley's arm and yank her back to the sidewalk before she walks into oncoming traffic on very busy Rue Rivoli. At this point I realize I should just settle in because it's gonna be a long night. Shirley's popped up on painkillers and Nancy has a sudden urge to get trashed. We reach the first subway entrance and make the long descent down several flights of stairs, through hallways and down some more stairs only to find....the entrance doesn't take tickets, only swipe cards. Shit. After apologizing profusely to them, we have to make our way back UP all the stairs and across the street, all the while Nancy and Shirley telling me how their grandchildren will never believe this adventure of theirs.
"Betcha this beats the Pope, EH???!!!" I ask.
Ooooookkaaaaaay....note to self...nix nay on the religious talk with conservative Christians. I gotta get to La Defense. And FAST. It's getting dark and I don't know when Shirley's painkillers will wear off.
We finally make our way onto the crowded subway train. Neither one of them has ever been on a subway in their lives and they are busy snapping pictures of me, having me snap pictures of them. Shirley whips the video camera out...."WAVE DANA, WAAAAAAAVE!" The looks from other passengers range from incredulous, hate, pity, fear and straight up laughter. I make Shirley sit down after she insists on trying to stand, cane in one hand and video camera perilously perched in the other.
ME: Shirley, seriously. SIT DOWN.
SHIRLEY: I feel GREAT!
ME: I AM SERIOUS. SIT. DOWN.
After a long ride, we finally reach the last stop and I audibly gulp as we get out and all I see are endless stairs leading into a GIANT station. I cannot let them see me sweat. But this place is HUGE and I cannot see ANY exits, much less signs for taxi stations. But Nancy spies something much more useful....the liquor shelves behind the counter at a Monoprix in the station.
NANCY: Let's get some vodka!
SHIRLEY: And THREE straws!
ME: Um, OK, you want me to buy you some liquor now? Uh...maybe we should find the taxi stand?
NANCY: Let's get a bottle!
SHIRLEY: And THREE straws!
I am clearly not in control of the ship anymore as they head straight into the Monoprix, walk right past the huge line of people, right up to the cashiers who are ringing up other orders and exclaim slowly and loudly for the whole store to hear...
NANCY: WE WAAAAANT A SMAAAALL BOOOOTTLE OF VOOOOODKA, OOOOKAAAAAY? A SIIIINGLE SEEEEERVING BOTTTTTTLE, OKAAAAAAY? NOOOOT A BIIIIIIG BOTTLE. DO YOU HAVE SMAAAAALL BOTTLES? PETEEEEEEEEEET BOOOOOOOOTTLE?, OOOOKAAAAAAY?
I stand behind them with my mouth hanging open. This is actually happening. The cashiers look at them like they are insane which, is clearly beginning to dawn on me that maybe they actually are. But they are MY two insane tourists and I try to intervene.
ME: How about a small bottle of wine instead? See? They have those small bottles there.
NANCY: Oh no no no, ah don't drink waaaaahn.
ME: OK, well, it's the big bottle of vodka then or nothing.
NANCY: Well ah am certainly not drinking awl THAT vodka!
I manage to shuffle them out the door, convince them that looking for a taxi might actually be a better idea as I see the station is emptying out into a ghost town and this is clearly no place for a lost tourist at night. We finally find an exit only to find steps steps steps in every direction. I stand there not knowing which way to go and just before I lose my cool, a woman approaches me and tells me in French that there is a taxi stand up the steps to my left. I thank her profusely and we make our way up to what I think is going to be my saving grace.....