If we weren’t in a Babylon standoff, this would be a good time to make casual mention of the professional camaraderie he shares with my late husband. Even mentioning the fact that he is my “late” husband might be helpful. Except that right now it doesn’t really matter what I have tucked away in my arsenal of feminine wiles because it is clear that he is not amused.
And yet here I am, standing in the middle of a medieval cobblestone street wedged between the tiny car zipping us around Northern France and the irritated gendarmes glowering up at me from their unimpressive car of official importance. Irritated gendarmes who happened to turn down this tiny cobblestone street lined with tightly knit and not-quite-straight medieval buildings at the same time that we did.
Going the wrong way.
We have managed to ride the Paris underground, drive the city’s maze of fast-moving one-way streets and navigate small villages bursting with flowers, husbandry and centuries-old manor houses and cottages. We didn’t sink in fabled quicksand, jumped a car parked so close to the French Coast that if the wind blew any harder it would have gone into the French Coast and we’ve proven that tow trucks are no faster on this side of the pond than they are on the other. But it is here, in the labyrinth of this windblown seaside town’s walled and winding streets, that Fodors, Vodafone and good behavior have abandoned us.
I’ve asked a garbage man, an electrician and a surly waiter. We stopped in the middle of a road and accosted a lady out for a stroll. And I am fairly certain that when she turned to look for traffic and my face filled her window, the woman in the parking lot locked her car doors. The man parked in the alley was in my direction-seeking sights until we pulled close and realized he appeared to be busy with his toolbox. Which is why standing in the middle of this road with the long arm of the law glaring at me is on par with the American thunderstorm brewing in the little Twingo behind me.
“Vous parlez anglaise?”
If you’ve been following along, you know that while challenges do not become me they also don’t get the best of me. And getting back in the car without a well-defined route to the beachfront retreat that is the entire – and only – reason we are lost is not an option. Mentally evaluating my options as I stand in the intersection of foreign irritation and friendly fire, I have no choice.
A smile. A flutter. “Directions, s’il vous plait?” Return to the smile. Flutter again. Movements that are as comfortable as a wet sweater or a pair of shoes two sizes too small. Watching his gestures and listening to his partner’s laughter I realize that no matter what happens in life, there are some things that never change. Like the way a smile can stop traffic.
And get you a police escort to the front door.