EUROPE, Part 1
I recently returned from a trip to Europe to visit my son and his family. He lives and works in Hong Kong as a university professor, but was on leave to work on his second book. He was in France for research and in Ireland for vacation. I flew from Hartford to Dublin on Aer Lingus. Great international flight, leaving from Hartford with no change of planes. Got on the plane in Hartford and off in Dublin. Great that on descent from the plane, everyone spoke English. So I took a taxi trip to the tiny apartment where he and his family were staying in Dublin, an air bnb (vacation rental unit). I will change the address of the air bnb to protect the guilty.
I gave the taxi driver the address of 12 Murphy Street, which was the address given me by my son and the owner of the air bnb. The taxi driver found Murphy Street, but had trouble with #12. He stopped at a management agency for various air bnbs, but my son’s unit was not one of theirs. Then I saw a #12 at the corner of Murphy St., and the taxi driver dumped me off there with the advice that if that particular #12 wasn’t the right one, to go to the agency across the street for assistance. There was no doorbell on #12 (haven’t they been invented yet in Ireland?), so I knocked and yelled up at the second floor. My son had said he would be on the second floor, and that his twins were so noisy, he might not hear me from the sidewalk below unless I yelled. No response to my knocking so I pounded with my fist on the wooden door and yelled his name louder, after first leaning back to make sure my voice was aimed at the second floor. No response, so tried again even louder. No response. I was afraid to dial 911 in Ireland, because I didn’t know what would happen. After all, I had seen police on various Dublin street corners with machine guns in their hands. What if 911 was an alert for an Isis attack? Well, I was born and raised in New York, so I knew you just have to get louder. I then kicked the door and yelled. No response. Okay, I’m a New Yorker, so you don’t give up easily. I then fiercely kicked the door and yelled mightily. I heard someone come downstairs, and the door was flung open. He was either Pakistani or Indian and said, “What do you want?” I said I want my son, he is in #12 Murphy Street. He said, “I am not your son, and I live in #12,” and slammed the door.
Okay, trying not to panic, I walked across the street to the management agency for other air bnbs. I was unable to reach my son on his cell phone or his wife’s cell phone. The agency tried. They couldn’t reach him or her. I sat down and wondered what to do. I went through my luggage and found an old printed email from my son to me with his email address on it. The agency sent him an email giving their address and saying that I was waiting for him there. After almost an hour I wondered how much longer I should wait before taking a taxi back to the airport and buying a ticket home to Connecticut. The manager leaning on the agency counter said, “If it was my mother coming across the ocean to see me, I would meet her at the airport.” I got up and told him what a good son he was. (I did not tell my son this part.) Just after an hour my son showed up at the agency. His tiny apartment was half a block away. Unfortunately, the address was not 12 Murphy Street, it was Eddy Circle (which happened to be on Murphy Street, but with no street number). Number 12 was his apartment number at Eddy Circle. How the owner of the air bnb could not know the proper address for his apartment was beyond me.
So we walked the half block to Eddy Circle and got up to his apartment. That evening I went into the tiny bathroom for my shower. I could not get any hot water. I mentioned this to my son and daughter-in-law, who assured me they could. They could not. They took cold showers and said I could do the same. I said the only time I took cold showers was at Methodist Youth Camp in Florida when I was 17. It was 95 degrees and the pond we swam in was 85 degrees. In Dublin the whole time I was there it was in the 40’s and 50’s. I took sponge baths at the sink, which did have hot water.
We got to Paris. His apartment was rented to him by a married couple, who themselves are college teachers in France, but had to be away for research elsewhere and needed to rent their apartment in order to pay their mortgage. Well, how about a nice shower, I asked. It’s on the second floor, said my son. The staircase was steep, and it looked like a fire escape. Your foot could slip down between each step, because there were no risers between steps. There was also no railing. One side of the staircase had the apartment’s exterior wall. The other side had nothing at all. I was terrified because my right shoulder and elbow are bionic, since I fell and crushed them in Scotland, CT a few years ago. I explained how worried I was about falling, and my son said he would hang on tight to me. We crept up each step. When we got to the last step before the flooring of the second floor, there was an empty space at least one foot wide before my foot would touch the floor. If I fell into that space, I would drop over 20 feet to the kitchen floor below. Gosh, did I pray. Got over that space okay, so into the shower. Hot water, goody! But the shower floor was slippery tiles, and there was absolutely nothing to hang onto….no bars, no soap dish, nothing. So I prayed my way through the shower. After I dried and dressed my son hung onto me, and we descended the stairs while I prayed. Got to the bottom okay, and my son said, great we can do that again tomorrow. No, I said, never again. I will wash my hair each day in your kitchen sink and take a sponge bath in the downstairs lavette.
The bakeries and flower gardens in Paris are yummy and beautiful, in that order. But truth be told, I could hardly wait to get back to my Hampton bathroom. Hot water, no stairs, handbars, and it wasn’t 40 degrees outside. Now I know why my ancestors left Europe to come to America. Angela Fichter