The French translation of the ‘rule of three’ is somewhat different than in English but the outcome is the same.
I am so organized, I thought to myself this morning as I reviewed my baggage for the 5th time before leaving for the train station. MB has been in the Philippines for two weeks with work and I was leaving today to meet him there for my birthday. My birthdays tend to be…well…unlucky. Break-ups, revoked visas, lost jobs, etc., are par for the course. So I hadn’t been surprised when my bus ticket confirmation didn’t come through on the internet.
“You know what this means? I’m going to have to go to the station and in some other language try to figure out how to explain that I have paid for my ticket but never received it. I don’t even know the word for received.”
“It will be fine,” responds MB via Skype. “It will not be a problem, don’t worry.”
“Easy for you to say,” I reply. “You know it’s almost birthday time.”
“Enough with the birthday thing; this is in your head!”
“Is it, MB? Is it?”
He rolled his eyes.
So yesterday, I trudged down to the bus station to try to sort out my ticket. After 20 minutes of confused Franglish with two different staff members, we were finally able to figure out a solution. It was a hassle but not major; and I felt good about the fact that I was able to accomplish it in another language. Instead of patting myself on the back, however, I should have recognized it for what it was: #1.
Fast forward to this morning as I am smugly looking over my already packed bags with time to spare. I decide that I will go on and leave for the bus since there is no harm in being early (a mistake I will never make again). I check my passport, bus ticket, airline ticket (our city is an hour from the international airport) one more time and then I’m off.
Phew…it is a million degrees as I trudge through the street, dragging my two bags along with me. The sweat is rolling down my back and I can feel my make-up melting off; why did I blow-dry my hair? As soon as I arrive at the train station, I whip out my super nifty travel document case and begin fanning myself with my boarding pass print out. 10 minutes later, the bus arrives and I throw my bags on and pull out the novel I’m reading. The journey is pleasant, the sky is blue, and the towns are charming; I’m on my way. An hour later, as we are pulling into the airport, I unzip my bag to replace my novel when…what tha-where is my super nifty travel document case?! For a few moments, I search, panicked, when all of a suddenly an image comes into my mind: an image of me, sitting on the bench at the bus station and setting my super nifty travel document case down next to me and not in my bags. A wave of horror sweeps over me. My flight is in 2 hours.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur?” The tremor is hardly hidden in my voice as the driver turns to look at me.
Okay French class, now is your time to shine.
“J’ai oublie mon passeport a la gare,” sadly, I am too freaked out to even be proud of myself for remembering how to say that I forgot my passport at the station. (apologies for lack of accent marks; I am on an American computer)
“Ah, c’est vrai?!”
“Oui. C’est vrai.” Yes, it is true, yes, I am that person.
He points me to the bus service kiosk and I scurry over with my bags (still sweating). The lady behind the desk is kind and concerned and immediately phones the bus station. A look of triumph passes her face, “Oui, they have it!” She then asks me when my flight is and immediately her face changes. The only bus that could have gotten it to me in time had already left.
So, I am an hour away from home without a passport and an impending flight in an hour and a half. I run to the airline service desk. There are no more flights today; there is a flight tomorrow but it will cost 350 euro to change. The tears well up in my eyes as I desperately try to hold it together. After running to the internet kiosk to email MB and get his advice, I then run back (still sweating, by the way, I mean, why should France air-condition their airports?) and book the obscenely expensive ticket change. Somehow, I am still not comprehending what is at work here. This has been #2.
Convinced that I have finally slain the disastrous beast that has been this day, I walk (sweating) with my bags to the hotel airport to get a room. At least I can check-in and do some work and then tomorrow just wander back to the airport.
Damn you, rule of 3! Both of the airport hotels are booked solid. I cry a little bit more (hey, why not? I mean, I had already started) and then head back inside, dragging my suitcases behind me…sweating.
I return to the lady at the bus kiosk. “Ah oui!” She says. “Your passport, it comes soon.” She points up at the clock.
“Oui,” I say with a lopsided smile. “I know, but I can’t get a flight until tomorrow and the hotels are booked so I need to buy a ticket back home.” (this is all in my bad French)
Her look changes and I can tell she is sorry for me. “But you know,” she says. “You are very lucky! What if they did not have your passport?!”
She is so earnest and she is so right.
I smile and laugh, “YES! The silver lining, you are right, it could be much, much worse!”
She rings up my return ticket and hands it to me with a smile. “Bonne chance, Mademoiselle!” (good luck)
Luck is a funny thing; it is forever a two-sided coin. On the one hand, there are the bad things, the annoying, irritating, horrible things in life that just sometimes happen. But, on the other side, there are the great things, perfect weather when you need it, chance encounters with nice people, making it to your flight terminal just before they close the gate. This morning, I felt like I had been given a three course meal of lemons. The rule of 3 got me good and my birthday superstition proved its metal; but with a little help I managed to see the luck on the other side of the coin. Nothing had happened that couldn’t be fixed; and in today’s world, that’s not a bad gift. So this year for my birthday, instead of more gifts, I think I will settle for a nice, cool glass of lemonade.