‘And they lived happily ever after…’ – I’ve spent many a summer afternoon buried in fairy tales and adventures woven in a red-coloured hardbound, rather worn-out copy of Grimms. Three decades later, I had the privilege of visiting Disneyland Paris. Who said Disneyland was for kids?? I loved every bit of it, especially the parades where Princess Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella and the likes were dressed in all their finery. With a deluge of thrilling rides (rain too!), good food, shows and parades, the trip was a dream come true.
However whenever I think of my trip to Disneyland Paris, one particular incident, a person actually, stands out in my mind. We had exhausted two days at the Disney resort, and were at the Marne-la Vallee-Chessy station, waiting for our train to arrive, so we could make our way back to London. The savvy travellers that we were, we decided to reach early (though the station was hardly a few minutes away from the resort!) and waited. And waited. And waited some more! But our train was nowhere in sight! In the meanwhile my little son, all of 4 years, managed to trip, fall flat on his face, and cut his lips! Murphy was right, you know? We needed the first-aid kit, and guess where it was? Right at the bottom of our bags! So, while we haphazardly unpacked, dug into and re-packed bags that overflowed unimpressively with dirty linen, we heard an announcement that the train had arrived at the platform. There began our race!
We gathered everything we could find and stuffed it back into the boxes, grabbed the wailing child and ran like hell all the way to the platform, that was (in)conveniently a long flight of stairs down! However, the gates were closed! Panicking, we looked around and found another gate at the opposite end of the crowded station. Five minutes to departure. An entire length of station to cross! So, for the second time, we ran. Ran. And ran. Voila! The second gate was closed too!
Now with less than a minute to go for the train could depart, realisation dawned upon us! We were supposed to have checked-in through the security gates way before, when the announcements were being made cleverly in French. All we knew of French was the ‘kiss’ and that a guy called Sarkozy had a really hot wife! Just kidding!! We did not know ‘any’ French (well, we knew about Sarkozy.. bah!)! By then it was too late. We watched helplessly, as the picture-perfect train chuffed out of the picture-perfect station.
Our marathon wasn’t over though. We ran back all the way to the customer service desk. Imagine, to our surprise, a Mexican guy, aged about 30, was also carrying a bag and hurrying towards to desk. He too, had missed the train, exactly like us. Yo Partner! We sighed and cribbed in unison! Then we jointly explained the situation to the customer service officer. We had missed the last train to London. We had no place to go, no other trains to catch that day! Luckily, the Mexican spoke French, and kept gesturing to our poor baby with the bleeding lip, and garnered sympathy from the officer. He was relentless, sincere and so genuine!
We were so touched by his evident concern. Here we were, fellow passengers in the face of adversity, connected simply, by an invisible thread of humanity! This is exactly where life teaches us valuable lessons. In faith, in partnership, etc. Truly, humanity knows no boundaries. Colour/race/country…nothing matters as much as brotherly concern for another person in trouble!
The officer was a really kind gentleman. He offered a solution! Catch the local train (that was leaving in 10 minutes from the local station that was at the other end of this international station) to Paris Nord station, and catch the last Eurostar train from there to London! Yippee!!! We all but clapped with glee!
But wait! He added something in fluent, rapid French. The Mexican listened carefully. By that time, he had stopped gesturing to the bleeding lips. He stared at the officer. And back at us. Then, back at him. He wasn’t even attempting to beg for help any more!
And without a word, he made a rapid dash towards the exit that led to the local train station!!!
Perplexed, we waited for the officer to explain. He said, slowly and clearly, ‘There are only two seats left on the last train from Paris’. And there were 3 of us adults, and one bleeding child. So THAT was why our Mexican Partner ran for his life!!!
Anyway, with no hard feelings, we dashed too. Racing pulse, swollen lips.. we were quite a sight by the time we boarded the local and reached Paris Nord station. The check-in queue was winding all the way down from the first floor! We were quite sure that by then, the kind Mexican had hitched a ride to the station and was comfortably grabbed one of the two remaining seats on the train to London! Like I said, no hard feelings! We managed to reach the staff in-charge, who were incredibly kind, and who also checked us onto the train.
In true Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge style, we RAN towards the train, tugging child and luggage, and boarded it just a second before the doors shut!!
To our utter surprise, guess who jumped in just after us? Our Mexican friend!!!!
Huffing and puffing, we made our way through the aisles, and found our seats, co-incidentally next to each other. We sank into our seats, heaving a huge sigh of relief.
Then, our friend turned towards us, flashed a huge toothy grin and gallantly did a High-Five. ‘We did it!’, he added.
Yo Partner!! Ofcourse ‘we’ did! So much for teamwork. Remember those life-lessons I told you about.. the ones on faith, partnership..yada yada.. er, let’s just say, they were lessons best unlearnt!!
But hey, it made one hell of an interesting tale for the Indiblogger Expedia contest, didn’t it?