I left Paris aiming to hitch to Switzerland. I was looking for a station out of the city close to the A5 motorway which had a spot for motorists to pull over. Chilly Mazarin didn’t, it’s the worst spot I’ve ever seen, literally from the traffic lights straight onto the motorway and it’s illegal for pedestrains to be on motorways.
The sun was gone and I rode the trains for a while to keep warm then returned to Chilly. I walked allover town with frosty breath, across condensated parks looking for a place for my sleeping bag. I knew trains had finished and there were lit shelters back at the station where hopefully noone would bother me.
1230 I tried to sleep, there was no way I could get warm, I just had to deal with it and I hated it. I was chilled to my inner core. Once it get’s you you carry it around for days.
At 5am I heard footsteps and popped my head out of the breath soaked opening, a person was looking at me as he walked passed and lifted his jaw acknowledging me. I got myself together in the way you normally would in the privacy of your own home, only with a group of 3 workmen looking on while waiting for the train.
It took me until about 330pm to get to Montereau Station which is way down south. I learned that from Invalides on platform C you could board the outer region trains with your 1.70€ metro ticket which should cost you an extra 4€, I only had 10. I transferred at Melun then onto Montereau which luckily doesn’t have those turnstyles with personelle barriers that I’ve had to jump a few times already.
I walked for an hour and got a lift to a tollway where Hervé picked me up. We could not communicate verbally but it didn’t matter. The French are just interested, they’d speak to you the whole way if you knew the language.
He dropped me off at a huge tollway spanning 15 booths wide at night time. I stood at the entrance in front of 2 closed lanes with both arms outstretched horizontally signalling drivers like a traffic controlman.
In Scotland Johnny Irish told me if it weren’t for that split second of eye contact we had, he wouldn’t have picked me up. So now I look them all in the eye, count to 3 and move on. This is school, real school.
12 cars stopped, they were all going to Luxemburg, Nancy or Metz, not Strasbourg.
I had to sleep behind a toilet block on the other side of the tollway, I had on 3 tshirts, 3 flannels, a fleece jumper and rainjacket, jeans, trackpants, 4 pairs of socks and a sleeping bag which is fucked because it’s duck feathers and I put it in a washing machine.
Before lying down I cracked a Kronenbourg leaning against the wall and wrote in my dairy that “Beer never tasted this good” and that I felt safe. Truckies walked passed pretending they hadn’t seen me, tour buses came and went.
At 3am I couldn’t handle the penetrating chill and locked myself in the disabled toilet cubicle which was conveniently underused. A tour bus pulled up and somebody started yanking on the door, I pictured a disabled person in a wheel chair and sprang to life pretending to brush my teeth while opening the door. There were no wheelchairs.
At 5am I went back on the road and had to run up and down the freeway to stop myself freezing, then I found 20 euros in the grass, then a van reversed 100 metres back and gave me a ride to Nancy which was caused me a lot of heartache.
The 1st thing I did there was wait until Macdonalds opened at 9am so I could use their facilities for my hygiene ritual. The wifi didn’t work.
Spent until lunchtime trying to get a ride 3 people stopped none going my way. I changed my destination to Epilan and somebody told me I was in the wrong area so I walked to 3 other on ramps which spent the rest of my daylight. I saw some great things walking through Nancy’s centre and wrote – “Obviously different, men and women lovely. Mustard turtle necks, crispy bread baguettes, just different, different real estate, much dog feces, sloping gardens down toward the city with orchards of unkept fruit trees. Vivid colours juxtapositioned against otherwise routine backgrounds. All couples carry wine often with bad teeth. Smoking. No elwood, super dry tshirts. Originiality, no duplicates. Trousers, long coats, scarves – their bread and butter, Sydneys imitation. Barely need a scarf in Sydney anyway.
Refined, perfected with time. Smooth, square, flat finishes – clean. People look then look away, look then lookaway, you say bonjour they loosen up immediately and reply with grinning hearts. The best way to get a Frenchman to ignore you is to ask them if they speak english as an introduction. Learn how to say I don’t speak much french including the pleasantries, it takes a small amount of time and will mean the difference between good and bad experiences.
Never been so tired in my life, this is a trial, a challenge. Falling asleep in Macdonalds? Who the fuck does that?”
On the 4th on ramp which was just as bad as the others I used google maps which amazingly still does a pretty good job without internet (providing you aren’t in flight mode to preserve battery.)
Seeing as the motorway I was on lead to so many places I wanted to get on the direct road to Epinal and thought I’d located it on google maps. Unfortunately the only way to get there was to walk down the motorway shoulder through knee high grass for an hour. I was stopped halfway by motorway security shaking his fingers at me. I gathered he was saying your breaking the law and he said Noh and shook his head when I told him my destination. He motioned me back the way I came But I didn’t want to sludge back through Vietnam and tried to illustrate what little difference which way I went made seeing as in both directions was motorway. I’m sure he phoned the police to intervene but after a 10 minute standoff I realised he was right as my phone had been on flight mode and wasn’t giving me an accurate location.
I found a subway and ate 6 cookies feeling grim. Fell asleep. Then wrote “Why the HELLam I here? Could pack it in right now. The weird thing is I have access to money and I’m choosing to pedal the fucking footpaths and brush my teeth in alleyways. WHY! I had money in the beginning, tried all that, was still unsatisfied and lonely. If I sleep on the street I’ve got nothing to lose and can only appreciate more. When I had money I wasn’t experiencing that level of life without it which makes you desperate and ignites your creativity and ingenuity to obtain it, just like being a Beechboro kid washing cars, door knocking for bottles and jumping their bloody fences when they said no and taking them anyway. On the street time slows right down, just like being a kid waiting to grow up and not just like sitting at home on the internet as the days go whizzing by.”
Excuse me sir, can you please leave the restaurant so the…….”
I know he said something about cleaning
up but all I heard was you are a tramp, a slug and a ghoul.
Walking into darkness across wet grass down the side of Subway I felt like crying, but I never do.
Across the road I setup in a corner out the front of this huge industrial looking retail outlet, with a big concrete carpark overhead, yellow lights – like a big Bunnings Hardware store if it were a production plant.
A black and white cat appeared on the otherside of the fence and squeezed through, walking towards me intently. It started meowing with the sort of aggravation that I was doing something wrong but I kept brushing my teeth and didn’t look down incase it went mad and attached to my leg like a can opener. Moments later on inspection the cat’s trace had vanished from every direction. I took it as a warning and took off 100 paces up the road to climb into the same premises upper story carpark.
I walked around up there in the black looking for a spot. I was worried that security would catch me or workers would arrive earlier than the 6am opening time and there’d be trouble.
I had everything on from my bag, even wore plastic bags as midrifts, 3 pairs of pants, my feet in the sleeping bag case and my head through cut off jeans as a scarf.
I dreamt. Then I heard a car’s tyres thumping over the speed bumps right next to me, I froze, then I started ramming everything in my bag when another car came. How they didn’t see me I don’t know.
I found a gym down the road and quite possibly trespassed around to its rear, sleeping under a set of stairs until 8am.
I decided I’d had enough and was going to find the train station to beg for money and get out of there. I didn’t have to beg because the 20€ I found before covered it.