Saturday, January 17, 2009

Earning my Calories and Spending my Luck

Paris has an annual city marathon scheduled for April this year. Involuntarily, I started training for it the first week of January, as I ran through her streets chasing after my own absentmindedness. Forgetting my cuisine shoes was just one fun experience in my return to classes; misreading my new class schedule was the other.

I left Isabel’s at 8:30 am last Friday with my agenda committed to memory: first, walk to Montparnasse-Bienvenue station and pick up my TGV tickets, then find a free WiFi cafĂ© or friendly hotel lobby where I could work for a few hours. I would return to Isabel’s flat about 1:00pm to recharge my laptop battery, eat lunch and pick up my suitcase & Tupperware. I would then go to the demo & practical beginning at 3:30 that afternoon. And finally I would leave directly for Gare de Lyon to catch the 7:10 pm train back to Geneva. It all sounded like a fine plan…at least in my own head.

In reality, the schedule I should have been following was to be at a demo planned for 12:30pm that afternoon. For whatever reason, my brain had failed to synchronize with the actual schedule. To my credit, I had taken the time to note all of my class times into my MS Outlook calendar, but for whatever reason inside my head I thought the class was starting later.

So you can imagine my surprise (and in some ways gratitude) when at 12:15pm a bothersome reminder message from Outlook appeared on my screen, calmly advising me that my next demo would be starting in 15 minutes. I think I must have levitated in panic, right there in the food court of Galleries Lafayette. I don’t recall having said anything audibly, but a couple other patrons looked over in surprise. I tried to stay calm and think clearly.

Beyond the fact that I had two colleagues on instant messaging and was in the midst of downloading a whopping file from the design agency, it was the realization that I was 3 metro stops away from where I needed to be at that very moment that really made things complicated. If there was any remaining hope of getting to school within a reasonable time, I would need to run back to Montparnasse-Bienvenue station through meandering lunchtime pedestrians. For sure I would be late, but there was no way I would let myself be marked absent so early in the term (and for such poor planning on my part). I quickly ended my Communicator chats, aborted the download, closed my laptop and made my way towards the stairs leading out of the shopping centre.

Just the day before, all students had been advised of the school’s new policies on absences and tardiness. I felt so disappointed with myself that I was testing my luck so soon on this front. Then I realized this thinking wasn’t going to help me and decided to let go of the negative energy and start thinking about what I could do to fix this.

And so once again, I found myself running a small & intense obstacle course through the streets of Paris, laptop in my arms. It was a cold but sunny day and I reminded myself how much I love what I am doing and how much further the lesson would energize me. Of course, the surge of adrenaline was working its wonders, too.

I don’t know how - maybe the wing of the Pave aux Amandes had reciprocated and gave me some extra lift - but I arrived at the school just past 12:30pm, sweaty as hell despite freezing outside temperatures. Then, performing the second quickest clothing change of my life, I arrived at the class door about 7 minutes after roll call. The door is always locked once roll call begins, so you have to knock to be let in.

In these situations, one’s fate is determined by the mood of the chef and how late one actually is. Chef Tranchant appeared at the door, raising his eyebrows over his small round glasses and giving me a wry smile. Then he stepped back and let me pass. The lesson would be tarts that day, and he’d just finished mixing the crust (so thankfully I hadn’t missed anything I hadn’t already learned).

Whew! I think I have 7 lives left…okay, maybe 7 ½ if I factor in the benefits of exercise.

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