What will the world's last headline be?
Versailles and the time-traveling tour guide

Leaving for Paris and leaving people in Paris

    Upon our arrival at Charles de Gualle airport, we boarded a van that would take us to the Latin Quarter, where we would be staying.  Our driver was a cocky young Frenchman with dark, round sunglasses to prevent anyone from seeing his eyes.  He was unfriendly and short with us. 
    A shy young woman also jumped in the van with us, and she sat in the front seat.  I noticed that she kept peeking back at Sofia and I.  I smiled, and Sofia finally asked her where she was from. 
    "Mexico," she replied.  "Student."
    "How many semesters are you here for?" I asked. 
    The conversation went nowhere, so we all left it at that.  She did seem a little evasive, dreamy, and difficult to talk to, though she seemed to understand English.  We eventually picked up four other folks who spoke English to each other in a accent I couldn't figure out.
    The driver asked us all where we were going.  Of course Sofia and I had the specifics for him, as did the others, but the Mexican girl said only, "Rue Hermel."  The driver, probably expecting more details later, accepted the answer and we continued on.
    Finally turning off to a side street in Mont Martr, our driver stopped the van and asked the young Mexican woman, "OK, this is Rue Hermel.  What is address?"  She looked at him for a minute, then asked me to pass her briefcase.  The six of us waited patiently as she slowly and aimlessly paged through her documents. 
    The driver finally broke the silence, "You don't know the address?"  No answer.  We waited another minute or two.
    "What or who were you expecting when you arrived?" I finally asked.  "Are you meeting someone?"
    "Yes," she said quietly.
    "Do you have a phone number?" asked the driver.  No answer.  We waited, all a bit stunned and confused.
    "Ya don know where ya goin' dear?" asked the older lady behind me.  No response. 
    It went on like this until she mentioned that she had a phone number.  Sofia even offered to let her use our phone, but we later found out that the only number she had was to her parents in Mexico, so she would need a phone card to dial it.
    By this time, I assumed the cocky young driver would say that there is nothing we can do and drop her off.  But he surprised all of us by agreeing to go with her to the store, around the block, to buy a phone card so that she could call Mexico and subsequently find out where she was going. 
    "May as well get out and pollute me lungs," announced the more vocal of the passengers behind us as she went outside the van for a smoke. 
    It turned out that they were all from Dublin, working-class...tough folks into pubs and the whole bit.  After the woman had assumed I was Canadian, we told them our story about living in Kosice for three months now.
    "What'r yous academics?" she asked.
    "No, no...our story is kind of complicated," was all we wanted to offer up.
    We all chatted and laughed with the Irish folks and before we knew it 45 minutes had passed.  As soon as the Mexican young woman got the phone card, she seemed to lose interest in using it, and the plan shifted to finding her a hotel where she could at least leave her bags until she could figure things out.
    "Have any of you seen the film Maria, Full of Grace?" asked Sofia.  This young Colombian woman smuggle drugs in their stomach." 
    I thought it a bit insensitive, but perhaps she was onto something.  Indeed, how odd and evasive this woman was becoming.
    At one point, when she was supposed to be using our cell phone to call the phone card and dial Mexico, she and the driver wandered off to a hotel...with the phone.  Sofia announced that she definitely wanted her phone back, so I jumped out of the van to go get it.  As I took the phone from her and was trying to dial the phone card for her, she asked, "Is there anywhere you have to go?  I mean, can't you stay with me?"
    "Well, sorry, I don't think so," I said.
    It must have been another 15 minutes, I had returned to the van, and there was still no sign of our driver.  We were losing patience and started thinking about calling another van.  I mean, we all wanted the girl to be OK...but this was going nowhere and there really wasn't much we could do.  It's one thing if she was asking for something specific, but she wasn't.  I went to the hotel where her bags were being kept, and the concierge showed me around the block to an Internet cafe they had gone to.  When I walked in, it was apparent that she still was no closer to finding her address.
    "You stay here with her, but I think we might call for another van," I said gently to the driver.
    "No, no, I have to get back too!" He responded without a second thought.
    "Can't you stay with me," the woman pleaded with me.
    "Sorry," I said firmly.
    We all felt somber and selfish as we continued on our way.  We spent a patient hour trying to help this lost girl, and were unable to help.  That was our brief role in the film of her life.