Paris is a city with a bite. It’s absolutely beautiful with its elegant architecture and silver Seine, but every once in a while it will bare its teeth and show its ugly side. One minute you’ll be gazing up at the iron lace of the Eiffel tower, and the next you’ll be jumping for your life out of the streets before an aggressive, honking driver runs you over. In a way, the unexpectedness is almost charming.
But I had one experience that wasn’t so charming. It involved a taxi driver, a handful of euros, and just about everyone in earshot of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre.
The day started out quietly enough: my mom and I were on vacation in Paris, and we had just finished touring the palace in nearby Versailles. Somewhere between the Hall of Mirrors and the gardens, we met a woman named Claudia who was visiting France for work. She told us she was staying in Paris, and after a while we decided to go visit Montmartre together when we got back to the city.
By early afternoon, we had returned to Paris. It wasn’t long before we all piled into a taxi.
“Montmartre, s’il vous plait,” my mom said to the driver. He didn’t respond, but slowly pulled away from the curb. A few minutes passed. As the cab slithered through the streets, Claudia turned to my mom.
“Something isn’t right,” she said. “He’s going a strange way.”
Claudia had been to the Paris several times before and knew her way around. She could tell when she was being scammed.
After a long ride, we finally made it to Montmartre. The driver stopped on a street near the Sacré-Coeur and requested his fare.
“No,” Claudia said. “You went a very long way. You’re trying to cheat us out of our money.”
The driver sneered and demanded his pay. My mom gave him her half. Claudia also handed him money, but less than he wanted.
“This is how much it should have cost, so this is what you’ll receive,” she said shortly. He turned an angry shade of red and began to argue, but Claudia was already out of the car. Before my mom got out, she threw the extra euros he was asking for into the front seat.
It was no use. We hadn’t made it ten feet away from the cab when the driver got out and began screaming at us in rapid-fire French. Everyone around us froze and gaped as a he shouted and gesticulated maniacally. A solid thirty seconds passed before he calmed down enough to fling our money on the ground, get back in his car, and screech away.
Without skipping a beat, the people on the street fell back into their daily routine. The three of us looked at each other, blinking, sharing a “What in the world just happened?” look.
“Excuse me,” my mom called to a nearby artist, “can you tell me what that man said to us?”
The artist shook his head. “You don’t want to know.”
It took a little while for us to brush off the incident, but eventually we soaked up the warmth and happiness of Montmartre and had a pleasant afternoon. One tantrum-prone taxi driver wasn’t going to ruin our day.
For the rest of our trip, we experienced no extreme rudeness or mortifying encounters. It was sightseeing and adventure from there on out, and I had an amzing time.
There’s only one thing to do when a city bites. Bite back.
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