Getting there was something else…
Suffice it to say that, a close second behind French universities in terms of administrative bondage and institutionalized pointlessness, comes the French national railway company (SNCF).
Those who know both may start suspecting that I only do all this because I enjoy pain and suffering. Which might be true, though I’d rather it be mixed with a fair amount of sensuality, leather and eye-pleasing nakedness, certainly not inflicted by a bunch of middle aged counter zombies wearing faded green suits and stern faces. Or worse yet, involving getting whipped into submission by an army of cold faceless iron machines supposed to be spitting our tickets for a train departing exactly 4 minutes and 30 seconds later.
Actually, submission probably isn’t how most casual onlookers will remember of this event: a frantic white boy and his japanese friend reenacting Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon final moves on a couple motionless ticket vending machines might be more like it. From the one that had decided it didn’t like foreign visa cards and only wanted a “Carte Bleue” to the one that kernel-panicked a second before printing the tickets, never has it been so hard to obtain tickets that were already fully paid for.
When it became quite obvious that these booths were in fact elaborate decoys installed by the train company to fool passengers into thinking they were computer-equipped, the problem was finally taken to a half-hour long queue (and only that short because it was the special “urgent departure” queue) and tickets were obtained that, incredibly enough, actually got us on the train that was supposed to have left about 40 minutes before.
Good thing French trains never leave on time.