It all started as a birthday weekend trip to Paris.
Studying abroad in Poitiers, France, we had a large group of us in the same program and for the most part, we all got along pretty well. I had particularly bonded with three individuals, Val, Liv, and Ann (for lazy writing purposes, I’m shortening their names). We did typical study abroad kid things, like complain about our crazy host families, smuggling cats into our apartments, and ditching our reading comprehension class to eat cheese and get tipsy on the stadium bleachers in the middle of the day.
It was Liv’s birthday, November 18th. She wanted to go to Paris.
I had been to Paris before, once on a high school trip, but it was the first time I would be going as a full grown almost-adult (19). I was down before she even finished her sentence. Val was also down, but Ann wasn’t quite sure. She had a tighter budget, so she was a maybe. “Don’t plan anything around me,” she said.
So we booked a hotel and started jotting down everything we wanted to cover. The Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, snails. Typical tourist stuff. A couple days before we left, Ann confirmed that she was able to make it afterall, so we called the hotel to let them know we would be adding an extra person. 4 People in total, we could pay for an extra bed if necessary.
Get used to the redeye in all the pictures. Those were simpler times.
The nighttime train ride was a blast.
Walking through the streets of Paris, under all the twinkling lights, was a blast.
We helped each other through the hotel door, still giddy and laughing about the fact that four lil humble Americans were casually strolling around Europe.
“Bonsoir, monsieur,” Liv greeted the man at the front desk. All of the dialogue to this man was in French, but again for lazy writing purposes, I’m going to transpose into English. “We are here to check in! It’s under Liv, 4 people, 2 nights.”
He smiled, pulling up the reservation. “Something something something,” he said in French, but I wasn’t listening. He handed Liv the key, but before he let go he added. “Guests must leave at midnight.”
We looked around the hotel, to make sure no one had ghosted in behind us. Nope, just us. “Okay, thank you. Have a good night!” Liv smiled, and we started up the stairs to our room.
There were two beds pushed together, a desk, and a small bathroom in the corner. Please note that small bathroom in French means closet. It was maybe 10-10:30 when we arrived, and although we were ready to sleep, we were too excited for our upcoming plans and needed to find the best baguettes to eat in the morning. We were sprawled across the room, sopping up the free wifi like sponges.
Well, except Val. She was just living in the moment.
A few hours later, at midnight exactly, the phone rang.
We all looked at each other, then to the phone, then back to each other. With my overflowing confidence, I was the first to say, “Well, I’m not getting it.”
Val shook her head, politely, but firm on the notion that she would rather die than answer it.
Ann laughed, as if we REALLY thought she would pick it up.
Liv reluctantly switched her brain back to French, cleared her throat, and answered the phone. “Allo?” Her eyebrows furrowed together, and we heard her say, “What guest?” We leaned in closer. “I’m sorry, but no, we changed our reservation. 4 people, not 3 people.” Liv frowned, listening. “No, 4 people. No,” she repeated. Then the other line hung up.
“What happened?” Val asked.
Before Liv could explain the situation, there was a banging on our door.
We all looked at each other, then to the door, then back to each other.
Live reluctantly answered the door, and the front desk man was shaking, sweat clinging to his hairline. “GO! YOU ALL NEED TO GET OUT!” He yelled in French.
If there was one thing I understood about French, it was the word maintenant. Liv and Val attempted to reason with him, but he continued yelling that we needed to leave immediately before storming off downstairs.
“Was he threatening to call the police?” Ann asked, zipping up her jacket.
“I guess we’ll find out.” We heaved our backpacks over our shoulders and headed downstairs.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” Ann apologized on the way down. “This is my fault, I shouldn’t have joined so last minute.”
“No,” Liv reassured her, “We called to change the reservation, it should have been fine. We’ll try to work it out.”
The front desk man did not want to work it out.
Liv showed him the call log on her phone, but he wasn’t having it. “You Americans are so money greedy! Always trying to scam someone out of their money!” He called us thieves, liars, cheats, and something in French that I couldn’t quite translate.
Val spoke up, pulling out her wallet. “We will pay for an extra bed! We were told it was okay, but we will pay!”
But the front desk man was foaming out the mouth, figuratively, not literally. Aside from the angry sweat, he was very well put together. “No! YOU ARE EVIL WHITE WOMEN–”
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, then back to him.
“–AND I WON’T LET YOU STAY HERE!” He paused for a second, collecting himself. “At least not all of you. Three of you can stay, but one of you must go.”
It was an ultimatum.
Ann pipped in, the first time since we had started arguing downstairs, “It’s okay guys, I’ll go. We can meet up in the morning.”
“What?! It’s almost 1am! No, you can’t!” Liv switched back to English. “Where will you go??”
“Bye :)” The front desk man’s customer service smile was back.
Val was livid, her hands trembling with manic anger. “Seriously?! Do you have daughters? Sisters? A wife? Mother? Would you throw them out on the streets at 1am???” Her voice rising with each question mark.
He shrugged, the only way a French person could. “Not my problem.”
Ann nodded to herself, “Yeah, I’ll find a place, don’t worry. Let’s plan to be up at 8am, we can meet up after.”
“No way!” Now, I don’t remember the exact train of events, but it went something like this. Liv turned back to the front desk man, still speaking in English, “Fuck you! Fuck this hotel! Fuck this city!” It was an Oprah moment if I had ever seen one, you get a fuck, you get a fuck, everyone gets a fuck. The crowd was going wild. “Putain,” she added in case he didn’t get it, then we collectively stormed out, the only way an American person could.
It was very cold outside.
“Holy shit Liv,” Ann breathed out, once we were a few meters from the building. We didn’t know where we were going, but our feet echoed along the empty cobblestone streets.
“Psh, he was an asshole. But thanks, it was one of my finer works of art.”
“I can’t believe he kicked us out!” Val was still shaking, more out of anger and frustration than anything else.
“Wait, how are we going to find another hotel? We don’t have wifi,” me, forever lost without the internet.
“We can just keep walking until we come across one. It’s Paris! It’ll be an adventure!” Ann tried to smile. “And really, you guys should go back to that hotel, he’s going to charge you anyway and it’ll be more expensive to find a room for four people instead of just one.”
No one could argue with that logic.
With my overflowing confidence, I was the first to say, “Well, I’m not going back there. I’ll stay with Ann, double occupancy is expected anyway.” Plus, I wouldn’t have to deal with the front desk man’s victorious smile while walking back to the room. We agreed on that plan, and we wished Val and Liv good luck on their way back.
“Sucks to be them,” Ann shook her head, watching thier bodies walk back into the hotel.
“Yah. So…” We looked back around at the dark, cold, empty street. It seemed endless. “What now?”