Okay . This took place decades ago . Just so you know .
Ada were in Paris visiting her sis . Her sis had a small apartment at the time near Montmartre . It was a great location , but when I say small , I mean close to the size of a business envelope . The bathroom was about the size of a postage stamp .
We spent several days there , Ada and I and Sis and her daughter , who was about ten years old at the time . The two sisters chatted endlessly to one another in Polish . I got a quick translation summary every twenty minutes or so :
“ We’re just talking about old friends from high school ,” or ” We’re talking about hats “.
Every few hours Ada’s sis would suggest that there was a ” communication problem ” between Ada and I . Why ? Because we didn’t seem to have anything to say to one another , she said . All of that analysis was in Polish , you see , so I would get a quick summation afterward from Ada in English : ” We have a communication problem . ”
I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not a great conversationalist , but I’m better now than when I was as a kid . I think that I spoke a total of about seventeen or eighteen words during all of my elementary years . My aunt gave me a present of a paper clip once that said ” TOP SECRET ” on it . My first grade teacher told my parents that they’d better get me checked out by a psychologist because I wouldn’t speak . When I tell Ada ” That’s the way I am . That’s the way I’ve always been ” she doesn’t ever go for that argument .
Ah , Paris !
” I’ve got cabin fever , ” I said . Countless walks around the city and up along Montmartre were not enough to solve the problem . Finally , Ada suggested : ” Why don’t you go visit M “. M is the name I’m giving the Polish artist friend of theirs who did superb pieces of art and also sketched quick portraits of tourists up along Montmartre for a little daily spending money . M spoke some French and a little broken English . Seemed like a nice enough guy with a sense of humor . But I was pretty sure that he was on an extended drunk , most likely . He hadn’t been heard from for several days .
” And he has an English friend visiting , ” Sis said , ” so you’ll have someone to talk to in your own language . ”
Well , I’m not totally convinced that an Englishman speaks my language , but close enough , I suppose . I resisted the visitation suggestion for a day or two ; but then I gave in . I agreed to go over to M’s place to visit with him and his English friend .
When I got to the apartment the English guy opened the door . Behind him was a floor completely covered in empty bottles —- vodka , beer , wine . Had I looked , there may have been a few empty champagne bottles , too , this being Paris , after all. These guys had apparently been drinking for days . I was ready to turn around and go back to the envelope , but they welcomed me in and offered me a beer.
“ We’re going out to find the Polish bar “.
” As long as we’re not driving ,” I said . And the three of us wandered out into the Parisian night to find the Polish bar . Walking.
We hit the first bar , had a drink there . Is this the Polish bar ? No. We walked a little further along to another bar ; had a drink there . Polish bar ? No . And then another not-the-Polish- bar bar and another drink . You get the picture .
Eventually we staggered up to a small car parked on the street . The artist and the Brit got into the front seats and I got into the back seat . That tells you right there my condition . As I was closing the door it dawned on me that this was not at all a good idea . The driver could barely stand and his eyes were at half -mast . The Brit and this guy had probably been drinking for days non-stop . No excuse for me as the car pulled away from the curb.
Within just a few minutes a small car pulled in front of us . We stopped . The car sprouted flashing lights on the top and it raced in a tight circle around us. Three or four cops jumped out and ran tight circles around us . These were not the picturesque French gendarmes that show up in light-hearted French movies . These guys had crash helmets , leather gloves and flak jackets and all carried sub-machine guns .
I wondered immediately what the inside of the French jail I’d be going to would be like . I realized also that I didn’t have a phone number for Ada or her sister . How would I get in touch with them from jail ?
The driver and the Brit had climbed out of the car , and so , so did I . A cop began to question the artist , who slurred whatever response that he could manage as the Brit took out his passport and waved it in the air . ” Take out your American passport and shout that you’re an American citizen ,” he told me . He began shouting at the top of his lungs : ” I’m a British citizen . I’m a British citizen . I demand my rights as a British citizen .”
This was not good . I took out my passport and began yelling : ” I’m an American citizen .” Ordinarily this would not be characteristic of my behavior , but I was just inebriated enough to do it . Nothing to lose , after all, I thought . I figured all was lost anyway . The two of us stood there in a Paris street waving our passports in the air and shouting in English as our driver talked to one of the cops. The other cops were still running quick circles around us .
And then the French cops hopped back into their little car an sped off , leaving us in the middle of the street .
Somehow the artist managed to drive us back to his place . I walked back to where I was staying .
” How’d it go ? ” Ada said . ” Aren’t you glad you went ? ” Well , not really . “ You’re a little tipsy , ” she said . I felt like taking out my passport and waving it in the air , but I told my story of the evening instead as accurately as possible .
” They were looking for terrorists , ” Ada’s sis suggested . I guess . Nevertheless , now that I think of it , it was very irresponsible of them to leave us there in the middle of Paris in a car in our condition .