23 July 2013

Helsinki disaster averted, mostly

Helsinki is a HIM follower's Mecca. Seven years I have awaited this holy pilgrimage. The morning of my departure I was so excited I couldn't sit still. I triple-checked my luggage and travel documents, determined that everything be perfectly in order.

Our flight originates in Paris, so my friend and I rendezvous at the Bordeaux train station. We're half an hour early, so we stroll leisurely along the platform to where we expect our car will be.

Suddenly he flips around. "No, it's the other way," he says, and rushes in the opposite direction.

I maintain my stroll, trailing calmly behind him. "You're always in such a hurry," I tell him, unfazed by his sudden panic. We still have a solid eight minutes, and our train hasn't even arrived yet.

"It's early! This is our train!"

I bolt after him, full-on sprinting across the platform, dragging my suitcase behind me and mentally berating myself for neglecting my running routine.

"Dépêchez-vous!" shouts a contrôleuse, pointing at the door of car five, which fortunately happens to be our car.

We board the train and the door closes behind us three seconds later. We breathe a sigh of relief: Disaster Averted. My friend looks up at the screen displaying the train number, and then looks down at his ticket.

"It's the wrong train," he says grimly.

My eyes widen. "You're kidding."

We spin around and try to open the door, pushing buttons without knowing what they're meant for, to no avail. I turn to glare at him as the train starts moving.

We plant our sweaty selves in the tiny booth meant for passengers making phone calls. I think mournfully of the comfortable window seat I was meant to have on our own train. When the ticket controller comes around, my friend explains our situation in rapid French.

The controller tells us that this train goes directly to Montparnasse train station in Paris and normally costs €80, whereas our tickets to Charles de Gaulle airport were a measly €25. We gape up at him. But he says he won't charge us; Finland is our final destination and requires us to go to the airport. We weren't trying to hitch a ride at a discounted rate.

By the time the controller marks our tickets and leaves, most of the tension my friend and I were feeling has evaporated.

"Well," he says nervously, "at least we're going to Paris."