An Eye. Foreign Eye.

It’s finally here.  Months of figuring out and anticipating this trip back home for my best friend’s wedding, it’s finally happening tomorrow morning.  As usual, my last day in Paris is a tough one but I keep a positive attitude because if the past has taught me anything, it’s that if your last day in Paris isn’t hard, you don’t nearly appreciate the jaunt back home as much.  Suffering is important.  That’s one important lesson I’ve learned on the other side of the fence.

This one sucks.  I’ve got three kids under four years old.  It starts alright.  Mini croissants and pains au chocolates keeps them happy while I drink an Allongé  at Café Noir and even though the elevator’s out of service and I’ve got to walk these three rascals up and down six flights of stairs, they’re good sports and they fall for it when I tell them to pretend it’s a mountain and whoever makes it to the top gets to help me make lunch.  Kids are awesome for foolery.  Things take a turn for the worse when a shortened nap makes them all miserable.  I’m taking them to a toddler music class at ; get them dressed, lug the double stroller down the stairs and off we go to the Montessori school just off Grand Boulevards.

On the way an old man carrying books pushes me onto the sidewalk and tells me in French that I could make an effort.  I want to let the stroller go and punch him in the face but instead, I stand up for myself and say “EXCUSE ME?!  Old Man, does it really look like I’m NOT making an effort?!”  I’m fairly certain that he’s thinking these children are mine, that I’m over breeding, that I’m bad for Paris.  If only he knew.

Arriving at the school, I am met with another challenge.  Turns out the teacher of the class is blind.  I had been to three classes prior and had never remarked her eyesight before.  Taking a quick look into the classroom past the sea of babies, I noticed a big black dog rolling around on the carpet.  My asthma.  I can’t go.  I’m going to have to turn right back around and walk these kids home.  Shit.  Summer, the teacher comes out to explain the dog is actually a seeing eye dog, hers, and is always at the school and free to run around in all the classrooms.  Things are becoming abundantly clear and now I know what sent me to the hospital the last time – this dog.  Normally, I would make a stink about having pets indoors.  “Don’t people GET IT?!” but instead, she finds the one room where the dog wasn’t and we head in for class.  The kids are horrible.  Screaming, doing summersaults instead of listening, screaming.  At one point, Zac climbs up on the window ledge and while I’m watching the 18 month old and we’re busy playing cymbals, the four year old, Myrna, opens the child-proof lock for Zac so he can propel himself out the 3rd story window if he likes.  I’m furious and we’re asked to leave the class.

On the way home, I’m threatening everything I can think of, “You’d better be good or I’ll tell your mother.”  “If you don’t behave, you’re going straight to bed.” “No snacks ever again.”  Nothing’s working.  We get to the park for pick-up and then I’ll be left with only Zac.  I’m absolutely exhausted and winded already.  The other mother arrives and asks where Myrna’s polar fleece is.  She’s left it at the school but the mother asks me to go up to Zac’s apartment to check.  ‘Sure, yeah, no problem.  I’ll climb back up the fucking six  hundred stairs AGAIN to have a gander, why not?  I’m getting excited again.  One hour left until total freedom, a nice dinner with my man and some final touches in the packing department and I’m OUT OF HERE!  No screaming kids for 2 weeks!  No dishes!  No laundry!  No nothing!

Michael and I head home together and I’m bragging about my cloud nine and we’re rushing home so I’ve got time to get my eyebrows waxed before dinner.  I’m a moron but I like to arrive back home looking good.  I want everything to be perfect.  This is my greatest fault.

Eyebrow wax goes well and while Michael’s at home making us a beautiful smoked salmon salad, I remember that I still have to print my e-Ticket.  I run over to the Internet café, sit down and print it out.  The first one doesn’t work, it prints only on half a page.  I ask the guy why and he says I should just try to print it again.  I do, the second one works fine.  The guy charges me for the first printouts and I’m furious and start arguing with him.  His friends are all looking at me like I’m a crazy, greedy American when I refuse to pay for something that’s his fault.  After all, that’s not how things work over here.  You get screwed in France, it’s your problem.  The customer is NOT always right, in fact, it’s a pretty safe assumption that the customer’s a fucking idiot.  Finally, he tells me the total price to try and trick me and I can’t be bothered to argue anymore.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?  I’m pretty well good to go.  Just a little more packing and I’m off.  I skip home for dinner and….

I’m standing at the door to my courtyard.  I can’t reach my keys.  They’re deep in my pocket so I put my e-ticket in my mouth and grab them.  In doing so, something happens.  God happens, the way he likes to anytime I’ve mentioned my happiness out loud.  A gust of wind blows my ticket up and the corner of the page I didn’t want to pay for stabs me in the right eye.  It’s very painful and I can’t see.  The tears start and I’m furious.

I get upstairs and ask Michael if my cornea is scratched.  Michael has a look and tells me it’s probably alright.  If I had really hurt myself, I’d be complaining a lot more, he figures.  Either that or I’m the bravest girl in Paris.  There is a lot of water coming out of my eyes but my dinner’s so good I try to focus on other things.  We have a nice night and the pain calms down a bit for a while even though it’s still quite irritated.  We head to bed after a game of Go and I set my alarm for 5h30.  With the RATP on strike, I was told I needed to leave the house no later than 6h30 to be sure to catch my flight at .  We have access to a car but with the manifestations blocking off the auto route, the metro, despite it’s 1 for every 4 trains`status, is a better bet.

At , I`m jolted awake in agony.  I can’t open or close my eye and I can’t see a bloody thing.  I also can’t open my left eye because it hurts my right eye.  Something’s wrong.  Something is REALLY wrong.  I can’t stay calm so I just start screaming.  Michael calls SOS Medic to come to the house to take a look at my eye because I’ve only got an hour before I’ve got to head out to the airport and I refuse to go back to the hospital again.  They’ll keep me there forever!  In the end, we decide against the doctor because without my security sociable number (oh yes, did I mention that after the appointments at the CPAM they seem to have LOST my dossier COMPLETELY?!)  Michael has to pack for me because I’m blind.  I’m also screaming at him because I’m not dealing well with the pain and tears are dripping down my cheeks.  Nothing has ever hurt so much.  I get a cold compress, pack it on and head out for the airport, Michael carrying all my heavy bags and me holding his arm because I can’t open my eyes.

We arrive at the airport in good time.  There is a nurse on the lower level and even after I wait in the check-in line for 2 hours, it should be enough time to see the nurse and the pharmacist and even time for a coffee.  And, if a woman has EVER needed a coffee, it’s me. 

I wait in the Swiss Air line-up, a little confused as to why about every other customer is being pushed aside and told to wait.  When finally, after 2 hours of tears and begging the counter guy for help, I am also told to move aside.  They are behind schedule today and all the morons who just showed up for their 9h30 flight at 9h20 are being let ahead of us.  Then, those people at the back of the line are also being let ahead of us.  They are so fucking stupid I want to cry.  I tell the man who’s directing the line up that I have come early on purpose so I can see the nurse.  That there is a problem with my cornea and I’m in a lot of pain.  I would have thought the endless swearing out loud would have been a good enough tip off but oh no.  Oh no.  He tells me I’ll just have to wait like everybody else.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, Julie, just be patient.

It’s 10h15 when I’m finally through the line.  There’s no time now to see the nurse so I head directly to the pharmacy and all of the sudden, the pain lessens and I feel okay.  Maybe this cold compress is working?  Maybe I just had a leaf in there or something.  Maybe I won’t be blind after all.  The woman at the pharmacy gives me some antiseptic eye drops and offers me some eye patches.  I’m already feeling stupid and they’re 12 euros.  I opt out.  Besides, I’m feeling alright and I have just enough time to get a coffee to go before heading to security.  Thank you, God.

I get my along from a stuck up teenager working at the airport café who likes to show off her English and answers me `would you like some cream and sugar with that, Monsieur.` despite me being a WOMAN (Ok, Ok so the towel pressed up against my eyeball and my swollen face and my inability to take a shower this morning may have put my sex into question for just a moment) but to answer me in English just because she hears a slight accent put me in a bad mood again.  I take my coffee begrudgingly and head up to departures.

On the stairwell, I am pushed aside by a middle-aged woman who wants to take a picture of her family before they head to Hong Kong on holidays.  The push makes me hit my eye lid with the towel and the pain starts anew.  I’m not happy but just try to keep going without screaming at anyone.  I’m in no position to argue and I’m guessing that yelling might hurt my eye even more.  Then the woman turns around and flails her arm, sending my coffee sky-rocketing into the air and all over me.  It’s scalding hot.  She gives me a dirty look `What was that?! and keeps going.  No apology.  I’m going to lose it.  And before I know it, I’m talking to myself again. `Are you fucking kidding me?  You bitch!  You’re not even sorry!  People are unbelievable!` Just then, it occurs to me how ridiculous I must seem to on-lookers.  Check out that crazy GUY talking to himself and holding a hand towel against the side of his swollen face.  I shut up and head upstairs.

I’m selected for an inspection when crossing through security.  I’m angry because if I end up missing this flight, I’ll also miss my connection in Zurich.  I’ve got exactly two hours to make it to my connecting flight and the flight from Paris to Zurich is an hour long.  No time for mistakes or delays.  I’m supposing it’s the wonky eye making me look suspect.  It’s a quick check though and when they realize the only thing in my knapsack is a copy of Crime and Punishment and some eye drops, they allow me to put my boots back on and head to my gate.  I get there and to my dismay, the flight is delayed.  At first by just a few minutes, then twenty, thirty, one hour.  I’m a goner.

The man sitting behind me keeps yanking on my chair.  Each time, my eyelid pushes up a little harder against my cornea scratch and I’m in agony.  It’s that sensitive.  I start to feel a familiar pain in my lower abdomen and get anxious and run to the washroom.  You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.  Life is funny, aunt it?

We arrive in Zurich an hour late.  We’ve already missed my connection time and when I ask the stewardess what I should do in this case, she suggests I sit down and stop worrying so much.  Nice.  I take the milk chocolate bars they handed out for being late and mowed down trying to up my `happy hormones and decrease the worrying bitch ones that are making this day so much worse than it needs to be.  I’ve got sleeping pills in my knapsack too and as soon as I get on the next plane, I’m taking one and the rest should be no problem.  Just then, I learn that the next flight to Toronto isn’t until tomorrow and I am recommended to run to the next gate.  From A to E.  They’ve held the flight for me and I’ve got ten minutes to get there.  E47 is all I’ve got on my mind.  And I start a runnin`.

Running, as any of you who know me will already know is not easy for an asthmatic.  I’m having an attack but don’t have time to access my ventolin.  On top of it, I can hardly see a bloody thing.  I have to take a metro and four rolling walkways to get to security and when I get there, I’m panting and begging people to let me ahead.  A couple do but when I finally reach the security gate, I’m met with three people who look at me with suspicion. 

`Please, please…I have to make this flight.`
`Just wait, Maam.`

I’m re-directed to a room behind a curtain.  Yes, friends, I am going to be strip searched.  No matter how much I plead, they tell me to wait.  By now, I’ve missed the connection for sure.  I’m screwed and I start to cry.  Crying makes my eye hurt.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I realize I must look like a lunatic and finally concede to waiting.

They take off my clothes and inspect me like a terrorist.  I have no drugs on me.  No weapons.  Nada.  They finally let me go.  A sweet old man arrives to accompany me to the gate and tells me I don’t have to run.  They’re holding the plane for me because they understand I’m having vision problems and feel a little guilty for this whole rigmarole.  I am escorted arm in arm by the man onto the plane and directed towards an empty row of seats where I’ll finally be able to sleep soundly.

No.  No I won’t.  I have also been placed directly behind a row of a negligent mother and her two screaming two year olds who hurl through the entire ten hour flight and take turns throwing things at my face while their mother isn’t looking.  I stop one from being run over by the drinks cart and another from trying to enter the pilot’s cabin.  So far, this holiday is looking very much like my day to day.  Badly behaved children and constant, agonising pain.  I’m miserable so I ask the stewardess for 5 coffees and 5 baileys.  They help but only a little. 

I manage to sleep for only an hour of the world’s most boring flight.  Despite having a private screen in front of me and an infinite supply of HBO and English sitcoms (something I would normally LOVE!) I can’t look at the screen because it hurts my eye.  Landing hurts even more.  The light is too much to bear and the pressure in my head makes my eye feel like it might actually pop out.

Finally, we’ve landed and I am told by the steward that my bags have probably not made it to Toronto because of the short connection time in Zurich.  Mother fucker.  I need to get to a hospital as soon as possible.  I don’t want to wait for nothing so I head to the information desk as soon as I get off the plane.  They tell me they don’t have a record of my bags so I wait with the rest of the Zurich passengers for a half hour.  They all get theirs and me, nada.  So I head back to the desk to file a missing bags report.  They tell me I’ll likely get them sometime Saturday.  I’m wondering where this newfound bad luck is coming from and I’m eager to get out.  Wait, though.  I’m going to take a last gander just in case.  And there they are.  Both bags.  Nothing broken or ripped.  It’s a miracle and I grab them and head out the sliding doors.  As soon as I see my mother, I lose it, tears everywhere.  I let myself close my eyes and led her lead the way up some more escalators and towards the car, hospital-bound.  With the rush hour traffic, we arrive about an hour and a bit later.  I am rushed in and then told to wait in the waiting room.  Another two hours of pain later, the doctor finally comes to see me.

It’s not a scratch, it’s a cut and a big one at that.  He gives me some aesthetic and puts some goo on my eye and a nice prescription for Oxycodone, then sends me home.  I take a couple of pills and I’m feeling pretty great (apart from the nausea and vomiting), despite my pirate patch.

I’m just today coming out of a three day high and able to keep my eye open.  It’s not nearly as red anymore and last night, for the first time since last Wednesday, I had a good night’s sleep.  And I’ve been told that I can make $15 a pill if I don’t finish the bottle.  That’s some more good news, no?

I don’t know what I did exactly to merit this kind of start to my holiday but it must have been something really bad.

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