Totem-ly Awesome

Totem Paris

Totem Paris

Being half an hour late for your first day of work is never a good thing, let alone in an industry when such things can ruin your entire career. Naturally, I was a little nervous stepping through the doors at the Totem office in Paris. Now before you go judging me or jumping to conclusions or saying to yourself (as my mom would say), “Well what the hell happened?!”, I assure you I can explain.

There are many factors which make this journey an exciting one. To start with, I had only arrived in the country the day before and had been so levelled by jet-lag that I hadn’t had a chance to get a metro pass, or change my cellphone over to a new service provider (I can only use it when connected to wifi…and it’s almost impossible to connect to a “public” wifi). I had never taken the metro in Paris alone (I’d been twice before with my Parisienne friend Sandrine a month before), had never been to my destination station before… I guess the long and short of it is that I had not a friggen clue what I was doing where I was going and I had absolutely no way of mapping myself out and keeping myself enroute once I stepped out the door.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, and being the responsible young lady that I am, I had taken many a precaution. To help eliminate as much avoidable stress as possible I had mapped out my route for both transit and walking, taken pictures of the directions as well as written them down should my phone somehow disappear. I had also given myself 45 minutes of extra time to ensure that I could pick up my metro pass at station Saint-Lazare, and with time to spare so I could take my time and really pay attention to the street signs when walking from the station.

I know right? It all sounds good, very thought out, prepared, what could go wrong? Well… one thing I hadn’t calculated were how many people could be squeezed into the train cars… or rather, how few people could squeeze onto the already jam packed train cars before it pulled out of the station and left you waiting for the next one. The answer my darlings, is two. After waiting for 35 minutes on the platform (my estimated total travel time), I finally decided to set aside my Canadian politeness and muscled my way onto the train. I spent the ride trying not to inhale too much of a woman’s ponytail who was sandwiched against me.

Upon arriving at Saint-Lazare I was overwhelmed by how many people were hustling, bustling, bumping, and running by me. I miraculously found my way with relative ease to the information desk where I happily purchased my metro pass, breezed through the barriers, and effortlessly slid onto the metro. After 20 minutes I arrived at my stop and had to pause for only a moment to discern which exit was mine before emerging onto Rue Saint-Maur.

Saint Lazare by Claude Monet 1877

Saint Lazare by Claude Monet 1877

Graffiti at Rue Saint Maur

Graffiti at Rue Saint Maur

By this time I was already 10 minutes late. I had to really make this next stretch count! I pulled out my phone and studied both the photos and written directions feverishly. Heading off in the right direction I began to feel there was hope insight. Almost immediately I came across my second turn and started to gain both confidence and speed. Now only one more corner until I’d have my bearings and only a few short moments from entering work! But alas… things are never as simple as they seem. The devious street I “needed” doesn’t actually exist. A little tid-bit that I discovered after wandering around searching for it for 15 minutes before finally finding someone who looked mildly approachable. I found a nice 40 something man who was coming out of a bakery, and turned on my lady charm. Thankfully he had a map and was kind enough to spend 5 minutes searching for this stupid street. Finally he said “Ah it’s here! Back the way you came! It’s very little and it’ll be on your right.” With the utmost of sincere gratitude I thanked him repeatedly, then speed walked like an Olympian to where Rue ‘De La Merde’ “was”. Oh, indeed there was a walk way there… but it was gated with a code and was used as a courtyard for residents of the apartments in the area. If Rue Denaem had been a person, I’d have punch him straight in the mouth.

What I Would Have Done to Rue Denaem

What I Would Have Done to Rue Denaem

Using my wits I figured I should just go around the corner and come up the street that Rue Denaem would have exited onto (had it been a real flippin street!!). As soon as I turned the corner, I recognized the area and took off down the street towards the office.

When I entered I was breathlessly trying to swallow down my terror and mentally practising my apology and my potential begging choreography. But surprisingly, no one seemed to mind and they greeted me with the nonchalance that can only be found in France. When the head of press met me at the door she looked at me quizzically and asked “are you late??”, as if it was her mistake for thinking I should have arrived earlier. “Yes, yes I’m so sorry”, I said nervously, “I got so so lost, I’m so sorry”. She then furrowed her brow ever so slightly, looked me deep in the eyes, then shrugged her shoulders and walked off. She turned back only for a moment to tell me “put your things to the side and just start working with the others.”

No introductions, no tours, no time to waist. Just get to work. I absolutely loved it.



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