Oct 16, 2012
I was recently catching up on Episode 2 of The France Project (it’s all about stereotypes) and right near the start, an Indian guy interviewed by Katia talked about helpfulness of people in giving directions. Instead of feeling all nice and fuzzy that Paris came across so positively , I actually started to feel guilty.
No, no, I have not been rude and ignoring requests for help.
My guilt lies in that I felt I haven’t always given them the best advices.
For some reason, it’s common for me to be asked for directions. On the streets, at the bus stops, in métro stations, by tourists or otherwise. Frédéric reckons I look unthreatening (I would hope so!) so easier to approach, while another friend thinks I look as if I know where I’m going so who else to ask for directions?
But every so often, after despatching what I thought was reasonable advices (they were definitely not wrong), as soon as the person left, I mentally smacked myself – I have just thought of a better alternative to get to wherever they wanted to go, or a cheaper mode of transportations, or prettier walking route, etc.
Case No 1: A group of 4 girls (English speaking) were at the #72 bus stop called Pont d’Iéna and looking for direction to get to Moulin Rouge. Given trying to take #72 and then a connection bus could be complicated (e.g. connect to #80 at Alma Marceau, or #67 or #74 at Louvre-Rivoli, then having to walk from the closest bus stop to Moulin Rouge) I suggested they take a métro at Trocadéro to Blanche via a connection at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. That should take them right in front of Moulin Rouge. What I’ve completely forgotten was there is a direct bus #30 from Trocadéro to Blanche, which would be a lot more interesting to take than seeing the underground tunnels of the métros.
Case No 2: At bus stop of St Michel-St Germain, a woman (French speaking) asked for direction to RER A. I told her the closest station would be at Châtelet-Les Halles. She then pondered if she can take bus #21 which was stopping there. On a quick reflection, sure, #21 goes to Châtelet. Split-second advice like that was the worse kind I could have given. Anyone who has been to Châtelet and thereabout knows what a labyrinth it could be! I should have told her to go round the corner and catch RER B (station St Michel-Notre Dame) to Châtelet-Les Halles, before swapping for RER A. That way she would be less likely to get lost in Châtelet, and it would have been cheaper too, since RER B to RER A transfers can be done on the same ticket, whereas bus to RER means using at least 2 tickets. But she has already left, with a husband and two young children in tow… (guilt multiplied a gazillion-fold!)
Should I stop giving directions to people, especially if they seem to be in hurry? I get flustered very easily under such circumstances and would clumsily point them in the first direction that occurs to me, be it the best option or not. Then again, if I don’t practice more often the effortless wave to point out certain direction, I’m never going to achieve (what’s in my head) the persona of a chic knowledgeable Parisienne-wannabe ;)
I guess that means I’ll stay the non-threatening everyday girl on the street/at the bus stop etc. But there’s always one question that remains: how do I stop myself from feeling guilty over giving correct but sub-optimal answers?