As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
The 12:04 to Strasbourg
One of the traits that I first saw in Carol was how firmly her two feet were planted on the ground. With me, my life reads more like my feet are firmly planted in mid-air. So from the beginning I thought we’d make a good match. Then came Lyon, and I’m no longer sure where our feet are firmly planted, if they’re firmly planted or if they’re even our feet.
We’d just finished dinner in Lyon’s old city area. Carol had the salmon. Still wary whether the French knew beef, I had the sausage, not realizing due to my consummate lack of research that Lyon is the leader in “bouchon dining.“ Bouchon dining means specializing in beef. It was like I’d gone to dinner in Omaha and ordered fish and chips.
It was pouring a cold, damp rain when we left the restaurant for home. I was in shorts and shirtsleeves and was immediately wet and chilled. Carol didn’t want to get her sandals wet, so she decided to go barefoot on streets slick with rain and dating back to the 14th century. DNA from the Black Plague was no doubt embedded in those cobblestones, but Carol was determined to keep those sandals dry. She took three steps on the smooth wet channel in the middle of the street that once carried away the human waste of medieval Lyon, and promptly fell flat on her butt.
Carol was immediately surrounded by locals helping to get her up on her feet. I found her in all that gaggle by following the sound of her distinctive laughter. She continued laughing the rest of the way home, still barefoot and exhorting me to stop and look at all the beautiful scenery shimmering in the cold, damp rain.
“I’m cold and wet,” I pleaded.
“You’ve got to see the church. It’s all lit up.”
I looked at the church that was all lit up and shivered. “Let’s get home.”
“Isn’t it beautiful,” she added, still chuckling over her slip and fall.
We stopped one other time to allow Carol to pull a glass shard out of her heel. The next morning, she proudly displayed her high and dry sandals, along with the spreading bruise on her hip and showed me the place on her heel where the glass shard hadn’t broken the skin.
Later that morning, as we rode the escalator up to our platform for the train to Strasbourg, Carol began tottering backward. Her suitcase had caught in one of the escalator steps and was suddenly tumbling backwards and taking her backward with it. I reached for her, and now I was tumbling backward with Claude taking me with him. We were crumbling into a heap on the escalator. I imagined Carol being crushed in the teeth of the moving steps. Someone hit the emergency stop. Carol whispered “I’m all right.” I was relieved to hear her words, but powerless to help her up, as I was upside down and lying on my backpack like an upended turtle, legs and arms kicking in mid-air. Carol later said it looked pretty funny, and I thanked her for not laughing. She allowed it was hard not to, though.
It could have been that someone who came to our rescue on the escalator might have had dinner in Old Lyon the previous night, and had helped Carol up off the street there. What a story that person would have to tell about Americans and their dubious footing abroad.
Over the three weeks of our France trip, Carol’s fitbit showed us logging more than 75 miles of walking. Adding my little self-inflicted mishap with a fan cord in Arles, we can set that number against three little missteps. Not bad for two people whose combined age exceeds…well…
Carol stops me here.