Brace yourselves, people, this is a long one!
So, let's set the stage...
Once upon a time, during my sophomore year in college, my fabulous cousin (the one who doesn't like peanut butter) invited me to join her and a group of fellow students from her college on a two-week trip to France and Spain.
And of course I said, "Sign me up, cuz."
I mean, who wouldn't want to tour around two fabulous countries with cool new people AND get college credit for it? Exactly.
By this time, I was a seasoned traveler. And by that I mean I had been to England my junior year of high school and Italy my senior year of high school, each for ten days. I had seen the sights, I had experienced life, I had lived with wild abandon among the thrills of Europe...you know, with a couple of teachers and 12 other high schoolers in tow. So, needless to say, I had traveled a little and had seen a lot all under the guidance of many watchful adults.
Of course we did have a professor go with us on this trip, just to make it official and all. She was a super cool lady, who spoke fluent Spanish and was pregnant. But don't let that fool you, she was a bucket of fun! A BUCKET OF FUN, people!
So, I packed up my bags (and peanut butter) and met my sweet cousin and her friends in Houston and we took off for Paris!
Side note: This was the first time my cousin had ever flown. EVER. She is now a very accomplished doctor, married to a cowboy accountant who actually came on this trip, and has two super adorable kids. However, that did not stop her from being terrified most of our flight over the Atlantic and at any hint of turbulence, she would reach her hand to my seat ahead of her and grab me for dear life. In return, I would bolt out of my stupor, try to relax her, while all the while maneuvering around two very cranky, very sleepy, Frenchmen who were on other side of me. Fun times, people, fun times.
Anyway, we made it safely to Paris...and she even got a pair of wings from the captain.
Our first day in Paris was fabulous! I began to get to know the rest of the group and took in all the sights, sounds, smells (both good and bad) and food of Paris. I was the only one of the group who had been to Europe before so riding the subway and navigating through streets and shops while being familiar with foreign languages was something I had experienced (because it is so hard to understand people in England!).
All seemed to be going well until I noticed something a little bit off...and the others were very aware of it too.
There was one guy in the group who also seemed to know a lot about traveling and getting around foreign countries, even though this was his first trip abroad. He liked to run ahead of the group, pointing out landmarks, showing us where to go, and would often try to lose us in the crowd just to see if we could find our way.
Weird, I know.
So let's call this guy "Hank." And Hank had it in his head that without him, we would all be lost. We would all be wandering, blabbering idiots. Therefore, we owed him our respect and gratitude for not only keeping us on track but for basically keeping us alive. To sum it up, we owed Hank our very lives.
Now before we get too far along, let me draw you a picture of Hank:
Hank wore plaid, flannel shirts...in warm weather
Hank had a fake braid that he wore in his hair that ran down his back...and no one was allowed to touch it.
Hank's number one reason for going on the trip was to buy a medievil sword and take it home to show people at school. (This was pre-9/11, people)
Hank really liked Dungeons and Dragons.
Hank never made eye contact...never.
Now, you may like plaid shirts or play Dungeons and Dragons (why?), but combining all of those characteristics together is a recipe for, well...psycho-crazy behavior. And believe me, that was coming...
In the meantime, amid Hank's crazy, obsessive need to make us all dependent, my cousin, her now husband and the rest of the group were having a blast, a BLAST I tell you! We went to the Louvre, to the Eiffel Tower, we rode on a ginormous ferris wheel and were able to squeeze in quite a bit of shopping...all in the name of college credit.
Ah, college. I miss you.
However, this quickly came to an abrupt halt.
One evening, the group of us decided that we should go see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. As we were coming up the stairs from the subway, Hank ran ahead of the group, dodging tourists and making rude comments all the way, saying things like "If it weren't for me, you guys would never be able to get out of Paris," and "it's a good thing I am here because you idiots don't know anything about navigating a city..."
And at that moment, the moment we emerged from the subway to see the glory and splendor of a gigantic piece of steel lit up like a spaceship, I realized that I could not stand Hank's attitude ONE MORE MINUTE.
I think some sort of chemical explosion must have happened in my head. And I am also pretty sure that the entire incident had to have been an out of body experience because what followed next was so surreal, so unlike me, that it is hard to believe it ever happened.
Right there, in front of the pride of Paris and the rest of the group, I stopped and walked over to Hank. And with a very clear, even tone and intense eye contact I said: "Listen, Hank. We are not idiots. We are adults. Very capable, intelligent adults who can very easily navigate through one of the world's largest cities, let alone a subway system. And I especially do not appreciate the way you are talking to all of us. You have been rude since we arrived. We do not need your comments and we do not need your help."
With that, I turned around only to see the startled faces of my cousin and the group. They were shocked. Everyone was a little bit of afraid of Hank...perhaps I should have been too.
I looked back at Hank only to see him storm off into the night, underneath the Eiffel Tower.
After he left, the rest of the group commented on my impressive speech. My cousin, who knows my oh-so mellow mindset, was fairly shocked at my confrontation skills. I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out who had just taken control over my body.
Let's remember that I don't get mad, people. But holy cow, I was mad that night. And it took all of my control to not drop-kick Hank into next week. I am surprised I was as calm as I was because I was so offended at his attitude towards me and the rest of the group that I could have yanked that stupid braid right out of his head.
Well, apparently Hank was pretty mad too. So mad, in fact, that he spent the next few hours walking by himself, calculating his next move. We didn't see him for quite a while and I was beginning to get worried.
Later that evening, we all convened in one room in the hotel to play games. I apologized to the professor for being so mouthy. She said not to worry but I knew I needed to apologize to Hank. Now, I knew I was in the right for what I said. And I knew I did it with civility. But perhaps I needed to apologize for embarrassing him in front of everyone else.
But just then, Hank stormed into the room! We all were shocked, startled by the noise and by the dark, serious expression on his face. He surveyed the room and locked eyes with me, where I happened to be sitting on a bed with my cousin.
I began to speak, uttering mumbled words of apology, but he stopped me.
In a very clear, cold voice, Hank said: "No one talks to me the way she did" He pointed to me. "And when people do, you are not able to find their bodies the next morning."
And with that, my cousin and I began to cry...
(More to come)