The alarm is ringing. It is 7 am. That’s earlier than I need to get up, but I want to be first in the bathroom, ‘cause 12 girls in one bathroom promises a few hours of waiting.
It’ll be a smart move; one roomie was waiting 2 hours.
Sometimes I am so smart!
After my bath routine I take a map to highlight the addresses for today’s castings. It feels like hell is coming my way.
To start my day, I first need to exchange the money I brought with me, because I won’t get advance money from the agency until Friday. I will pay back that money (not only me, every girl) after I do some jobs, as well as the money for the airplane ticket, rent, taxis, maps, portfolio (book)covers… absolutely every cent the agency spent on me, plus the money they are going to “invest “in my career in the future. If the first job does not pay enough, the debt is still there till you pay it off completely. So, your debt is growing and you don’t get a cent more than your weekly advance; you’re just sinking deeper until some point when the agency gives up on you or you start paying it off. I can’t wait for that the time I pay it off and start making my own money. The agency sometimes sends girls to some more commercial markets, and then they take money for the debt out of those earnings. That is common. People think that models get everything for free, just because they are pretty (some girls expect that), but no. Money is advanced and later has to be paid back. Some agencies make interest on that advanced money.
I find out that in Paris you have a problem with language. Unless you are a smartass speaking French. As it’s clear by now, I am not a smartass, (I will never learn that language no matter how hard I try). The only way to get around is to try to communicate in English, because my first try using a few words of French learnt in elementary school was a complete fiasco. But why is it that French people are not so good in English or you don’t hear it at all? I think they just don’t want to speak it. Why? I have no idea. If you know tell me.
Well, they just refuse to speak English, for reasons known only to them. To make clear: my English sounds like Tarzan’s, so I don’t see why someone would be ashamed to answer me in same Tarzan way. I am not a lecturer or teacher; I don’t care about grammar. I need your help to get around if I ask you; I’m not grading you for your polyglotic skills.
For years I will be asking myself why they don’t feel sorry for a 16-year old girl who is trying to get around their city. If I ask you something, it means I don’t know. If I ask you in English, it means I don’t speak French. If you answer me in French do you really think you helped me? Whatever.
Meanwhile, I have learned to catch a meaning in every language in the world even if I don’t understand a word of it… But in Paris they are really snobbish, insensitive and unpleasant in situations like that. And the irony is that the city is full of tourists.
So, my first thing for the morning is to exchange money.
On the way I ask some people for help, but I don’t get it so I have to manage alone.
Here I am, sitting on the bench, thinking. People who need to exchange money are mostly tourists. So I have to go to some touristy place, maybe a bus or train station. It is easy to orientate myself if I consider that it is my first time reading a map. I manage to locate a train station and exchange office.
After I change the money I am shocked to see how the interest ate a big cut out of what I had. Now I am on the way to by a metro ticket. Then I will see what to do with the leftovers, if I will have any. Out of mum and dad’s saving sum, after the exchange robbery, there is little chance that I will have anything left. Cheers.
If my counting is right, I will have enough to buy a metro ticket, phone card, a few cans of food for my suitcase (I have been warned that food in the fridge in the model’s flat will not wait for you), and maybe I will have some change for –God forbid –some unexpected thing along the way this week.
Well, it has happened exactly like that. I have almost nothing left. Maybe for example a slice of pizza. And mum and dad had been saving for months.
Next step is metro ticket.
Entering a metro station makes the level of my adrenalin high. It is going to be my first metro ride. I am going to my first casting, a real casting, a casting in Paris.
At the counter desk, nicely with a smile, I ask for a weekly ticket, but there’s no answer. After I ask a second time, a grumpy woman blows me away with a lazy gesture of her finger at a ticket machine standing in the corner.
Slowly, almost in slow motion, I am walking now toward the ticket machine, like it is going to bite me. I am looking at it and it is looking back at me. Like two gladiators in an arena. I never bought anything in a machine before. I am reading instructions under the buttons; of course, everything is in French. On the screen is something written for the literate. In the upper right corner is a hole for coins, but how to choose the right ticket? I am looking, and looking, and reading over and over, digging deeply into my memory for any familiar word, but with no success. And here I am, standing with a blank look, and I am close to starting to cry. I know that time is short, but without a ticket I have no way of continuing my day. If I buy the wrong ticket, I will have to spend the money that I have left for a new one, and I am not sure if I am going to pick the right one in my second attempt.
Tears are on the edge of running out. At that moment I realize there is a man standing behind me with no rush.
In my perfect world he would offer me help. I even give him a look with a big PLEASE in it, but he does not fall for it. He walks around me, inserts some coins, presses a button, takes a ticket and leaves. Everything in less than a minute.
OK, enough whimpering. I cheer myself, you are going to find a way to buy a ticket, so think and move.
After a second try to puzzle the instructions for the machine, I give up and look for a different entrance to the metro, praying to find a more polite and nicer person behind the counter.
My prayers are heard. Now the ticket is in my hand, my wallet is empty, and my Paris adventure can start officially.
Entering the metro: dark and stinky. For a long time I will associate Paris with the smell of ammonia when entering the metro. Horror, horror, horror. Those long hallways of disaster, everybody in a hurry, no one paying attention, just marching. I am not sure which way to go, so I am stuck in the middle of a tunnel without a chance to ask anyone, because they are passing at the speed of light. Someone pushes me, someone kicks me, but no one stops to apologize. They are even more nervous because I am in the middle of their way. Passing by me, rolling their eyes while I am still standing there crowding them. I just got a new lesson: I have to work on my gumption. Obviously there are no short cuts for me. For sure not in Paris.
I am now on the platform, reading the posters- what I can read- and waiting for the train. Of course, I made it without any help. One more reason to be proud of myself today. I am looking around. It really stinks, so I am trying to concentrate on something else. For example, reading a metro map. I am checking to see if I took the right direction. I don’t want to go to the opposite side of the city, because I am already late.
It is comiiinnnnggg. Train is heeerreee.
It stopped. There is a beep, but the door doesn’t open. How to get in? I am looking left and right, the door next to mine is open, run. I am in at the last second.
My door didn’t open. Why? On the left it opened, on the right as well. Mine not. Let’s see. There is a trigger on the handle, the answer must be there.
On the next stop a passenger pulls the trigger up and the door opens. So that is the catch. I will remember it. Puzzle number two solved.
I am sitting now and looking at the people. They dress well. The women are very good looking. The men are hairy. Both men and women have bags, looks like there are many yuppies in Paris. There is one. He is picking his nose. PICKING HIS NOSE!!!! It is not possible. I have to rub my eyes. Impossible.
But he IS doing it.
And now he is holding a handle with the same hand. Yuck yuck yuck.
Do I have enough money to buy a pair of gloves? Maybe I could find some cheap ones; starting today I am wearing gloves in the metro, winter or not. This is disgusting.
My station. My first casting in Paris.