6-Attacked by a SMART Car!

I’ve been writing about my experiences planning and leading tours in Europe. This was brought on by a friend at church asking me how I liked my recent “vacation” there. Don’t get me wrong, traveling in Europe is a blast and I wouldn’t do it if I did not really enjoy myself.  But, there is a lot of work in it too.  In the previous episodes I’ve collected the group from the airport, gotten them on a bus, traveled to Paris, unloaded the bus in heavy traffic, gotten them checked into the hotel, and headed out on foot to see the sights. Now it’s time to get off the metro and explore the city.

It turns out to be a success! Can you believe it? We all made it via metro to the same place, gotten off together, and now the group is standing on the platform waiting for me to tell them which way to go.  I figured this would be a good teaching moment, so we have a lesson in French. Sortie means EXIT, Correspondance means the way to another metro line.  We want to get out of there, so we go towards Sortie. 

Up the escalator, then up one flight of stairs, and we finally get out into the fresh Parisian air…

Popping out of the depths of a subway and into a new locale has always been an adventure for me. There’s something about going from darkness to light that just adds to the adventure. So, no matter what city I’m in, if I have a tour group I try to maximize the effect by choosing a “wow” moment for our subway exit.  In Paris there are many, but today I choose the Trocadero Metro exit to help me work the magic of Paris. 

So out we come into the bright sunlight and I have my twenty-odd followers all intent on not loosing sight of me.  After going up the stairs, out the exit, and through the gauntlet of “vendors of worthless crap”, there it was… the Eiffel Tower!  It was right there in front of us just begging to be photographed.  The group who would not leave my sight twenty seconds earlier now abandon all thought of staying together, and all I can do is try to corral them just for a second to give a rendezvous time and place.  Once that is established, off they go to snap photos, purchase little flying birdies from the vendors, and make their way down the hill to the bridge below where we are to meet.

Thirty minutes later, we all arrive at the bridge.  I take a quick head count, noting that everyone is present and accounted for, and then we take our lives in our hands as we traverse the first group street-crossing of our tour.  Now you might think, “What’s the big deal about crossing a street?” But you try it sometime with twenty-something people who come from places where they may have never had an occasion to cross a huge street on foot!  So eventually, the little green man appears on the “walk” sign and off they go. 

Halfway across I see panic in one lady’s eyes as she realizes that for a Parisian motorist, a red light is only a suggestion to slow down and has nothing to do with actually stopping at all. The lady freezes in her tracks, then decides to retreat in the opposite direction.  Confused, the motorist lays on his horn in a long blast as if he has done nothing wrong and tries to brake, but not quite soon enough.  I look on in panic as I see this unfold before my eyes. The only good thing is that the motorist is driving a SMART CAR which is about the size of a big shoe.  He almost comes to a complete halt in time, but not quite.  As if in slow motion, I watched as the little car makes contact with the woman.  It’s not too bad, but the lady looses the battle and plops to the pavement as the car eventually comes to a halt.  Almost in one motion, the lady pops back up and the man jumps out of his car.  They both meet in front of the vehicle and he says, “I’m sorry!”  while she is saying, “It’s ok I’m not hurt.”  I run out and ask the only thing I can think of at the moment, “Are you ok!?”  How lame is that…  I’ve just seen a lady attacked by a SMART CAR and all I can come up with is, “Are you ok?”

In the end, the lady only suffered a couple of bruises.  The driver and the lady, after a few moments of heart-pounding stress, both exchange business cards and email addresses.  Who knows…maybe they’ll hook up someday!  Ahhh, only in Paris.   

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About the Author
David McGuffin established David McGuffin's Exploring Europe, Inc. in 2001 to formally offer European tours. Since then, he has taken several thousand satisfied customers on memorable and educational tours to Europe.
  1. Jim and Ann Reply

    We now have a Smart Car residing on our street. However, the drivers do tend to follow the rules of the road, but just to be safe, whenever I’m walking our dog in the street, I’ll stop and watch the Smart Car to make sure it doesn’t run me down!

  2. Susan Reply

    I have always wondered about the name “smart car”, what makes it so smart? Could it pass an IB exam?

    • admin Reply

      Susan, I looked for the origins of the “smart” car name and found that the original idea came from the markers of the “SWATCH.” Originally the car was to be called the “swatchcar.” However, I found nothing about why it eventually became known as the smart car.

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