This is my worst travel experience, because it was my secret travel shame. In fact, I hesitated to tell anyone about this event, because not only do I look like an idiot, but I look like an idiot who picks on people with disabilities.

When my company sent me to France to work with the engineering team in Lorient, Brittany, I flew for a billion hours with a terrible hangover and absolutely no sleep. I took a 50 euro cab downtown to the Montparnasse train station in France, and then waited for hours for my train.

The train was fairly empty; I shared a table with another woman whose grandchildren ran beside the train as it pulled out of the station, and the other three seats remained unoccupied.

I was already taken aback by the language barrier. I studied French (not immersion) for ten years in school, and assumed I had enough knowledge to get by. I did not. Not even close.

So I’m sitting on the train, so proud of myself for making it that far without being shot, when the lady across the aisle approaches me and starts talking in French.

“Je ne parle pas francais,” I said apologetically.

The lady switched to broken English, and pulled out a card with a “disabled” symbol on it.

“My daughter is ill,” she said. “Would you switch seats with her so she can move her legs?”

“Of course!” I replied, nodding furiously.

(Except the conversation did not go nearly that smooth, and so we stumbled through an explanation for about ten minutes.)

For some reason, in my sleep-deprived, brain-cell destroyed head, I assumed she meant we would switch seats at the next stop, as the train was lurching all over the place. For the next little while, her and her daughter eyed me warily, while I warily stared back.

Of course, when the train stopped, two new people sat themselves down in my booth with the two empty seats. I don’t know why this thought never fucking occurred to me, I mean come on. Train stops, people get off, new people get on. Not a hard concept.

The mother and daughter ignored me entirely after that, although I sent pleading looks of apologies their way. I was too embarrassed to do anything while the daughter rested her head against the window, her face clenched in pain. And so I left them thinking I was a stupid Canadian, when really I’m just a cognoscente of awkward moments.

(This entry is in response to Bearshapedsphere’s <Eileen> entry about the megaultrabad experience while traveling in Ecuador. Check out her blog, she’s facking hilarious.) Now go forth and share your travel shame!


Check out these others: