Thursday, August 12, 2004


We weren't quite sure what to expect in Pontorson after we left Mont Saint Michel on the bus. Neither Trudy nor I remembered much about the train station, even though it was only yesterday that we had arrived. (We were too focused on figuring out where to go next.)

I remembered a station building but didn't remember if it was even open. Trudy didn't remember the building at all. And today's trip was going to be an uncertain one as it was, so not being sure about the start made us uncomfortable.

Our trip would involve catching a south-bound train to Rennes from Pontorson (departure time slightly uncertain) and transferring to a west-bound train in Dol (under the assumption that a west-bound train would come by at a reasonable time (if at all).

Due to all these uncertainties, we were hoping to be able to talk to a real live agent at the station, but we didn't know if we would find anyone there. If not, we were hoping for an automatic ticket machine, although we had never used one yet and weren't at all sure it could help us unwind our uncertainties. But we didn't remember seeing a machine when we arrived, either.

So it was with some relief that we discovered not only a train station with open doors and an indoor waiting area with a functioning ticket machine but also a traditional ticket area with a woman sitting behind a tall plexiglass window. When we walked in, she was providing detailed travel information for three women who were huddled around the opening in the window each asking questions, evidently about the same trip.

If it took a long time for the three waiting women to get all their questions asked and answered, it took us no time at all. Is it possible to buy a ticket to Dinan? Yes. Do we change in Dol? Yes. Do we have to compost[*] our tickets here? Yes. Do we then need to compost them again in Dol when we change trains? No. And so on.

It all went very smoothly, and as the transaction was drawing to a close and the agent was pushing our tickets thru the opening in the plexiglass, I felt euphoric about the lifting of all the uncertainty and about the facility with which I had asked those questions and understood the answers.

To tell the truth, it was the ease with which I held that conversation that tickled me most. And in my euphoria, I collected the tickets and the change from the window, smiled at the woman, and said, Aujourd'hui!


Aujourd'hui, I said. Not Au revoir, but Aujourd'hui!


Do you understand? I got started with the Au... alright, but what came out next was laughable (...jourd'hui). Instead of saying Goodbye to the woman, I said Today!

Facility with the language, indeed.

[*] At every train station in France, there are many orange pedestal-sized machines where travellers must cancel their train tickets. I never did get the exact purpose of them, but it clearly has something to do with making sure tickets only get used once -- although one then must ask why the conductors on-board also punch them. If you don't compost your tickets in these machines, you risk sizable fines and a stern lecture from the conductor, we were told. [back]

Trip to France - Day 8

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