Arriving in a Box in Angers, France


Tofino, BC, Canada

Arriving in a Box

Ever wondered how difficult it is to arrive in a box to surprise someone for their birthday on a different continent, in a different language? It couldn’t be THAT difficult right? I mean especially if you know a few people in the country itself, and you kind of speak the language… what problems could there be?!

Leaving Canada

Well its 14:00 and I’m waiting for my flight leaving Toronto, going to Montreal, where I will be laid over for 5 hours before my Montreal-Paris flight leaves just before midnight. I wonder sometimes if the hell I put my body through is really worth the saved expense… but then again, any torturous experience that my body experiences manages to transform into a humorous story for my mouth to tell at a future date.

The idea behind cutting my visit short with my newborn niece (and surrounding entourage) was to arrive in time in Angers to surprise Jade for her birthday. My flight lands at 8:30 in Paris, where Jade’s sister (Lena) has organized a covoiturage (carpool), that leaves at 14:00, and should arrive in Angers around 17:00, I am going to log onto Skype at the Airport to confirm with Lena and Adeline (Jade’s roommate) that all is well. I have asked Lena to find a box for me, thus if all goes according to plan, Jade should find a box, outside her door, containing myself around 18:00.  What could go wrong?!

Arrival in France

So I just landed in Paris, and apart from my having major difficulties with the French spoken to me in Montreal (I hope it’s the accent) everything seems to be going according to plan. It’s my second time landing in France, and even at the Orly airport the customs officers don’t ask you a thing before they stamp your passport.

Trust This Guy!

Trust This Guy!

I mean nothing at all… not a:
‘How long will you be here?’

‘What’s your purpose for coming?’ …
or how about a ‘Do you plan on blowing up the Eiffel Tower?’ … no, no…

Nothing at all. But then again, with my shaggy hair, unkempt beard, florescent Guatemalan cap (on sideways like a true gangster), and tattered pin-stripe shorts tailor-made (for someone else) in Laos, they must recognize that I’m an upstanding citizen that can bring much prosperity to their country.

Can’t connect to the internet in this Airport… no worries, I remember that it was Place d’Italie where I meet my covoiturage.

After enjoying my morning café crème and croissant, I found my way to Place d’Italie with two hours to spare, I’m killing it! Side note… Apparently, they hose down the street toilettes here. So, it was quite fancy, and brushing my teeth was a pleasant experience, but my bags are now soaked. Oh well, another hour to kill, they’ll have time to dry off.

I just went inside to ask the gas station worker if covoiturages are common here. I think he said no. Man, my French is rusty, what were those 5 steps to learning a new language??? I guess that it really is important to Speak French. Maybe I shouldn’t have focused so much on the importance of learning Spanish, or which language to learn next. After all, the French people speaking the French language is one of the stereotypes that holds quite true.
Buddy in the gas station was utterly confused that I would expect to get a covoiturage without having a cell phone. Well… it looks like the right place anyway, no way to connect to anyone, so let’s hope so. Half an hour until my ride is due.

15 minutes until it’s due… I went back inside and asked if there were any other station total close to Place d’Italie… He said no, but asked if I was sure it wasn’t Porte d’Italie I was looking for… Its not, no worries!

5 minutes until 14:00… I’m starting to wonder if it was Porte d’Italie. I’m not going inside again.

14:00… The French are renowned for being late, no?

14:15… Shit, I’m gonna have to go back inside.

14:25… Well, just finished another conversation with the gas station man, and he certainly has imparted his wisdom upon me that it was incredibly unintelligent to attempt to meet up with a covoiturage and not have the phone number. Everyone knows that you take the phone number of the driver. Merci monsieur, that is very helpful.

14:40… Maybe it wasn’t 14h00 – 2 o’clock that I read on the email, but rather 4h00…

14:50… Somebody just looked at me strange and he was in the same model of car that I’m waiting for… maybe it’s my covoiturage…

14:55… Apparently that wasn’t my covoiturage and he agrees that it’s really stupid of me to not have the phone number of the driver. Oh… and he’s of the opinion that no French person would never write 4h00 apparently… no, no, not even by mistake. 4h00 would mean 4am I guess. Damn, maybe he didn’t understand what I meant?

15:20…Okay, it’s not possible that anyone is THIS late, and really, I should probably start figuring out how I’m going to get to Angers… Hope Lena/Adeline aren’t worried about me.

15:58… I just forked out the 70 euros to get a last minute train to Angers… Missed one by 2 mins, (no exaggeration), my train comes at 16:45. I should make it to Angers around 19:25… Better find the internet

16:30… Just connected with Adeline and Lena via Skype, all’s well… they know where I am, and they will be arriving at the house not long before I. (funny, I don’t remember knowing that they were not going to be home)… shit gotta run for the train!

16:47… I was the last one on the train I’m sure… had to walk down twenty train cars, on board because I didn’t have time to run to correct entrance. Man, my bags are so not packed properly for this! I thought it would be easy. I had my Ukelele on one side of my bag, shoes on the other and could hardly squeeze through the seats. On the bright side, I believe that I perfected my accent on the words ‘pardon’, ‘excusez-moi’ and ‘desolé’… as I did my best to bump into at least 50% of all seated passengers. AAhh… getting to know the locals, that’s what it’s all about!

Off to France

Not packed for this

17:00… My train ticket mentions two different trips… wonder if that means I have to change trains?

17:20… Apparently it does, I won’t be late this time.

17:55… I just asked the guy where my other train will be, he said that it’s the ‘neighbour’ train and leaves at 18:06. I’m getting on it now… done!

17:57… The train is leaving… shit… this must be the wrong train!

This is almost as confusing as trying to figure out who you know in a small town in India, or who’s honestly wanting to be your friend amid the chaos in the largest animal fair in the world.

18:00… The train just stopped… no idea where I am, but I must be close… I ran off the train and got in a taxi. Told him that I had to get back to  that other stop, he’s got 6 minutes… go! …

He said ‘no’
“What do you mean no?”
“Not possible”
“Common, 6 minutes, we can make it”
“No sir, not possible, at least 12 minutes… desolé”

18:10… Apparently I’m in Tours, next train to Angers leaves in 35 minutes… but it looks like I would have to change trains at that other stop, and be laid over there for 2 hours. Arrives in Angers at 22:10, technically still on Jade’s birthday, but I’m ready to give up on the surprise, and ask her to borrow a car to come get me in tours. Screw it, I’m going to get some food, and find the internet. If need be I’ll take a taxi to the other train station later.

18:25… Found a wicked Kebab guy to spill my heart out too… very friendly, with internet and everything. I’m sure he’s used to people walking in with backpacks and a Ukulele and melting down in his shop… that’s gotta be an everyday occurrence for kebab guys no? (Is there a better term than ‘kebab guy’?? The Canadian in me is crushed with the notion that there might be a chance I’m offending someone). Never mind that, Adeline just connected to Skype… I’ll tell her what’s going on. Maybe I’ll get there yet.

18:33… Adeline found a train leaving Tours direct to Angers leaving at 18:45… I must’ve read it wrong. Damn, I haven’t even started eating yet, 12 minutes to get on that train. Shit!… How many trains can one person run for in one day?!

18:37… Kebab guy (no offence intended) insisted on packing up my Kebab for me. I have a friend in Tours if I ever return.

18:42… Asked the ticket guy if this train goes to Angers, he confirmed.

“Can I buy a ticket on board?”
“Yes, but it’s more expensive”
“How much more?”
“4 euros”

Well, it’s no time to remember that I’m a budget traveler… on board.

20:09… Arrived in Angers and Lena was waiting for me at the train station.

20:35… I kick myself for never taking up Yoga as I being to climb into a box that’s about 2 feet tall, 1.5 feet wide and maybe 2 feet long (66cm x 50cm x 66cm). Picture trying to keep a bunch of pasta in an overfilled pot as the water boils. Each of those noodles trying to escape the pot is one of my limbs, the fork that you’re jamming it down with is Lena’s hands (lovingly of course). Eventually you jam everything in there, but you’re certain that some noodles have been busted, others are getting stuck to the bottom of the pot and it’s gonna be a mess to clean up.

Arriving in a Box

20:40… I’m finding that the best position is the one I’ve learned so well from seeing Lamaz classes on TV sitcoms (thank you Friends)… Combine that with the way that stewardesses teach you to jam your head between your knees shall you crash and you get the picture.

20:42… Some final adjustments, as Lena tapes up the box, leaving it on the street with a simple Jade label. She hits the buzzer and runs away…whew, only a couple of minutes now.

20:43… Jade tries to answer the buzzer at the door over intercom… then ignores it. Yep, can’t say I saw that coming. Hmm… Now I’m just sitting in a box in a street in France. Somehow, this isn’t really how I planned it.

20:44… I start wondering how long it takes to run out of air. So let’s see, 60cm x 60cm x 50cm equals 18000 cm cubed… And  that helps me how?
Wait, in Scuba we learned that air is just over 20% Oxygen, and with every breath you only extract about 5%. That means that… That means what?? There’s got to be a way to do this math. Okay, so 20% is about 1/5th… so let’s call it 3000cm cubed of Oxygen. Cm’s cubed can’t be a measurement of gas can it? … Oh thank god, I hear Lena returning… I’m pretty sure I wasn’t getting anywhere on that.

20:45… Lena rings the buzzer and runs away again. Jade once again hits the intercom to answer the buzzer. This time, she also buzzes in whoever’s on the street. I hope that there’s no opportunistic robber loitering around watching this ridiculous scenario… actually, for that matter, I kind of hope NOBODY is watching this scenario. Although if I do run out of Oxygen… Right, so where was I? 3000cm cubed of Oxygen. In each breath how much do I take? Um… How the hell am I supposed to measure that? Even if I wasn’t a overstuffed boiling pot of noodles in a French street I would have issues measuring that.

20:45:30…”Bonjour”? I hear Jade’s voice through the intercom. Okay, this has to be positive. Jade buzzes in the opportunistic robber again. S-O-B!

20:46… I hear the door open… Oh please be Jade. “Que-ce que c’est ca?” I hear her ask to no one in particular. Yes, Wicked. Awesome… and then she runs away.

20:46:15… Are you freaking kidding me?!

20:46:30… She returns, and now I can hear her speaking to someone. It must be Lena. Lena is not saying a thing. Jade goes to pick up the box. Awesome, just what I needed. The first time didn’t work, so she tries from a different angle. It’s really heavy I hear her say to her sister. (Okay, apparently I really should’ve been doing that Yoga before I came out… I swear I’m not THAT heavy!… oh right, she doesn’t know there’s a person in the box)

20:47… One last attempt to move the box, I could be wrong but I swear she just tried to kick it. Who kicks a present? Bad French girl! She asks her sister if she’s just supposed to open it on the street.

Finally she gives up and decides to open the box in the street, she sees a hand holding up a camera, videotaping the whole event… She collapses in the street as she recognizes the camera and the person it’s attached to arriving in a box for her birthday.

Jonny Jenkins

Jonny Jenkins

My name is Jonny, my friends call me Stef. I'm Canadian born, but don't find my identity based upon some borders that man drew hundreds of years ago. I have begun to make my way through the world, travelling and living in many different countries and cultures. I believe whole heartedly in staying longer and going deeper to get the best understanding possible of many different perspectives of life. In order to do so, you have to speak the language. I am no polyglot, but have started to put more emphasis on learning languages in the last few years. I have learned Spanish, relearned French, and started in on Portuguese, German, Indonesian and Malagasy. When it comes to the third world, I am willing to help where they (and not I) decide they need it... in the first world, I am hoping to inspire and motivate people to live more engaging lives.

14 Replies to “Arriving in a Box in Angers, France”

  1. Ulrike says:

    Oh, Jonny…

    🙂 so lovely to read the story! I was so excited to hear the end… It was as if I was in the story, while reading. I was all the time thinking, ‘yes, and then…,’ I laught so hard, because I could hear you telling it and imagine it so well :-). I like your writing and your view of life. I will read more, back at home! You’re an inspirer (very interesting ;-))

    Haha, Jade kicking the present, haha. (I need a tissue because I have tears in my eyes).

    you’re writing makes me smile! Thank you.

    1. Ullie!!!

      So great to hear from you, I’m sitting with Jade, Etienne and Olivia in the little cafe in Bandipur at the moment laughing about the story. We all miss you and had such a great time. We’ve all now officially left the Eco-Park, it would be so great to have a reunion at some point 🙂

      Hope that everything is going great for you back in Belgium and you find your laughing, crying, smiling and adventurous way…

      See you again sometime UUUUllliii

  2. Lee Carter says:

    This is a great story. I thought she was never going to answer the door and you were going to have to sit in a box for hours on the street.
    It’s the days where everything goes wrong that end up being the best stories in the end.

    1. Thanks Lee. To be honest, I was starting to think she was never going to answer the door either… and I completely agree about the days where everything goes wrong. A few years back I used to run on the tagline ‘the best stories always start with the worst mishaps’.

  3. elisa says:

    AMAZING!! HAHAHA… Always thinking “outside the box”… or are you? 😉

    1. Hahaha Elisa, as you can see, I do my best to think ‘inside the box’… I’m just no good at it 😉

  4. Erin says:

    I swear to god I’m going to have to start wearing Depends Undergarments when I read your posts. I could bust a spleen or bladder …or gall-bladder (Can you bust a gall-bladder?) reading these things.

    Disturbing facts:

    A) We are, eerily, similar. It’s like you are reading my fragile, bitterly-sarcastic, semi-deluded mind (if I, too, were stuffed in a box). Going to have to ask my parents if either of them has spent any time in Canada…

    Little bro?

    B) I’m 43. Prime mid-life crisis heart-attack age. I could literally DIE laughing this hard. When Jade kicked the box, I rebusted my gall-bladder (yes, it grew back that quick) and felt a shooting pain in my left arm. I’m no expert, but that seems dire.

    Sick post, man. Adore it!

    1. Erin,

      I absolutely love hearing from you. I’m not sure if you can bust a gall-bladder, and actually think that it’s ‘bursting’ a spleen, but I would never dare to challenge my much wiser older sis.

      So glad to hear that you enjoyed this post, I was wondering if it started to drone on quite a bit at the end or not. Regarding your disturbing facts:

      A) Trust me, it’s oddly settling to hear someone read this post and say that we’re eerily similar. This was certainly one of those days when I wondered if there’s anyone in the world that would be dumb enough to throw themselves into this situation. Okay, granted, it’s the mindset inside the box that you relate too and not the entire set of events prior… but hey, it’s even quite comforting to know that you would as well attempt to dig into equations and fractions learned in younger years to try to figure out just how quickly ‘anecdotal story’ was becoming ‘serious predicament’

      B) Umm… I mean… Y’know… don’t DIE over there. Although, laughing your way into the next world can’t be a bad way to go.

      Thanks for the great vote of confidence 🙂

  5. haha this is fantastic! yes, write more like this 🙂

    1. Thanks Ashley, glad you enjoyed it… and don’t worry, there’re many more ridiculous stories on the way 😉

  6. Gabor Kovacs says:

    What a nice story! Please write more like this! 🙂 By the way, my brother studied for a while in Angers, and I visited him there a couple of times, I loved the area around the lakes. That’s my special connection to your story 🙂

    1. Muchas Gracias. Too cool that you’ve been there, it’s not a place most people know. The river side and the lakes are beautiful. Glad to hear that you have a personal connection… who knows what other seldom visited places we’ve both hit. I get the feeling there’s probably quite a few. 🙂

  7. girjaa says:

    JJJ this is just one of your best stories!! moment by moment, train by train, resole by resole…always keeping the faith!

    1. Thanks 🙂

      It was certainly entertaining (and worrisome) for the people on the other side of it

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