BEWARE – Serial Plan-Ruiner Running Amok in France

I can’t believe it’s already April. I can’t believe it’s already April fifth. The last time I wrote here, it was still March, and it doesn’t even seem that long ago! But there’s a lot of craziness going on right now. I’ll come back to that later because what I’m sharing with you right now is a story per Callaghan’s request. Last week, we went down to visit his family and friends on the French Riviera via covoiturage ride-sharing, and afterward, Callaghan was all, like, “YOU HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THIS.” (The last time I wrote about covoiturage, I praised it for its entertainment value.)

This is our story about being epically late because of someone else.

The idea behind using covoiturage for transportation is that a driver can get you from Point A to Point B because he’s heading the direction you’re going. It’s basically hitch-hiking, but you organize the ride in advance, online. Passengers are picked up and dropped off at designated points along the way, and the whole thing is based on scheduling… if you’re driving south to Cannes and you want to make a little money, you post on the covoiturage site that you’ll be cruising through Valence at 2:20 in the afternoon. If anyone in the area wants to catch a ride, they can meet you there.

So this guy said. And we replied, “Sure! We’ll meet you in Valence at 2:20pm! We need to get to Cannes.” We chose that particular guy’s ride because the time he’d advertised was going to be perfect for getting us to the birthday celebration dinner on our agenda.

Maybe we brought the shenanigans upon ourselves when Callaghan pulled up the posted photo of the vehicle, and we laughed because it was a white van that looked like it should have the words “serial killer van” painted on the side in black block letters. And when we found the photo of the driver, we laughed again because he looked like he belonged with the van.  Do not laugh at the photos of your driver and his vehicle. He will know, and he will get his revenge.

As it turned out, the driver wasn’t hiding bodies in his van. But he was three hours late.

There were four passengers already in the van, and they were all alive. The front seat held a rat (in a cage) and a girl, who were not together. In the middle row sat a woman and a young guy – they weren’t together, either. Callaghan and I climbed in to sit in the back. (We were together. Ha!) We settled in and cracked open our iPad to watch Zombieland again, which seemed strangely apt for the circumstances.

“C’est le Magic Bus!” said the driver, whose name was Alex. Magic, indeed!

The first passenger to depart was Middle Seat Lady. Instead of dropping her off somewhere along the route, Alex exited the highway and meandered around to a specific bus stop in Le Teil. Callaghan was furious.

But since we still weren’t late enough, there was the second passenger drop-off. Front Seat Girl was moving back in with her mother. We exited the highway again and pulled right up to her mother’s doorstep in the middle of Aix en Provence.

This was now looking more like a limousine service than covoiturage. It was also looking like a house-moving service. And like a van with undead people in it. With a rat in a cage, and a driver who’d only gotten two hours of sleep the previous night (true story).

In Aix en Provence, Callaghan and I stood back on the sidewalk to stretch while Alex, the girl and her mother unloaded her things into the house.

The third passenger off the van was the rat, who had come down from Paris. This one was okay… Alex cruised into a rest area in Fréjus, where an old couple sat waiting in their car. (They had my sympathy, because by then, it was 10:30pm. I know I’d be annoyed if I had to sit on the side of the highway at night for five hours, waiting for someone to bring me my rat.)

And half an hour later, Alex took Middle Seat Guy to his stop in Mouans-Sartoux.

That left us. Callaghan, seething mad, asked the driver to drop us off in Grasse, instead of in Cannes, as planned. We’d missed our restaurant celebration, and we were by then entitled to our own special drop-off request. Plus, there was no one left to inconvenience, so it didn’t matter.

We got down there a total of five and a half hours late.

The next day, Callaghan checked the covoiturage website and found an explosion of negative driver reviews for Alex from the hapless passengers of the last two days. People were furious. For two days, from Normandy to Nice, Alex had plowed down through France in his white serial killer van, scooping people up anywhere from three to five hours late and pissing them off. There was only one good review, and that was from the girl he’d helped move to Aix en Provence. She was thrilled with the service she got – as well she should be, since she got personal door-to-door moving service for practically nothing!

I still think Alex might be a serial killer, though, since something about him did kind of set off my serial-killer-dar. Or maybe I was just imagining it because I’m watching The Following right now, and I’m obsessed.

A Tale of Two Clowns

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and with my birthday in between, we don’t differentiate between the celebrations. What’s the point? So we celebrate our way up to January 2nd. Social conditioning is a funny thing, though: Last night, Callaghan announced excitedly, “Tomorrow’s the weekend!” As if we haven’t been lying around doing nothing and going nowhere for five days straight.

The fun began on the 23rd, when we drove down to Nice.

We were on the highway, and I spent the whole time absorbed in Deep Thoughts. The lady in the back seat reminded me of the puppet clown in Saw. She didn’t exactly look like him, but the shape of her face with the position of her round and very pronounced cheekbones gave her enough of a resemblance that I couldn’t resist mentioning it to Callaghan. “Remember the clown in that Rob Zombie movie?” he asked, continuing on the theme, talking about the new generation of clowns. “Completely different from the traditional clowns that were made to look scary.” Our low-toned English couldn’t be heard over the highway noise. The lady and the guy next to her (19-20 years old, long dark hair, goatee) were talking, anyway, totally not paying attention to us. A few minutes later, Callaghan broke into their conversation to ask if they’d ever seen that movie, and lo! The guy unzipped his jacket to reveal a t-shirt featuring that very same obscure Rob Zombie clown! What are the odds? Of all the clowns in the world, I tell you.

France’s organized hitch-hiking system is awesome. You get online and announce where you’re going, and people can set themselves up to catch a ride with you. It’s profitable and fun, and you can end up with the Saw clown and the Rob Zombie clown sitting next to each other in the back seat of your rental car.

 

Saw clown

Saw clown

Rob Zombie clown

Rob Zombie clown