Long long ago, there was this girl who had a small wish of seeing Paris. Since she was in the UK anyway, she feels this is her best chance to make that wish come true. She speaks to some of her friends who have already made the mandatory trip from UK to France, does some research on the net and sets out on her journey. Wait a min.. being an Indian, she needs a visa (why can't we just travel freely??). And back then, there were no telephone appointments, so she is told to go really early (as in the night before) and stand/sit/sleep in a queue outside the French Consulate in London in order to get a visa appointment. For most people, this would be a pain, but for her, it was the beginning of an adventure. So, she finishes her work for the day, gets into many layers of warm clothing - it is mid Dec; it is not snowing, but it can get really cold in the night - and sets off, without listening to her worried manager's advice of taking a blanket along.
She reaches the Consulate to find a whole lot of people already queued up, with some of them bringing their tents along.. those who hadn't, were gathering cardboards, newspaper and such to make their place on the footpath a little more bearable. It dawns on our protagonist how ill-prepared she is; sometimes, our managers are right afterall! With the Euro-star tickets already booked for Christmas Eve, there was no looking back. She finds her place in the queue between a Chinese girl and a Pakistani family - talk about being neighbours :)
The best part about travelling alone is, it is much easier to strike a conversation with strangers than when in a group. There is no other go, actually. So the neighbours start talking about why they are making this trip - the Chinese girl wants to meet her mother who is in Paris and the Paki family is going on a vacation. Unable to bear the cold, the Chinese girl pulls out a cigeratte and starts smoking - this is the first time the Indian girl is seeing a girl smoke - and from such close quarters. Even with her Bangalore upbringing, she had only heard about women smokers but had never seen one. Without Orkut or Facebook, the only way to share this new discovery of hers is to call up her dear friend in Bristol and give an update. And there was more to come.
Now, the Indian girl is unable to bear the cold, what with frost all over the place. She looks around for shelter and finds a telephone booth - ah! what an idea. By this time, the Chinese girl has left. Having told her new neighbour to keep her place, the Indian heads to the telephone booth and makes herself comfortable - she even manages to stand there and catch some sleep. She is woken up after a few hours by some guy who wants to use the phone. Wonder why all those other people in the queue did not think of this idea! On second thoughts, good that they didn't. There weren't enough booths to accommodate everyone.
It's finally morning.. a hot cup of coffee brings some warmth. People have started moving around; a desi manages to pick up a fight with his Q-mates and the police have some work to do. Our girl eventually gets her visa appointment for a couple of a days later. It is afternoon by the time she heads back to work - with her hands and legs pink due to the cold, and the manager red due to his concern mixed with anger!
I don't know if I would go through another adventure like this.. but whenever I think of it, it fills me with new energy :)