"20 euros, 20 euros!"
My program friend and I peered quickly at the prices listed on the front of the bike carriage. It was sunset--fierce shades of gold and salmon waltzed across the serene blue canvas. We were looking for the Musée d'Orsay metro stop, but instead became distracted by the touristy bike carriages lining the Seine.
The driver (rider?) of this particular one was animated and insistent. The "non, merci" we offered after scanning the expensive prices didn't appease him. As we kept walking, he shouted: "15 euros! 15 euros! 10 euros!"
My friend turned to me with wide eyes. "He said 10 euros!"
We couldn't pass up such a deal, so we scurried back, soon finding ourselves weaving through Parisian traffic in the back fo a bike carriage. My stomach began to drop as we drew closer to our destination of the Eiffel tower, and it wasn't the exhilirating ride. Damnit Lily, you forgot to clarify if it was 10 euros a person, or 10 euros total. The last thing I wanted was to be taken for an easily-scammed tourist.
It was worse than I expected. Upon arrival, we cheerily handed the driver 5 euros each, as agreed upon. Instead, he showed us the price list taped to his bike, the very one that had caused us to keep walking.
"But no girls--you see the price here. It's 20 euros a person!"
I was fuming. "But you said it was 10 euros!'
"There's nothing I can do--it's my boss who makes the prices."
"But you said it was 10 euros!"
Two can play this game, I thought. "I only have this much money in cash," I declared as nonchalantly as possible. Defiance inevitably edged into my voice.
My friend, the virtuous peacemaker, reluctantly pulled out another 20 euros. The driver reluctantly settled for 30 euros in total. I promptly paid my friend back after the conniving man disappeared.
As we walked away, I couldn't help but wish the scene had played out differently. Man Lily, you could've said we both only have this much money in cash. Or you could've just walked away--what could he have done, chased after? Or you could've asked if the price was for both people. Or you could've never taken the stupid bike carriage.
The unfortunate encounter dampened the mood a bit, but I tried my best to remain empathetic. I had no idea what financial situation the driver was in--maybe he was struggling to feed a family. Maybe not. I just hoped that he didn't enjoy scamming people, and I wished he knew how profound an emotional impact one dishonest encounter could have.
So PSA: don't take the enticing Parisian bike carriages, and remain a healthy dose of skeptical when doing business.
And above all, learn and keep living fully despite negative circumstances. As I drank in the twinkling Parisian lights atop the Eiffel tower later that night, my thoughts were no longer tinged with anger and remorse. Instead, I thought of how vast the world was, how arbitrary human relationships can be, how ephemeral our time was (I was on a basic philosophical streak, okay?), and how determined I was to make the most of my study abroad experience.
I smiled, took one last glance, and began the long stairway descent, back to real life.