Before going for my last French exam this afternoon, I half-heartedly revised a few texts in the company of an over-excited cat (hungry and kept inside so I could monitor his tummy troubles).
I arrived at university early. My pre-exam nightmares usually have to do with having forgotten to prepare for the exam, or turning up late. So I usually arrive rather in advance. I waited in the sofas of the French department for an hour, feeling adrenalin accumulate in my body and my heart rate going steadily up.
My teacher greeted me with a sly grin: “So, we’ve picked a difficult subject for you – because if we give you a normal one, you’re going to be bored during the preparation time…” I winced and groaned of course, but in the same time felt quite relieved. She wouldn’t be doing that if there was the slightest chance of me failing my exams – and she had most certainly already had a look at Monday’s written performance (which, of course, I wasn’t happy about at all, as always).
After eating out with my brother to rejoice about the “end” of my exams, I went to listen to Eve Angeli’s free concert near the lake. The supporting act was a very young girl, eleven or twelve years old, with a very beautiful voice. At the end of the show, I went to buy Eve Angeli’s CD (it was on my “to buy” list, anyway, and I’ve finished my exams, haven’t I?) and queued for an autograph.
I was really astonished at how aggressive some people can become for a name on a postcard or a CD. I waited patiently while the crowd around me got more and more compact, and ended up carrying the weight of a fair amount of people on my right side. One woman was encouraging her children to push and squeeze to get in front. I finally gave my bag and umbrella to the mother next to me while I kept an eye on her young daughter and she left the crowd which was becoming frankly oppressing.
I got my autograph rather easily, as it was on a CD. Young Joanna was not so lucky, and I found myself doing something that makes me want to shrink into the earth in embarrassment when I think of it now.
I noticed that one of the bodyguards had picked up a dropped poster and told the owner he would get it back after. My misinterpretation of the situation made a bright idea flash through my head. I grabbed my protégée‘s poster and prodded the bodyguard: “Er, could you get this signed for Joanna, please?” The look he gave me as he answered “no” made me want to vanish on the spot and wish I hadn’t opened my mouth. My only consolation is that I would never have made such an inconsiderate request for myself, or anybody else than the nine-year-old girl whose head barely made it above the safety barrier, and who was desperately clutching a poster of her idol as she was trying to make her voice heard above the din.
I took the bus home. I usually go around by car, but tonight was an exception. I used to take the bus a lot before going to India, and I hadn’t realized how estranged I had got from the public transport system in my own town. A year ago already, when I had just landed home after a year abroad, little plastic cards had made their appearance in people’s wallets. You could use them to pay at the ticket machine instead of cash.
So this evening, I learnt that ticket machines do not return change anymore. I learnt that bus drivers no longer can sell you a ticket if you do not have change for the machine. And I chatted with the bus driver all the way home. About his job, about India and the strange time that country lives in. About being on time and buying tickets before getting on the bus. About 40-hour train journeys. About getting chastized for being one minute late on his schedule.
I got off the bus, took off my chappal (indian sandals, made of leather, do not like pouring rain) and walked home barefoot, to be greeted by a phone call from my brother telling me that the long-awaited contract from orange had arrived in his mailbox. Good news!