Montreal is a pain in the ass to get to from Boston if you don't own a car. Though the flight is only about an hour long, it will cost you over $300 to go. The bus takes two hours longer than by car and will cost you a lot if you don't book two weeks in advance. And, don't even think about taking the train unless you want to pay more than a flight and travel down to New York (read: total trip is about 20 hours).
So, with the usual options exhausted, I have been slightly more creative (and it has paid off). Craigslist.org has this awesome little feature called "rideshare" where people post where they are going and when if they want someone to come along and share the cost. Kind of like the new hitchhiking, in a way, though probably (only slightly) less dangerous. Despite the initial fear of getting into a car with a stranger, rideshare has been my preferred method for getting out of the city.
I was amazed when I discovered that there is someone going to Montreal literally every weekend. I don't know what it is, but people go there a lot. Which, for me, is awesome, because it pretty much guarantees me a ride whenever I need one. Except, this weekend, it didn't.
I had been scanning craiglist for over a week with no luck. There were tons of people needing rides, but no one giving. So, I figured I would rent a car, email everyone who needed a ride, and essentially charge enough to cover the cost. It was kind of a pain in the ass, but I figured, what the heck--I can go to Montreal for free (or cheap), so, no big thing.
Within an hour I had 3 people who were definitely interested in coming with me--one Italian guy named Lorenzo who is visiting Boston for a summer internship, one Chinese guy, Jing-Ou, going to visit his wife, and a French woman named Giselle, who asked me how big my car was because she had a lot of luggage. I should have recognized from the start that Giselle would be a bad egg, but sometimes the nice, polite Erica gets in the way of Common Sense Erica, and sometimes it isn't pretty.
The French Woman informed me that she needed a car with a really big trunk, as she was flying back to Paris from Montreal and would have a lot of luggage, and asked me if I could accomodate. I was planning on renting the smallest, cheapest car I could find, but I told her if she wanted to pay the difference in cost, I would rent an SUV. Mistake #1--Erica shows that she is flexible.
"Don't worry. I will pay the big extra," her email said, "but I would like to meet you first."
Okay, I thought. Rideshare can be a little intimidating, especially when you aren't from around here. I can go meet her and ease her mind. (Mistake #2--Giselle learns that Erica is a sucker). So, after work, I go buy my weekly groceries and catch a bus to the nearest stop (which just happens to be about a mile away from where we said we'd meet). I'm a big fan of walking, though, so I tucked my baguettes under my arm and hiked over to the Boston Public Library, our designated meeting place. She had said that her hotel was nearby, and that I should call when I got there. Which is what I did.
Giselle (in her little French accent): "Hi Erica. I have an appointment from 7:30 until 9:00. Could we meet tomorrow?" (It is now 7:29).
Erica: "Um, I'm already standing in front of the BPL, like you said..."
Giselle: "Oh. Well, is it hard for you to get there?"
At this point, I'm thinking, what the fuck? She asked me to meet her here, and then doesn't even call me ahead of time to tell me she can't meet me anymore, and has the balls to ask if I can meet her another time. Grrr.
Erica: "Yes Giselle. I don't just live around the corner...I live kind of far away" (which technically isn't a lie, but isn't really the truth either).
Giselle: "Okay. I will come then"
Less than five minutes pass before I get a phone call from Giselle.
"Where are you Erica? I don't see you"
Erica: "I'm on the front steps, where we said we'd meet. I'm wearing a blue sweater and carrying two baguettes under my arm" (which, at this point, are getting kind of mushed in the heat).
Giselle: "No. I don't see you. Where are you? I'm on my bike. Do you see me?"
Erica: "No, I don't see you. I'm at the front entrance in front of the statues"
Giselle (in a pissed of and kind of whiny voice): "I don't understand what you mean. But I'm at the front entrance and I don't see you and I don't have time for this. I have to go. Where are you?
At this point, I'm a little miffed. I realize that she is not at the the front entrance, and is in fact probably at another entrance. I tell her to stay put, and that I will walk around the block to try and find where she is.
Giselle: "I don't have time for this," she yells into the phone, as I see her riding her bike down the street, coming from the back entrance to the library. Already things are not going well. I flag her down and we move up onto the sidewalk where she introduces herself and proceeds to harass me about what type of car I have and whether or not it will fit her luggage. I tell her that I won't know what exact car we will get until I go pick it up, but I assure her it will be big enough.
"But I need to know what kind of car so that I know my luggages will fit," She says. She asks me to call and confirm with her tomorrow what exact car we will be getting (despite what I told her in the previous sentence), then suggests we meet again before hurrying off on her bike. I don't like being yelled at by a stranger and I feel used. I know I will not be meeting Giselle again before the trip.
The following day I get a call from Giselle telling me that she cannot meet me in Central Square (where I told everyone else to meet) because her luggage is too big to take on the subway. She wants me to pick her up. Downtown. During rush hour. On a Friday. When I don't know how to drive in Boston. Like the sucker that I have proven myself to be, I say yes. But, at this point, I am about fed up with the French woman and her giant luggage.
After chewing on the situation all night, I decided that it is time to stand up for myself. I am going to make Giselle take cab (which isn't asking much...it is really only a mile from her hotel). So, at 8 a.m. I call her. No answer, and no way to leave a message. At 9 I call again, and get the same. Every half hour I call, and every half hour I get denied. I panic. I'm supposed to meet everyone at 4 p.m. with the car, and I really don't want to spend an extra hour in traffic downtown picking up the French woman. Finally, I email her and tell her to call ASAP.
She calls me around 1:30 and I tell her that she is going to have to take a cab. I tell her that it isn't really that far, and the ride will only be like $10.
Giselle: "Are you sure its only $10?"
Erica: "Around $10. Not more than $20, but more like $10.
Giselle: "Well, what is it, $10 or $20? I'm already paying you $100 extra for the SUV and now you are asking me to take a cab there as well? This is a lot of money, Erica, and I don't like it. You said you would pick me up." (What the fuck, I'm thinking...I'm already going to have to pay more in gas for this huge hog of a car that she wanted to rent, and she is harassing me about taking a cab to the spot where we were supposed to meet in the first place. Not to mention the fact that I am not a chauffeur service and did not need her to come along in the first place. At this point, I am really wishing that I had said no to begin with.)
Erica: "Giselle, I am leaving from Central Square at 4 p.m. I am not picking you up. You either take a cab, take the train, whatever you have to do to get there. If not, I am going without you" (Okay, I only wish I had said this...it was probably something more like "the cab ride will only be around $10. Thats all I can say.")
So, in the end, she shows up, crams her luggage into the car (two large bags, several smaller but largish bags, and a massage table) and hops in the front seat with a couple of other bags. I'm not happy about having to ride with her in the front seat, but I can deal. We leave Boston in a timely fashion, and proceed to drive 5 miles per hour for the first two hours of the trip due to the weekend traffic and a freak hail storm. At this point, I am really stressed out. The traffic is really crawling, the radio sucks, I have no CDs and I feel shitty about the whole Giselle thing. I remember to practice my Aikido, to relax, and breath.
On the way, Giselle tells me that she just broke up with her boyfriend of six years and is moving back to Paris (from New York) to spend some time with her family. She seems on the verge of tears, and I start to feel bad that I was so hard on her...maybe she is just upset over the break up. That is such a shitty situation to be in, and she probably just feels vulnerable and is trying to look out for herself by being straight with me. I'm sure that the language barrier probably has something to do with it too. I feel like an ass.
That is, until hour 2.5 of the trip, when Giselle leans over to me and says:
"I forgot to tell you something. I have a friend." A friend? What the hell does she mean by that? I watch as Giselle reaches over to unzip one of her bags, and out pops the ugliest little Shi-tzu dog I have ever seen, complete with gross dog noises and smelly breath.
"Her name is Fifi."
At this point I am utterly amazed at this woman's capability to keep on sucking. I mean, I could have had a deadly allergy to dogs for all she is concerned (or one of the other passengers, anyway), and she should have said something before hand. How impolite can a person be? At this point, though, I'm beginning to wonder how long it will take me to learn the lesson. I continue to regret bringing her on the trip.
So, we finally get into Montreal several hours behind schedule, stressed out and tired, and I go to drop everyone off at the metro station, as planned. Except, Giselle has a problem. She has too many luggages. She needs me to take her (and her dog, and her luggage) to her hotel. All she has is a street name, and I have no idea where it is. I am hating life at this point, and just want to go to bed.
A stronger person than me would have just left here there, luggage and all, to get a taxi and fend for herself. I am not that person, though. So, I called Gabe, asked for directions, took her to her hotel, unloaded all of her crap out of the back of the car, stood around while she ran across the street to see if the other hotel had cheaper prices (while a completely shady dude walked by three times eyeing her stuff), then helped her move all her luggage inside.
"I'll email you the next time I come to the U.S.. Maybe we could get together," she says. Yeah, right. So i can drive you around again. That will happen. It was a completely surreal experience, and a lesson in standing up for oneself. Needless to say, I am glad to be done with the French woman.
(On a side note, she emailed me the following day to let me know that she left her sunglasses in my car and asking where we could meet so that I could give them back. I decided to ignore the message and keep the glasses as my fee for putting up with her bullshit. I think though, that it wasn't really adequate compensation, but I am willing to take it).
The weekend was fun otherwise, and now it is back to work.