• Mario Alberto Gonzalez Robert

(France) Carpooling with the driver from Argelia

One day, I needed to go from the city of Vichy in central France to Paris to then take another trip, I decided to use a cheap way to travel called "covoiturage" which is becoming very popular in France and in many other European countries its main purpose being sharing a car with a stranger you contact through a website and share some of the expenses of the journey so the cost is usually much lower than the train. This time, I only found a guy who was driving a trailer that made the same journey I wanted to do so I made my reservation.

On the day I went to wait in the agreed meeting place which was beside the parking lot of the train station. I had to wait for half an hour because he was late and I was a bit worried because my French was not very good so I wasn’t sure if I was at the right place and didn’t really know what the trailer looked like. After a long wait and a few SMS the truck arrived, stopped and a man in his forties, thin skinned and lousy dressed dressed, something I already expected having seen the trailer. He told me to put my suitcase in the back which had plenty of room and opened the big container where he kept his cargo, which was composed of large things covered with blankets. I put my bag in and got on the passenger’s seat. We started trying to carry on a conversation but I told him that my French was very limited so he would have to be patient. The first thing I thought was strange was that after going through several small streets and roundabouts, he began to curse a lot, mainly saying "damned fucking country! Why don’t they put signs anywhere!? "Finally he went off to ask at a mechanic workshop where they gave him the right instructions to reach the highway. During the trip we were talking about various things among which I could only understand some like when I asked him how long was the trip going to be to get to Paris to what he replied that he was not sure, perhaps about eight hours but he didn’t really care much, because he’s always got time, that’s why he never wore a watch, cause that’s for people who don’t have time.

In another one of our conversations he asked me about my origins, which I told him as I could and then he told me about his life. He was born in France and lived there until his teens when his family moved to Algeria where he had contact with a totally different kind of life which made him a man of the world. He did not believe in passports or visas or anything like that and said that the world should be open for everyone and that he has no nationality, he is simply a citizen of the world and that's what he answers when asked.

During the trip he also started shouting several times while gazing at the sky, cursing God, which amused me a lot because I learned some explicit vocabulary.

At one point in the journey we came to a gas station where he picked up another man also in his forties who had booked the same trip. He sat in the middle seat of the truck, next to the driver so they began to talk among themselves and gave me a break from my intensive French language session. I was tired and their voices lulled me so I fell asleep and when I woke up the first thing I saw was the driver smoking and I characteristic odor of marijuana reached me. The other passenger asked if I was tired, as if to make conversation to which I replied yes and then, seeing that my French was limited, he began to ask the same things I had already told the driver about my story in a not very fluent English with a very strong and typical French accent.

Another conversation we had was when the driver explained that the things he was carrying in the back of the truck were a series of sculptures that he made with scrap metal for an exhibition in a gallery in Paris that would take place for a few days. I also managed to understand that he often used his truck, together with a group of hippies, to live in and work. Several hours later and no other interesting happenings to tell, we arrived in Paris and the heavy traffic began. Each time we stopped, either for a car that crossed or simply for a red light, the driver began shouting obscenities out the window at anyone that crossed his sight while the other passenger and I remained silent contemplating the horizon.

After a while, as it was getting dark, we entered a narrow street with parked cars on both sides all along and just enough room for a car to pass between them. The driver said "Alright, this is my stop," the passenger asked if he had to unload the trailer that same night to which he replied yes, and then asked him how he planned to do it if there was no place to park, his answer being "well, if there’s no other place, then here it is" he pulled to a full stop, put the handbrake on in the middle of the street, got off and began to open the truck doors to give us our luggage. The passenger asked him how he would do it if he was blocking the way for everyone behind and he replied "if they want to pass they’ll have to help." We shook hands and thanked him, grabbed our things and left, watching the huge line of cars that took up the entire street and a lady in said through the window "what’s happening?" to which the former passenger replied "he is unloading his trailer, it will take a while, we don’t know him, we only shared the ride" and the lady just shook her head in disbelief and said "unbelievable". The guy told me then "let's get out of here quick cause five minutes more and this is going to get violent" and went to find a subway station where we said goodbye and each went our separate ways.

Notre Dame from the walk next to the Seine river


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