It goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t watch ‘Alive’ or ‘Cast Away’ before catching a plane. Maybe don’t watch ‘Speed’ right before you’re due to take a journey on a bus. And definitely not a good idea to watch ‘Jaws’ when a trip to the beach is on the cards. But it doesn’t stop there. Especially if you have somewhat of a colourful imagination like me……
Mere days before we headed to Paris for our first overseas trip as a family, we got the kids to bed and sat down to a movie. We watched the movie, enjoyed the movie and that was that. We continued on with our busy lives, working, planning and packing and didn’t really even think about the movie again…… until we landed in Paris and all of a sudden (in my head), we were in the movie……
The movie was called ‘Taken’. It tells the story of two young women who arrive in Paris for a holiday and are abducted by human traffickers…… Seriously, what was I thinking?
I was not affected by the movie at all. I mean, I enjoyed it a lot but that was it. The thought of ‘could this happen to me?’ never even crossed my mind. I didn’t even really make the connection with the fact that we were going to be in Paris just days later. It was just a movie after all.
Once we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris we headed straight to the bus terminal. We didn’t have any transport to our hotel organised but knew that there were buses running regularly that would take us there.
As we stood near the bus terminal, surrounded by luggage, before we had even had a chance to look into which bus we needed, a man approached us.
Middle aged and wearing a dark tracksuit, he had a thick French accent but spoke English quite well. He asked if we needed transport to Paris and told us he had a taxi and could take us. I said we had too many people to fit in a taxi (myself, husband, two daughters and my mother) but he assured me there was room. I assumed it must be a taxi-van of some sort. Tired and eager to get to our hotel as soon as possible, we agreed.
Now, this is where I first started feeling a little ‘uneasy’. Instead of leading us to a taxi rank, he led us to the underground carpark. I looked around for taxis but couldn’t see any. Then he stopped at a dark van, opened it and threw one of our suitcases in the boot. He wasn’t a taxi driver and this wasn’t a taxi. It was just a stranger and his car…… As Peter helped load (squeeze) the rest of our luggage and pram into the boot, I desperately tried to inconspicuously get his attention and give him the “I don’t think this is a good idea.” eyes. He saw my stress but just smiled and gave me his “It’s fine darl, don’t stress.” eyes. Maybe my lack of sleep was making me irrational……
We squeezed into the car. My mother in the front and Peter, myself and the kids squished into the back. Our 3 year old sat on Peter’s lap and our 1 year old on a very questionable child’s booster seat. We then headed off on what will always be (I hope) the longest 40 minutes of my life.
It was a tense drive. The driver did not speak a word to us the entire time. Peter focused on keeping the girls still, quiet and ultimately safe, my mother happily took in the sights taking a thousand photos and I sat, rigid, staring out the window, my paranoia increasing by the minute until I was completely and utterly freaking out! I had given up trying to get Peter’s attention. After 21 hours of flying, the kids were not very happy having to now sit in a car and were keeping him pretty busy. Besides, he always says I stress for no reason! And I definitely didn’t want to reveal my concern to our potential kidnapper.
My mind was going a million miles an hour. “Are we heading to the city? Where’s the Eiffel Tower? There’s no way it could take this long to get to our hotel in the city. Why won’t this man talk to us or even look at us? Maybe he can’t look at us because he knows what’s about to happen. How could we have been so stupid? Why did we follow him? What do we do?”
We were being kidnapped! This man was taking us to a warehouse where there were 4 other men waiting. With guns. They were going to rob us. Hurt us. Kill us. Or maybe sell us or hold us to ransom. And there was absolutely nothing we could do. We couldn’t take on these big, violent men. And our babies. What about our babies? I felt so, so nauseas.
I’ll never forget my very first real life glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. It was nothing like I had expected. Yes, for the fist second or two that I spotted it, it took my breath away. I did get that ‘pinch me, I’m really here’ feeling. But that was very quickly pushed away by 20 other terrible thoughts and feelings……
I was so busy staring out of the window, desperately, fruitlessly trying to think up a plan, an escape, that I didn’t even notice us pull up outside our hotel. “Oh no. We’ve stopped. He’s getting out. What’s going to happen now.” My mind was racing so much. As we disembarked the car and stood on the kerb, our luggage being set down beside us, I slowly began to realise and accept that we were in fact fine. Safe! We had just caught a ‘taxi’ to our hotel and I had completely ruined my first experience of driving through Paris by being a completely irrational, paranoid freak! Awesome!
But it didn’t stop there……
I got over the whole ridiculousness of the situation straight away. We were in Paris after all. Time to be excited! We settled in to our hotel, had some food and freshened up in readiness to take a walk to the Eiffel Tower.
As I was changing my youngest daughter I dropped her shoe and it bounced under the bed. I bent down, reached under the bed and pulled out A GUN!
I’m serious! There was a gun hidden under the bed and I was now holding it. Immediately my heart started racing.’ What if I pulled the trigger? How did it get there? Had someone planted it? The taxi driver? Was this all part of it?’ I was back in my nightmare……
I screamed for Peter. He raced in to the room to find his wife, as white as a ghost, standing next to his one year old daughter, holding a gun! Finally, for the first time that day he looked worried too! He walked up to me and took the gun out of my hands. ‘Oh no! Now both our fingerprints were on it!’…… He examined it for about three seconds before he started laughing and said “It’s a toy gun! Feel how light it is!” It still took me a fair bit of persuading before I agreed that it was, in fact, a toy. Identical to the ones we saw being sold at Disneyland Paris days later! (Obviously cleaning under the beds is not a priority for that particular hotel)
And that was that. The rest of our trip was amazing and ‘danger free’!
Years later, having now travelled extensively, I am not nearly as paranoid and irrational. In fact, I may have gone a little too far the other way…… (see our post Paris Ring Scam).
The biggest lesson I learnt from this experience (or lack of experience, really), and one that I will follow forever, is – be mindful what movies you watch before travelling!