We were jet-lagged but happy to be in Paris in spring again. But the first full day we were there, instead of wandering the streets, taking in tulips and new leaves and La Vie en Rose, my husband and I were pounding the cement catacomb labyrinth under the Gare de Lyon. We wanted a week-long Carte Orange, which needed a photo.
After an hour of following one set of directions after another, we found the photo kiosk. It was occupied. A very stylish set of heels sat beneath the orange and gray geometric curtain. So we waited. Leaned against the gray tile walls, as there was nowhere to sit. Watched the few passersby, as this was a truly out-of-the-way corner of the station. Waited some more.
The curtain started wiggling, and we stood up, ready to take our turn. But instead of opening, a black-and-white striped knit shirt dropped behind it onto a leather carryall by the shoes. Coins dropped. The booth lit up. Flash, flash, flash, flash. More wriggling and a gray silk ruffled shirt joined the pile. More flashes. A beret dropped, missing the bag. Then a black cloche hat. We were witnessing a one-woman fashion shoot unfolding in a cramped booth.
We waited on. Began to worry we were wasting precious hours of the trip. Waited some more.
Finally, the curtain swept open and a brunette with careful makeup and a stylish tilt to her head emerged. She glowered at us as she slung the large sac to her shoulder and clicked off.
It was our turn. I went first to decipher the instructions. Deposit a coin, center your head, and watch a count down. Then, do not smile. The instructions, plastered everywhere, read, NO SMILING for ID photos.
After more time, losing coins and sangfroid, we had our black-and-white photo, but also deeply wounded vanity. In Paris, one wants to at least pretend some level of presentability, if not chic. These photos, four on a card, were neither. Top-lit, etching every line, wrinkle and frown mark, the camera had captured two villainous, glowering, elderly pusses. These were not pictures. They were mug shots.
We got the Carte Orange, and that week had a delicious time traveling everywhere—the Tutankhamun exhibit, the African museum, Pere Lachaise, Montmartre, museums, the opera, Ile de la Cite, and Fontainebleau. The weather was cold and lovely, early still. A perfect time.
And as it turned out, no one ever asked to see those ids. So no one ever knew that in March 2019, an ancient Bonnie and Clyde had wandered the streets of the City of Light. And left it unscathed. We tore up the offending passes as we left Charles De Gaulle.
Lucinda's past lives thrash in the rearview, among them TV captionist, children's theater director, opera director, spiritual junkie, piano instructor, and other nefarious activities. Now she writes, works for social justice--ending poverty and book banning--while building gardens in Connecticut and New Hampshire.