At 2:50 AM on the 22nd of Jan 2015, I boarded my Air France flight to Paris. I was heading to the US for an official trip of 6 weeks. My first flight was uneventful. I reached Paris at about 8:45 AM. I was all excited about being able to converse in French here. Even though it was just the airport, it was so much exciting to see all the signboards in French that I could read and understand without a translation. But what I had no clue of was that my French was just about to be put to one of the most difficult tests of all time.
As soon as I found the gate I was about to board the next flight at, I walked into a nearest store that sold Charlie Hebdo Magazine. I bought their most popular latest edition that had a green background with a cartoon of Mohammed holding a sign board saying - Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) and a text below saying - Tout est pardonée (All is forgiven). I wondered if everything could be forgiven that easily. Perhaps its a sign of being a superior human to forgive an act of terror as compared to reacting violently to sarcasm. I saw the difference and realised that the message was powerful.
I stopped by a restroom to freshen up and while returning noticed that I had lost my wallet. I ran back to the restroom but did not locate it. I was terrified. The wallet had my credit cards and drivers license without which i would not have been able to do anything in the US. I traced my path back to where all i had been before loosing it and found nothing. "This is not happening", I kept thinking. I ran back to the restroom to check again. There were two janitors there all the time waiting outside so i decided to ask them. One of them was an old lady of asian origin and another guy perhaps of Moroccan or Algerian origin. I did not bother to check if they knew English and directly spoke to them in French. They told me that a Spanish passenger had found it and he was looking for me. I suddenly saw a sign of hope. I calmed down and started to think how the passenger might have thought. If I were him, I would go to the nearest Air France counter and check for the passenger by the name to whom this wallet belongs. So I do that. Two French of African origin greet me. French comes almost automatically to me as if I have been speaking it since birth. I explain my situation and waste no time in telling them that a Spanish passenger is looking for me. They ask me for my name and flight details and tell that they shall let me know if they found anything. "Mais, c'est bon que vous parlez français", (But it is good that you can atleast speak French) he adds before I leave indicating that I might somehow manage to find it with the help of the language.
I then try checking at my gate. Another French lady of African origin greets me and I explain my situation again. I kept mentioning the word « Wallet » and seems like thats not the word in French. She has trouble understanding. I try « Walley » thats like Wallet with a French accent. Doesn’t help. So, I explain the word wallet with several words. « Porte d’affaire » she says. She quickly calls other counters and gets a negative response. I request her to make an announcement but for some reason she can’t make such announcement. So I decide to go hunting. I go to another counter and check. They ask me to check at customer service. On my way there, I spot another airport employee who helps passengers with questions. For some reason, I felt like checking with him. When I ask him he expresses an excitement and asks for my name. That verified, he hands me my wallet. I thank him but he requests me to check if it had all. I take a quick look. He requests me to check everything in detail. I do and find everything okay. He tells me later that the passenger found it in the toilet and then goes for smoke and then approaches him and hands over the wallet and goes away. He was about to hand it over to the nearest AF gate and locate me. I thanked him. The two AF employees at the first gate I verified wave at me with joy and give me a heads up as they watch me collect my wallet. I also thank the lady at my gate for trying to help me. She seems surprised that I found it. Half the people from my flight had already boarded. I had to run but I was happy.
I have lost my wallet before. I did not panic much though I was worried about the inconvenience it might have caused. So it was not to find the wallet again that made me happy but the fact that I spoke entirely in French for the last 30 minutes that I was in Paris. I will never forget this event and I shall never forget this exam I had to take which I think i passed with flying colors.