Road Trips with Joffre: Part 1


DISCLAIMER: Dad, if you are reading this ... I didn't write it. 


Part 1: Reims to Beaune

I met Joffre by chance. He was not supposed to be mine, but through a series of mix-ups and mishaps, our paths crossed. I hadn't realized that an automatic car was so hard to come by in France and was so much more expensive. Everyone here drove stick. I did not. Thus, Joffre was all that remained. 

A grey, modest, four door car - spacious and comfortable- he had clearly been worn in and he was severely outdated in terms of mental cabability (navigation). He had a superior British accent and spoke to me in that gentle yet, matter-a-fact, butler type way. We had several issues right away. First of all, he talked to me as though I understood the metric system - meters and kilometers - and I assure you, I do not. This was not good. I barely could follow directions from Siri in feet and miles. I was virtually inept perceptually in this area. (I can see my brother shaking his head right now, because, to him, this sort of thing is an innate skill that only misfits are born without, but it's true - I don't have it.)

Also, can I just say how outrageous driving in France is? Frist of all, there are no double, yellow lines. In fact, there are no yellow lines at all. Only white dotted lines, so it was almost impossible to tell a one-lane, two-way street from a two-lane, one-way street. I managed to avoid a handful of head on collisions while trying to turn left in a lane that I should not have been in.  More than dozens of wrong turns were made as Joffre instructed me to turn in 250 meters, like I knew what that meant. 

At first, I thought there might not be any speed limit in France because I had yet to see any mention of a thing. I passed a white circle, outlined in red, with "110" written on it. 110?! That surely could not be the speed limit. But cars were whizzing by me. Drivers are not too keen on disguising tailgating in France. Highbeams on in midday with their bumper against yours and you got the point. After a ways, and seeing many more circular signs reading 90 and 70 and 130, I figured that this must be the speed limit, so I sped up. (It wasn't until at least 2 hours in that I realized this speed was kilometers per hour and not miles.)

There were all sorts of road signs that meant nothing to me. One - a triangle, yeild-type looking sign (only it wasn't because those were different) with an exclamation point on it. Just "!" Okay? And, I am supposed to be excited about what exactly ...? There were blue circlular signs everywhere with a red slash through them. I assumed the slash meant "no" or "don't", but I could draw no further conclusion except for "dont' blue."

I had a four hour road trip in front of me down to Bourgogne, so I had better get the hang of this thing fast. I switched the radio until I recognized something and settled for Nikki Minaj (ugh) because, well, it was American. 

A funny thing happens, even after 3 days, without anyone to talk to ... and that is that anyone, really, will do. Joffre and I bickered for the first 30 minutes trying to work out each other's differences, but by hour one, we had settled into a peaceful routine. 

J: "In 400 meters, at the roundabout, take the second exit." (please read in a british accent)

My God, how the French like their roundabouts. There was one at least every 2km (no, I do not know what that translates into in miles), the entire way. Everywhere - on little roads, major roads, highways, neighborhoods. 

Me: "Why, thank you Joffre."

J: "Turn. Right. Now." (please read in a British accent)

{screaching breaks and a sharp right turn}

Me: "A little slow on the draw there, Joffre!"

By 1:30pm, Joffre knew me better than some of my friends and by hour 2, I was serenading him with Total Eclipse of the Heart in English while the radio blasted it in French. Joffre and I had become kindred spirits. He was the Wilson to my Castaway, and I, his Tom Hanks. It wasn't long before I had settled into driving and was cruising down a back French road, (shamefully) dancing to Katy Perry's birthday song. That's when I saw the light flash. Oops. I asked Joffre what happened when you got a speeding ticket in a foreign country in a foreign, rental car, but he didn't know. I guess we will see. 

Well into hour 3, we had a major falling out when Joffre decided to spew nonsense. The trust relationship was broken.

J: "At the roundabout, take the second exit."

Me: "There is no roundabout here, Joffre..."

J: "If possible, make a U-Turn."

Me: "It's not possible,  Joffre!!"

J: "Make a U-Turn."


J: Silence

Me: "Come on man. Get it together. I'm driving blind here."

J: Silence

Squinting and trying to cover the screen of the Nav Guide to see what was happening (which by the way, went completely dark whenever the sun was out - severely inconvenient), I could barely make out the words, UNMAPPED ZONE, where the street name was supposed to be. 

Me: "What do you mean an unmapped zone!?"

J: Silence

Me" "You know what!? You are off the team! Off. The. Team. My friend!"

Needless to say, we were not on speaking terms after that. I was forced to cheat on him with the very costly, roaming and snobby Siri. Turning her on, she took over right away in an arroggant way that seemed to say I knew you'd need me. We drove in silence for 45 minutes until I couldn't take it anymore. I missed Joffre and decided to give him another chance. We settled our differences and he was able to pull it together to get us safely to Beaune. 

I knew after that, it was going to be very difficult to part with Joffre come May 24th and that we may have to run away together.