Before you dismiss this post as a bitter attitude toward the plethora of tourists who walk around Europe with selfie sticks, you need to realize that this is a story.
This is a story about Italy and France. This is a story about glory before succumbing to failure.
This is the story of how I ended up with my head in a CAT scan at the oldest hospital in Paris at 5:48 p.m. on a Sunday.
It was already May, aka month five of my study abroad experience. I thought I would leave Europe without a scratch (except, of course, the giant hole that had been shot through my savings account). Classes were complete, and I was on vacation in Italy with three of my best friends.
Life was good.
So good, that we let nearly 2,000 years of history, the amazing homemade pastas, and the break from France’s cold weather cloud our judgment. So good, that we decided to completely surrender ourselves into the tourist persona, to admit defeat just for the sake of a quality photo of the four of us without having to actually ask a stranger to take our picture.
And that’s when the point of no return occurred. With my friend Zazkia’s amazing bargaining skills, we were able to obtain the glorious selfie stick for just 5 euros (down from the original price of 15). We took turns holding the electric blue stick in our hand, joking that we looked ridiculous even though we secretly didn’t care. Suddenly even the most mundane traveling experiences became a game as we attached my iPhone 6 to the holder and began series of crazy “selfie stick” photos.
At this point, you should notice a key plot point: my iPhone 6. The phone that I had quickly become too lenient on since moving to Europe, my only contact with the world back home, the device in which I had used to annoy all 1,251 of my Facebook friends with by uploading an obsessive and excessive amount of photos (sorry not sorry). It had the best quality camera, and since it had been encased in an 80 dollar Otterbox, I figured it would be safe.
Key plot point #2: IT WOULD NOT BE
It was, for a short amount of time. But by the time we made it to Pisa, Italy (aka the home of the leaning tower) the selfie stick was already malfunctioning and my phone had been dropped a good number of times. But being the still somewhat naive 21 year olds that we all are, we kept going. The Otterbox was doing it’s job and the photos we had taken were pretty badass:
We arrived back in France safely and joked about all the photos we would take on our next trip in just a week. We already had it figured out: selfies in front all of Athens’ landmarks and selfies alongside the beaches. It was going to be the perfect continuation of our selfie stick adventures.
That is until I went to send a selfie to my sister back in the States and dropped my iPhone, just one foot in the air. Yes, just ONE FOOT. The salesman who sold me my Otterbox told me its “army strength” casing would protect my phone from heights up to six feet. Again, SIX FEET. I had walked around looking like a nerd with a giant phone case for six months only because I thought it would prevent my phone from breaking. As I sat in my tiny studio apartment crying to my sister about my “biggest nightmare” coming true, I realized I could have been looking a lot cooler and had 80 more dollars to spend on something else.
And that’s when I realized that karma had hit me. I’m not exactly sure if it was my decision to purchase a selfie stick despite knowing I would be shamed by the locals around me. It could have also been the fact that France felt like I was cheating on it with Italy (I might have said I wish I lived there instead a few times…). But it definitely, 100 percent, was not because I was dumb and should have taken better care of my phone…
Either way, I ended up spending two hours online chatting with the folks at Apple Support back in California. This is where I give a huge S/O to Kenny who literally was my knight in shining armor. His sassy comments and reassurance that I would be able to fix my phone was the only reason I was able to keep it together while embarking on what would be the four darkest days of my study abroad experience thus far.
Key plot point #3: I never realized how dependent I had become
My iPhone doesn’t work in France. Instead of paying for an international plan, my parents bought me a little burner phone from France that I would use to do basic things like call sources for interviews or text my friends that I would meet them soon. Most of the time, it’s hard to find public wifi in France, and so my iPhone was essentially useless.
The bright light at the end of the tunnel? I learned that not having a phone was actually kind of nice. I didn’t have to worry about getting it stolen, I didn’t feel the need to be in contact with everyone all of the time, and I realized that I could really avoid a lot of things/people when all I had to say was “sorry, I don’t have a working phone.”
Key plot point #4: Then I realized I was taking a trip to Greece
What was the point of taking over 1,000 photos during all my other trips if I couldn’t finish strong? I needed to get my phone fixed–I needed to go to Paris.
Here’s the thing about Paris: it’s a great city. Honestly, it’s grown on me a lot. So much about Paris is really awful, but there are definitely parts of it unlike any other place in the world. It’s still able to woo and charm even the most hard-headed haters with its beauty and magic. But that didn’t mean I wanted to go back. I’ve visited Paris nine times this semester, and every time I’ve gone I’ve felt incredibly stressed out. It’s a city that is over-stimulating, and after 10 days away from home I really just wanted to spend a few days resting in good ole Reims. But unlike my hometown in America, Apple stores in France are not every 15 miles, and so, to Paris it was!
Key plot point #5: Apple in France is NOT Apple in America
I wonder what the kings and queens of France would think if they knew there would be an Apple Store next to the Louvre. Seriously. You have this amazing piece of history filled with other amazing pieces of history (WHADDUP, MONA) and literally a 5 minute walk away is an Apple Store, a Starbucks, and a McDonald’s–it’s pretty hilarious (also slightly sad).
But it was the only Apple store I knew of so I wondered around inside the two-level store until I was finally able to make an appointment. Two hours later, I was sitting across a wooden table from two Apple employees who didn’t believe my story. They told me I would have to pay 120 euros if I wanted my phone fixed.
And this, my friends, is why I love France.
If I had been in America, my phone would have been covered by Sprint. Again…I am NOT in America…and so, the employees of Apple said they wouldn’t cover it. But luckily, France’s reputation of having beaucoup de flirty men is pretty accurate, and as soon as I smiled and explained that I was just an exchange student with only one month left in France who “really really really needed my phone,” I was signing forms to confirm that I would be getting a brand new iPhone 6 for 0 euros.
At this point in the story, I was feeling pretty good. I may have spent 10 euros getting to Paris, but it was worth it when I ended up with a better updated phone than I had before (for FREE). By the time I left the Louvre, it was 8 p.m. and it really seemed useless trying to get a ride back to Reims. I’m fortunate enough to have friends who just got an apartment in Paris and were nice enough to let me spend the night with them.
Key plot point #6: I’m not very perceptive first thing in the morning
Being a Parisian apartment, the owners had to find interesting ways to work with the space they were given. They built a loft bed that–in my opinion–is a tad close to the ceiling. Can you see where this is going?
After a night’s sleep, I woke up and completely forgot how close I was to the ceiling. An immediate smack on the top of my head left me dizzy and panicked. I had never felt so much pain in my head, and knew that this wasn’t something I should take lightly.
Still, I was a bit scared of having to go to an emergency room in France. I didn’t have any of my insurance documents with me, and I wasn’t exactly knowledgeable about how advanced the French health system was. I googled “hospital” but the one we walked to turned out to be a school for young children (Thanks, France). We eventually decided that I was overreacting and so we put off going to a real hospital.
Key plot point #7: It probably isn’t a good sign when you can’t see out of one eye
We sat along the Seine and while my friends admired its beauty, I sat in agony. My head was still spinning but by now my vision had started to blur. There I was sitting in one of the most beautiful spots in Paris unable to really see it. I immediately knew I needed to get to a hospital. We walked our way toward the hospital where I just assumed they would speak English based on the numerous employees in American hospitals who are bilingual.
I was wrong (this is a reoccurring theme). Flashbacks to 10th grade French hospital vocab played in my mind. Luckily, Mademoiselle Michigan really taught me well because I was able to get the help I needed. At first the doctor laughed at my stupidity, but when he checked my eyes he immediately sent me for a CAT scan. And that was it. That’s how I ended up with head in a French hospital’s CAT scan machine.
Fortunately, my results came back normal. The doctor prescribed me a series of drugs (really, I don’t understand why) and gave me the pictures of my skull as a souvenir (I guess I’ll keep them?). The only good part was that it was 100 percent free and once again I was grateful to France and its people.
Moral of the story: life happens. Whether you’re in America, France, or some tiny island, life will catch up with you. It’s about how you deal with life’s occurrences that really shape the amount of learning and growing that you achieve.
You probably think the connection between my head injury and the selfie stick is a bit exaggerated–and I agree. But the point is, you never know how your split-second decisions will affect your life on the larger scale. I was very lucky to have everything work itself out, but one thing is for sure: I will not be taking the selfie stick with me anymore.