Riding Bikes with Boys

The following incident occurred on my second to last night in Paris, according to the best of my memory. Italicized dialogue was spoken in French. 


Stumbling out of the bar at 3:30 am, approximately three-and-a-half hours after I was planning to be in bed, I set off in search of the nearest public bike-share station. Bikes were my preferred method of getting home after a night out, because taxis were expensive and I always got too tired to stay out until the metro re-opened at 5.

After passing several empty stations (I'm not the only one who favors drunk biking, it seems), I finally found one just up the street from my apartment. As I swiped my card and dislodged the bike from its post, I sensed someone behind me. Turning, I came face to face with a twenty-something bearded hipster who looked like he came straight off the set of Portlandia (denim cut-offs, plaid button-down shirt, tattoo on his forearm - I think it was an animal - you get the idea) - except he was French.  

He was trying to get home too, and asked if we could share the bike. I knew what he had in mind: one person (me) sits on the seat, legs held out to the side, while the other (him) stands and pedals. What the hell? I only had a short distance to go. 

"Okay," I consented, inching back on the seat to give him more space. 

Although I had seen this done many times, this was the first occasion I'd ever actually tried it. It is probably not the best idea, even when sober. I'm not sure whether my co-pilot was just really intoxicated or whether he expected me to steer, but I recall a lot of swerving and me yelling, "You're going to kill us both!" There may also have been some screaming on my part. Thankfully the early hour meant that the street was empty.

With my face pressed against his back, my field of vision was limited to the narrow gap between his torso and arm braced against the handlebars, but shortly I came to recognize my building.


Dismounting from the bike, I realized two things. Firstly, I had no idea where he lived. And, secondly, because the rates are dependent upon the time elapsed since checking out the bike, I could not, in good conscience, leave it with a drunk stranger. But I figured it was worth a shot...

"Can I trust you?" I asked.  

"This bike is under my account. Will you return it to a station?" 

Despite the fact that we had gotten along just fine with Franglish, he decided at this moment to pretend that he couldn't understand me. Fuck. I tried again in French. Still, nothing.

"Ah, you are a tour-eest?" he said, mockingly. 

"I've lived here for a year," I snapped. Adding, for good measure, "I'm not a fucking tourist."

By this point I wanted nothing more than a shower followed by bed; getting into an argument when my money was on the line was the last thing I needed. So, seizing the open bottle of liquor he had placed in the bike's basket, I shoved it into his chest.

"You - take this," I said. 

And, grabbing the handlebars, "I - take this." 

I could tell this was unexpected. 

"You're so aggressive," said hipster boy as he took his bottle and stepped away from the bike. 

By the time I had parked it at the nearest station and returned to the scene of the confrontation, he had disappeared into the night. Probably, I assume, to con someone else into a free ride.