The Jotter Pages posts are a glimpse into one of my many notebooks. The italics are the actual writings from my jotter. The roman type are my comments today. This entry takes place on a sleeper train from Paris, France to Florence, Italy on October 5, 1984.
Rain. The train arrived today almost 1/2 hour late to Florence. I am so tired due to having the worst night’s sleep. I was in a compartment with 3 men on this trip. Two Frenchmen and an American. The cabin had two bench seats facing one another with the window at one end and the doorway to the hall at the other. At bedtime, people got into their pajamas and waited in line to brush their teeth at the end of the corridor. I would never think of putting on my pajamas for an overnight train ride. After last night, I am glad.
Our seats were converted into bunks and I slept in the top. At some point in the night, the man who slept across the aisle from me reached over and put his hand in my bed. At first I thought I was dreaming, then I moved and felt warm flesh. I turned on the cabin light and there he was leering at me. I could only stare back. With my heart pounding, I turned the light out and it was not long before he tried again. I quickly jumped out of my bunk while cursing him and trying to turn on the light. I panicked when the light would not go on so I burst into the hallway and was relieved to find a border policeman approaching. I told him what was happening and he shook his head not wanting to get involved. I stepped back into the cabin and woke up the American in the bunk below me. I told him what was happening and asked for his help. He very casually spoke in French to the man in the bunk and then told me that this is just something that happens when a Frenchman sees something beautiful, he wants to touch it. Angry and afraid, I got back into my bunk but didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. I lay as close to the cabin wall as possible to keep the distance between us. I was scared but thankful I was dressed, as my clothes felt like the only thing on the train protecting me. The next morning the Frenchman didn’t look at me but once and I gave him a death stare.
I think back to those days of travel and I am amazed. Back then, there were no cell phones, I didn’t have a credit card or debit card just Travelers Checks. There was not such thing as cash machines, internet or faxes as far as I knew. I would be gone for weeks at a time and every now and then I would call or send a Telex to New York and let my family know I was okay. Rarely was I afraid while traveling by myself. It was all a wonderful adventure.
Today I have a wallet full of credit cards and a smart phone but sometimes just driving to the gas station scares me.