Part II of Soeur Catastrophe: An International Terror is Born

Please read Soeur Catastrophe Part I for all the details on how we got to Paris.


The rest of the ride to Paris was spent in fear. We had no money, no connections and 29 pieces of luggage between us (OK, maybe only 25). Another mission rule is that companions must never separate (for safety) but I decided under the circumstances, this one would have to be broken. There was no way we could both go for help while dragging our sundry of suitcases all over Paris.

We arrived at the Gare de Lyon and disembarked. In typical “Murphy’s Law” fashion, we were at the opposite end of the platform in a very large train station. We proceeded to slowly drag our suitcases to the main terminal, upon which time I told Soeur Tate I was going to find someone who could help me make a collect call to my mission president.

Note for all the youngins: Before the age of cell phones, you had to pay for calls made on public phones. If you did not have a long-distance calling card or coins, you could call the operator to make a “collect call,” the operator would call the number for you and ask the person if they would receive and pay for the call.

Soeur Tate nodded nervously when I said I was leaving her and I told her not to talk to anyone. No problems there. She looked terrified.

And so I ventured out into Paris by Day. I stopped everyone I saw and ask them how to make a collect call. Most stared blankly back, some suggested I use a calling card (that I did not have) and the rest told me I could get help at the post office across the street.

Now, “across the street” was a relative term because it was a lot farther than merely crossing a boulevard. As I set out on my Walk About, I continued to stop anyone who dared to make eye contact for advice. No one provided it. Parisians do not have their stellar reputation for nothin’.

When I finally arrived at the post office, it was packed. Evidently, I had chosen the worst possible time to make my little side trip to Paris: it was tax day. I patiently stood in line for AGES and upon arriving at the guichet (window), the worker snidely told me she could not help me and I would have to go over to Guichet No. 3.

I. Lost. It. As in let’s-admit-this-chick-into-a-psych-ward kind of lost it. Because upon arriving at Guichet No. 3, NO ONE WAS WORKING THERE. All that remained was a poor guy in front of me in line upon I unloaded my entire sob story.

Just as I was getting to the climax, I remember hearing very distinctly in English, “Sister, how may we help you?”

I turned and stared. When what to my wondering [blood-shot] eyes should appear but two Elders (male) missionaries from the Paris Mission.

Now, another mission rule is no physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Since I was on a roll with rule-breaking, I jumped up in the air, grabbed the 20-year-old Elder by the tie and screamed, “Elder, I PRAYED YOU HERE.”

Turns out, it was their transfer day as well and they had run into Soeur Tate at the Gare of Lyon who explained to them that her travel companion was going to perform the next Paris Massacre (or rather, the first) if I was not helped.

The Elders were happy to oblige. They called their mission president who connected with ours and wired us some money to buy a return ticket. We then called our mission home. By then, they knew we were MIA because both of our assigned companions had been waiting in Lyon for hours.  I downloaded the day’s events to one of the elders in typical frenzied fashion and after about 10 minutes, I heard stifled laughter in the background.

“What is that noise?” I accused the young missionary.
“Nothing, Soeur Borowski.” Liar.

The entire mission home had gathered around for Soeur Catastrophe’s latest catastrophe.

When I walked back with the elders to the train station, Soeur Tate was glowing, holding a rose and looking like she’d just stepped out of a chic Parisian magazine, juxtaposed against her Tasmanian Devil traveling companion.

“Soeur, where did you get that rose?” I asked haltingly, trying to be nice but inwardly seething.

“Oh, this French man saw me standing here, didn’t say a word and just handed me the rose. Aren’t the people here just so nice?”

It was the first (and only) time I kept my cool that day.

I had tried to convince my mission president to let us stay the night–my Missionary Training Center companion Soeur Simms was serving in Paris but we were wisely counseled to get on the next train and back to our mission boundaries.

When we finally returned really late that night, we were met by our companions and two elders. Yesterday, Soeur Tate sent me this photo. In case you hadn’t figured it out, Elder Wright was a fellow Canuck.

And then there’s Soeur Tate still holding that rose. And me with my fake smile.

No comment on that one, either.

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