A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Eiffel Tower and Polish Pilgrim

I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower today. It was pretty crowded, but well worth the wait for the view of Paris. But the coolest thing in my opinion was the apartment the M. Eiffel had at the top. I think I read about this before, but they’ve placed effigies of Eiffel and his daughter Claire entertaining–get this–Thomas Edison, who, in the English translation, is listed as an ‘American physician and inventor.’ My co-worker Livia said I should look at the tower as a high-tech marvel of its day, and certainly the idea of having Edison at the top indicates this. Plus, there were many posters describing interesting facts about the tower, many of them scientific. I was really quite impressed with the engineering feat; it’s no small thing, even today.

M. Eiffel in his studio

My plan afterwards, such as it was, was to walk along the Seine to the Nortre Dame train stop and return to the airport. But it started to rain very hard, and I was caught in it. I was able to duck under the canopy of a restaurant, where I noticed this guy who was also caught in the rain:

Polish pilgrim

Sensing that it would be interesting, I invited him to have coffee with me. Actually, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer while I had a cafe au lait. His name turned out to be Wocial (VOchal), and he is from Poland and speaks very, very little English, no French or Spanish or German, nor did he seem to understand my poor attempts to use churchy Latiny words. I speak no Polish, so it was great fun trying to communicate. We managed to talk about family (he’s married and has three children; a politician, a hairdresser or barber, and the third does something else. He’s on a pilgrimage (well, I knew that from the clothes); almost understood me when I told him I was an ‘Anabaptist.’ I never quite understood his pilgrimage, but the bar keepers laughed hard when he came in. Thanks to Karel Capek, he knew that I have worked with robots; I showed him my NASA business card, and he told me he’d seen the Discovery explosion on TV. He asked my opinion of Bush; things get real simple when you can only gesture thumbs up, thumbs down.

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