The airport of Munich was a real chaos. My parents drove me there early in the morning. They were quite excited about the job, but also worried, especially my dad. He had spent the weekend asking me all sort of questions and nothing seemed to calm him down.
"Where will you sleep?" He asked for the tenth time. I rolled my eyes.
"I told you, we'll stay in the French Selection's hotel, out of Paris" We were watching TV but we weren't paying attention to it. It had been my last night at home before the journey.
"Why do they stay in a hotel if they're in their home country?" He went on.
"Because..." I was losing my patience. "France is a big country and most of them are living abroad and playing for another clubs".
"What will you eat?" I couldn't believe he had just asked that. I sighed.
"Dad, I'm twenty-two, I have a job, I'm a grown up woman. Please, stop worrying"
"Why do you have to go 2 months, if the tournament lasts about a month?"
"Because the selections have to train in the new grounds before the competition, they have to concentrate, get used to the climate, surroundings, so that they're not in a position of disadvantage. The French selection is the host selection and they're also in charge of marketing business, such as sightseeing, special interviews, etc. Will you stop asking now?"
And the weekend passed like that. Questions, answers and more questions. My mom helped me to prepare my suitcase, with all the new brand elegant clothes required for the job. I added some pairs of jeans and tops, plus the snickers, as it was in my plans to have lots of fun doing some sightseeing in Paris. When all was ready I went to bed and dropped the last tears for Hans. I promised myself I wouldn't cry for him ever again.
The international terminal of Munich's airport was full of journalists, tourists and fans of our football selection. I looked for the check-in desk and walked towards it, bringing the huge suitcase and the rucksack with me. My father frowned when he saw a group of cameramen with their equipments and the logo of one of the German TV channels, "Vox". A tall man with a black leather jacket and a briefcase was shouting instructions to everybody. I stopped and waited, knowing that this scandalous person was my new boss. He couldn't be taller and he couldn't be ruder, but there was something about his way of speaking that made me like him. He was like a bear among all the team of young technicians, reporters and now us, the interpreters.
"Just one last question" The grave voice of my father sounded behind me. I sighed and turned around. "Why does the French selection have a German team of interpreters and not a team from each country of the world? You're the personal interpreter for Dupont, but why doesn't he have a British, Spanish, Italian, American, Austrian... interpreter?"
"OK, OK, I get it!" I interrupted, before he named all the countries of the planet. I frowned. It was true. The French selection had an agreement with the Vox TV channel and Eurosport only. I knew it was all about political reasons and decided to leave the question for the end of the championship. I knew that the big man wouldn't like to hear it from a fresh interpreter the first day of her new job. Her first job of her life! "Dad, I don't know, but you shouldn't worry" He didn't look too convinced but my mom smiled.
"She's an adult, a very responsible one. She's leaving home very soon, you should trust her more!" I felt heat in my face and tried not to blush. My parents didn't know about the breaking up and still thought I was moving out the next winter. I scared the thoughts away, as it was the last thing I wanted to talk about.
"You!" A deep voice shouted and I jumped. The huge man was walking towards me, holding a card in his hand. He looked like the busiest person in the world. "Are you one of the interpreters?" I nodded, feeling observed. He raised an eyebrow. "How old are you?" Before I could reply, he passed me the plastic card and turned around. "Come with us, we're checking in, the flight leaves in one hour". I looked at the card. "Press Vox Deutschland", it said. There was a space for my name, but it was empty.
"So... I'm leaving" I said, looking at my parents and hanging the card on my new lilac spring sweater. My dad hugged me, then my mom.
"Take care and call us when you're there" She said. My dad was quiet but smiled.
"I will. See you at the end of July!" I took my things and slowly walked to the check-in desk. The queue was small as we had our own flight. The big man watched me.
"Name!" He said.
"Ilse Werther" He opened a folder and picked up a sticker. It had my name printed on it.
"Put it" His rude manners surprised me, but at the same time I couldn't help to admire him. He was in charge of a huge project here. I did as he asked and waited behind a blond tall girl. I felt nervous.
"Why is this queue advancing so slowly?" She complained. She was dressed in expensive clothes, full of make-up and had a northern accent, probably from Hamburg. I recognized her as one of the TV hosts of a famous German show. Nobody replied her, as they were all too busy. The line moved and I advanced one step. Behind me, a middle aged man spoke on the cell phone.
"I want the crew ready for 8 pm. We'll be broadcasting first time in the morning" His suit was impeccable and he smelled of expensive perfume. I suddenly felt out of place. What was I doing there? I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. It was just a job, nothing else. I thought about all the wonderful places I was going to visit and felt more confident. All I had to do was to listen and translate. That was all.
As the plane took off, I watched through the window. I always requested the window seat, although that time I felt uneasy. The plane was small and I could hear the strong noise from the engines. The wind moved the wings in a scary way and I suddenly felt a bit afraid of flying. There was a man sitting next to me, around fifty years old, who read the newspaper. I saw his card on his jacket. "Press Vox Deustchland, Jurgen Keller". I couldn't tell if he was another interpreter or not,as this was all what our cards said.
"Is it your first time in an airplane?" He asked, all from the sudden. He had a tanned face covered with wrinkles, like someone who would spend a lot of time in the mountains.
"No, of course! This is my tenth flight" I replied. He smiled but didn't look up from the newspaper.
"When I climbed the Annapurna, we went with a really scary airplane, nothing to do with this one" He said.
"You climbed the Annapurna?" I asked, impressed. He just shrugged.
"Yes, it was before I decided I was an old chap and had to find a quieter job" He looked at me for the first time. "Do you ever watch the Sport news at ten? I'm the reporter for the football section". I suddenly felt ashamed. I didn't even know the people who worked for the TV channel, and I was now one of them!
"I don't watch football" I answered, hoping he wouldn't comment anything. I was wrong. He opened his mouth.
"You never saw me on TV or watched football?" I shook my head, ashamed to speak. He put the newspaper down. "How did you get this job, if I may ask?" I knew he would say that.
"I'm an interpreter" He raised his eyebrows.
"I know. This is why I'm asking. You don't watch football but you'll be the interpreter for a player. Does this make sense to you?" He was now smiling kindly.
"I just needed a job, and..." I mumbled.
"Relax, I'm joking!" He took the newspaper again. I breathed again. I felt stupid, he must be some kind of German celebrity and I hadn't recognized him. I suddenly felt scared. I had no idea who the French players were and I had the feeling that I was going to embarrass myself if I didn't do anything on time. "Whose interpreter are you?" He asked.
"Jerome Dupont" I heard him whistling, impressed.
"Do you know him at all? " He smiled. I frowned.
"Actually, I have never seen him before" The man froze and observed me as if I came from another planet.
"You've never seen Dupont! Not even in the news? TV commercials?" I shook my head. "Adidas commercial?" No again. "McDonald's commercial?" He couldn't believe his ears and I started to blush. "God, how did you get this job? Now I mean this question for real". I swallowed.
"A professor from faculty recommended me" He stared at me in disbelief, then browsed the pages of the paper and reached the sports section.
"This is a picture of the French selection" He said. I watched the bunch of men dressed in blue. "Now, try to find him". I observed the image carefully. Before I could check, a stewardess came.
"Excuse me, we're going to experience some turbulences, please, fasten your seatbelts" The man closed the newspaper and put it on the ground. He closed his eyes, ignoring me. I wasn't brave enough to ask for the paper, so I just turned around and looked through the window. I suddenly felt sorry that I hadn't even googled Jerome Dupont.
Paris airport Charles de Gaulle is one of the biggest in Europe, or this they said. I believed it. We were inside the terminal called "the satellite", with its big cupola, and I felt as if I was inside a spacecraft. We were like fifty people from the TV channel, waiting outside the gates, while the big man screamed.
"Most of you already know me. For the new ones, I'm Otto Lindner and I'm your boss, this is all you have to know" He looked at all of us. "There's a bus waiting outside. Once in the hotel, check in giving your press card and that's all. It's already late for dinner so fetch a sandwich somewhere, room service is out of the question, understood? Now, let's go before I lose any of you". I looked around and saw some people walking alone. It could be seen who the TV channel's employees and who the interpreters were. The employees knew each others and hang our together. The rest of us just followed the crowd. I observed I was the youngest and that all of them were men, except a woman with blond short hair who looked like a person who would die for sports, or at least her outfit showed so: sport suit, Adidas bags and a Nike wrist watch. She smiled at me and we walked shoulder by shoulder.
"Are you also an interpreter?" I asked, as we walked outside the terminal.
"Yes, for Didier" She smiled. She was around forty years old and had a really kind face. I wondered who Didier was. "And you?"
"For Jerome Dupont" I said, and she winked at me.
"Look at you, lucky one!" She joked. I wished I could understand what she meant, for I knew none of the players. I really had to do something about that.
"Listen, do you have any picture of the players, by any chance?" We left the bags on the ground, as we waited for the bus, and she looked at me.
"No, why?" She asked. What should I reply to that? She saw my hesitation. "Wait, you don't know the players?" She asked in a shocked voice. Some people turned to watch us and I hoped nobody had listened to that. I decided it was time to be honest. I had the job, so, who cared? Now I was in Paris!
"No, I don't. I don't like football and I just accepted the job because I had to run away from my ex-boyfriend" I spoke fast and nervously. She watched me for a second and then smiled warmly.
"I wish I could help you, but I don't have any picture" We climbed to the bus and sat together on the third row. I looked around, everybody was so busy working with their laptops, writing down things on notebooks, speaking on the phones... I suddenly had an idea.
"Can I borrow your laptop?" I had the hope there would be a wi-fi signal from the airport's Internet connection.
"Sorry, but I don't have one" She apologized, as she picked up a book and started to read. I didn't dare to ask anybody else.
The bus drove through the center of Paris and I observed the streets, the river Seine, the Bastille and all those dream places with such a joy that I almost forgot what was I doing there. We were staying in a hotel in the North of Paris, out of the city. The name was Hotel Val d'Oise and it seemed it was a kind of old palace with gardens, swimming pool and all what you could imagine. It would be closed just for us, the press and the players. They had a training resort especially prepared for the football selection.
When we reached the suburbs I saw the Eiffel tower in the distance and felt an emotion I couldn't describe. I was in Paris and I knew that, whatever would happen with the job, it would be an unforgettable experience. The sunset in Paris was really worth seeing it.
It was already dark when we reached the hotel and all I could see was the illumination of the resort. The old big palace showed up in front of us, magnificent, full of history. It's facade was made of stone, with carved balconies, gargoyles and all sort of decoration. It was rounded by huge gardens with fountains, paths, benches and a nice terrace that belonged to the restaurant. But soon my dreaming state finished, as the big Otto interrupted my thoughts with his strong voice.
"We're here, remember, tomorrow at 7 am I want to see you all in reception, understood? You must meet the players before the first interview" He left the bus and we followed him. In the chaos of picking up my suitcase I lost sight of the kind woman and found myself all alone. The reception was a huge room with high ceilings, marble floors and a stone staircase that led upstairs. A modern elevator spoiled the ancient view and the atmosphere, but I was grateful to have it. After half an hour waiting in the queue, I finally got the keys of my room and it was a third floor. I shared the lift with a bunch of cameramen who spoke about the last classification matches. I wanted to shut my ears and stop listening, but I couldn't. Luckily, they all left on the first floor and I continued the ride alone.
The third floor was silent and almost dark. Small antique lamps illuminated the corridors and I pulled my suitcase through them. The room 313 appeared. 13. Not a good number at all. I put the key in the lock and opened. The balcony was open and the curtains flew with the wind. The view was amazing. Infinite gardens ended up in a forest. The blue light from the swimming pool gave a magical look to the walls of the hotel. I felt like a princess in a castle, if it wasn't for the fact that in 8 hours I had to be downstairs, dressed up and ready to meet Jerome Dupont, and I still had no idea about who he was. I closed the balcony and curtains and turned the lights on. I needed to read his biography, check his pictures and get some information about him. It was my job what I was risking. I felt angry with myself for being such a proud stupid girl who didn't even bother to learn a bit about the man whose life I was going to translate in the next two months.
I went to reception and switched to French-mode, speaking in my second mother tongue. It felt weird, as I was used to German, but it was great to find out I was as fluent as a native speaker.
"Good night, I would like to know where can I get a computer with access to Internet" I asked. The young girl behind the desk looked up at me with bored face. Her vlonf her was carefully combed and her make up was perfect.
"We have wi-fi connection, mademoiselle" She replied, in an arrogant French tone. I was used to arrogance, but I had no time to be patience.
"But I don't have a computer or a laptop" I explained. She didn't even look at me.
"This is not my problem and I'm really sorry. I'm sure that one of your coworkers will be happy to lend you one of their devices" She spoke like a robot and she was getting on my nerves. I took a deep breath.
"Listen, tomorrow at 7 am I'm supposed to meet one of the football players, I'm his personal interpreter and I don't know him at all" I said. She looked up at me with an impatient face.
"Mademoiselle, I don't see how can I help you, I don't have a computer" She informed. I pointed at her desk.
"And what's that, if I may ask?" Her computer was connected, showing an e-Bay page full of Channel bags. The bitch was shopping online at work.
"I'm afraid this is a computer for private use and I can't let you have access to it" She sat down and ignored me, but I didn't give up.
"Look..." I started, but a deep nice voice interrupted us.
"Come on, let the girl check Internet" I turned around to meet a tall man with the nicest eyes, the nicest smile and the most gorgeous body I had ever seen in my whole life. I froze as I checked him. He had short black hair and deep blue eyes. He was so tall I had to look up at him, and I was really tall myself. He didn't look at me but smiled charmingly at the receptionist. He was dressed in jeans and wore a black sweater. I didn't remember him from the airplane, was he another interpreter, a journalist? He was probably a TV host, he had to be, he was gorgeous!
"I'm not supposed to do that" She replied, flirting. I rolled my eyes. I tried to ignore the feeling inside me and how intimidated I was in front of that man, and turned around to talk to her again.
"I'm the interpreter for a player called Jerome Dupont, I hate football and never heard of him before, but tomorrow I'm supposed to start to work with him and as you must understand, I have to Google a bit before I meet him, OK? It's my job what I'm talking about" When I saw the look on her face I thought she had seen a ghost. Silence filled the room. "What's wrong?" I asked. She typed the name in Google and turned the screen to me. I leaned over the desk to take a look. There, in one of the results pictures, and dressed in the blue uniform, was the man who was standing behind me right at that moment. I felt a hot blush covering my face.
"See? It wasn't that difficult to help her " I heard him saying, in a sarcastic tone of voice. I didn't dare to look back.
"Thank you" I murmured, taking my keys and running upstairs as fast as I could. Needless to say, that night I barely slept.