Paris and the Butterfly Effect

Once upon a time, there was a boy who had a mild yet irritating case of dandruff. There were times when it went unnoticeable, and there were other times where he would be so conscious of the small white flakes on his black, button-up, French-cuffed shirt that he would go through great lengths to try to rid himself of the subtle skin disorder.

The regimen was simple, but its effects would only last for a few days:

  • Comb hair of excess dead skin cells
  • Wash hair at least twice with Anti-Dandruff shampoo
  • Coat hair in expensive Honey & Oatmeal conditioner bought back in the United States
  • Let stand for 15 minutes
  • Rinse & Dry

The process was followed carefully in an almost ritualistic manner. Normally, the time consumed by the process is not an issue, but on this particular day, the boy had a particular flight to catch at a particular time to the particular city of Paris. He had had enough of Barcelona at the time, and was looking forward to a shift of culture and people for a week during La Semana Santa. However, having been to Paris once before on unplanned detour from having missed a train destined to Lyon several months before, he knew very well how particular the Parisian French can be when it comes to appearances. Dandruff on a black shirt would simply not do, and would certainly be enough to prevent him from being allowed to enter a club later that night with his friends, even if this time his shoes were considered fashionable enough by the doorman.

After quickly packing his toiletries and saying goodbye to his landlord and roommate, he left his small apartment towards the closest bus for the airport, carrying with him his backpack and about 15 minutes of tardiness. He walked through hoards of tourists gathered at the bottom of Plaça Catlaunya, and arrived not quite, but almost to the bus stop. His barrier, to his surprise, consisted of about 70 tourists waiting in line for the same bus as him. The same bus that comes once every ten minutes or so. The same bus that takes, on a normal day, at a normal time, about 35 minutes to get to the airport. It was 4:45pm. His flight was at 6:20. He had planned to leave at 4:30, but as things had turned out, he was 15 minutes late. In Spain, everything runs 15 minutes late. Classes start 15 minutes late, people arrive 15 minutes late. Movies start 15 minutes late. Everything is 15 minutes late, except, of course, for flights and trains. These two things which so inconveniently cost large amounts of money and can affect an entire weekend or trip.

He had decided that if he were not on a bus by 5:00 that he would pay the extra money and get a taxi, in hopes that it would get him to the airport quicker. However, another bus came, and he was on it shortly after five. This was good, he thought. He should arrive to the airport with just short of an hour before his flight leaves.

But then came the forgotten factor of big-city life. Rush hour. The hoards and clusters of cars, motorcycles, buses, taxis, and people. The poorly-timed traffic lights. The crowded intersections and chaotic traffic circles. The slowly processing entrance ramps to the highways. The foreign businessman and tourists slowly struggling with their Spanish as they try to pay and enter the bus, getting ready to fly back home to their who-knows-where cities elsewhere in Europe. The bus moved slowly, and he became anxious and frustrated as the time slowly passed on his watch. Everybody around him seemed calm and tranquil. The driver took his time handing out change and letting people on, and drove slowly. This is how Spain is. Relaxed and tranquil – a slow-paced way of life. Everybody on the bus seemed fine with this but the boy, who was in a hurry. The boy who wanted to leave the city for these exact reasons. The boy who was running 45 minutes behind schedule, as the bus took twice its normal time to arrive to the airport.

The bus made several slow turns in a somewhat out-of-the-way path to Terminal A. He needed Terminal B. Five minutes for people to unload their luggage, five precious minutes for people to slowly and calmly and obstructively evacuate the bus until he was free. Frantically, he ran to the Vueling Airlines counter to try to get his boarding pass, and to his dismay, was told that they had stopped boarding the plane to Paris 15 minutes earlier, and that he would have to go to the other counter to buy a ticket, because at that particular time on that particular day, he was not going to Paris. He was not going to a club with his friends, even with his dandruff-free black shirt.

Fifteen minutes, Fifty Euro, and a phone call later, he was set up to leave for Paris early the following morning. Sadly and reluctantly, he boarded the Aerobus, that same bus which he believed had caused him all of this grief, back towards his small Spanish apartment, and arrived in no more than 25 minutes.

The plane to Paris was almost entirely packed with passengers, minus a few who naturally didn’t make it on time to board. Because of this, the plane was somewhat but almost completely unnoticeable lighter. The flight went as normal. Though it left the gate on time, as with most things in Spain, it had to wait 15 minutes longer than expected until it could actually take off. Perhaps it could be blamed on the mad rush of people leaving on vacation for Semana Santa, but the French pilot subconsciously blamed the laziness of the Spanish traffic control and having to wait a few futile minutes for stragglers who did not make it to the plane on time anyways.

The passengers moved uncomfortably in their cramped discount-airline seats, except for Dr. Jacques Benoit, who, to his delight, had the whole row to himself, as his neighbors seemed to have missed their flight. He sat at the window, his favorite position, and stretched his legs over the adjacent two seats. This was going to be a comfortable flight home after a hard week of medical research in Barcelona, and he felt that he deserved it.

Before landing, the plane gradually descended towards the beautiful city of Paris as the sun set. It looped around the city at an angle that offered Jacques a wonderful aerial view of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Notre Dame. It was good to be almost home. With a sudden yet slight shudder of the airplane due to a mis-estimation of cargo weight, he happily but nervously realized that there was only 200 meters of air separating him from his city.

Within that 200 meters of airspace was flying a butterfly. In its small but determined cluster of nerves that could almost be considered a brain, it had determined that it was to fly East. By East, it was thinking more along the lines of the direction with the wind, which so happened to be in the direction East, as it was feeling kind of lazy that day. Anywhere, it was thinking, could be better than where it was previously that day, particularly in the West part of the city, in the 7eme arrondissement which was full of tourists gawking at the Eiffel Tower. So it flew, and followed the winds. And then, suddenly, the winds changed. It flew up, and down, and spun a bit, having no idea what was causing such sudden turbulence. It was sunny and calm. This was certainly not caused by a storm. The butterfly continued with the winds, wherever they were blowing, and slowly descended until it finally touched something solid.

The solid thing that it touched happened to be, of all things, a young Spanish tourist standing on the Eiffel Tower. How this happened, how it could follow the winds and end up in the same place it had left, was unknown to the butterfly. In fact, it hardly had enough capacity in its cluster of nerves to even notice or remember that it was there the same day, but it did know that it did not like where it currently was, so off it flew again, and as it lifted from the shoulder of the young, almost infant girl standing on the tower, some of the butterfly’s scales fell from its wings on to her neck.

–¡Mira la Mariposa!– said the girl, excited as she saw it fly away. But then, her neck started to itch uncontrollably. She scratched it, and scratched some more until it became intolerable. Apparently she reacted highly to the scales from the butterfly from an unknown allergy, and her skin began to redden and swell. Her parents, naturally confused and scared, rushed her to the hospital.

Dr. Jacques Benoit disembarked the plane, and turned on his cell phone to see what time it was. Fifteen minutes late. He blamed Vueling Airlines, and the pilot of the plane who was surely Spanish and took too much time in flight. It was not a big deal, he was free for the weekend and had no obligations. That is, until he immediately received an urgent phone call asking him to come into work, as there was a case where his expertise was needed. Annoyed but compliant, he caught the first bus he could, which arrived promptly after beating its way through the evening traffic of Paris.

Upon inspecting the condition of the patient, the doctor was not entirely sure what to do. He tried several medicines and therapies, but the rash of the girl continued to spread and worsen. The itching was so intense that they had to restrain her arms to prevent her from scratching and irritating the skin more than it already was. The normal prescriptions were not doing anything, and Dr. Benoit had never seen anything like this before. He was desperate. He simply wanted to go home to his family and enjoy his week off. Still having his suitcase, he reached for his toiletry bag and grabbed two bottles. The first fluid, he mixed with water and washed the skin of her neck with, repeating twice. The second product, he let sit for fifteen minutes. Upon rinsing the film away, it was revealed that her skin had been cured. The itch was gone, and the red color had returned to its natural Spanish-olive tan.

Dr. Jacques Benoit was happy with his findings and the results. It should surely be documented for the improbably repeat occurrence. Fifteen minutes after the cure had been found, and the girl was checked out of the hospital, Dr. Benoit sat down, and began to write.

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One thought on “Paris and the Butterfly Effect

  1. Sumiko says:

    Ayer corté este cuento a medio camino por la llegada de nitbus.
    Ahora he sabido todo lo que te ocurrió.

    Me alegro que lo pasaste bien en Paris.

    Qué te descanses!

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