I settled into my seat on the Eurostar after two magical days in London, ready to work during the two plus hour trip to Paris. I’d just had a simple meal, the seat was comfortable, people around me were talking in hushed voices.
The train hurtled into the night through the southern English countryside and into the darkness of the tunnel, to emerge into a rainy France. Suddenly a hailstorm of gravel was raining on the train, the noise deafening. The train ground to a halt. There was total silence in the car; the woman next me gasped and her daughter said “We’ve jumped the rails.” Indeed, the train car seemed to list.
Two bells rang and a female voice said over the intercom “There’s been an incident and we’ve had to stop the train; as soon as we know more we’ll let you all know. Please don’t try to get off the train.” It wasn’t long before the announcement telling us the train had hit a wild boar, and the train was significantly damaged.
There were the expected food jokes (“Miam! Wild boar stew.”); a certain camaraderie reigned as people talked and laughed, shared home movies and music as we waited. There were regular announcements about the crew who’d arrived to rip off the metal piece the boar had dislodged; about the failure to do so and the other crew who’d been called; about the difficulties they were encountering; finally about our imminent departure for Lille, which would take time because the train couldn’t go at top speed. How folkloric, I thought, that in 2012 one of the most efficient trains in the world can be halted by a wild boar. It was Asterix and Obelisk meets Ghost Rider.
We finally made it safely to Paris in the very dead of night, much after our scheduled arrival time. We were greeted with the news that our compensation would be a free trip on the Eurostar; train employees were present to hand out bottles of water; the French police were out to direct the battalion of awaiting taxis, so that all went smoothly.
The situation, which might have turned to disaster, was handled with professionalism and aplomb. My hats off to the French!