A Journey of 1,000 Steps Starts in the Bathroom

It all started in the bathroom of a dingy Parisian pub.

“Feeling down? Call us up!” the sticker on the toilet roll dispenser said. The ad for an English-speaking crisis hotline was certainly well-placed, as this pub had a largely English-speaking clientele. They had a captive, if slightly tipsy, audience.

As an American living in Paris, this ad spoke to me. Not because I felt I needed to call the hotline (though I mentally filed away that info for later just in case), but because I thought it would be a great volunteer opportunity. Someone who worked for this charity had thought to slap this sticker in the restroom of an Anglophone pub. Since I was in marketing myself, I wanted to be a part of this genius plan.

SOS Help welcomed me with open arms. I updated their website, set up their email marketing campaign and ran a pub crawl of my own to place stickers for the hotline around town. Throwing back pints while supporting a good cause? Count me in!

My tenure with the organization led to more refined events, one being a fundraiser held at the British Embassy. I coordinated details behind the scenes — setting up an online ticketing service, publicizing the event and millions of other to-do’s. The event was called “Writers at the Residence” and featured a panel of well-known English-speaking authors who lived in Paris, followed by a reception of drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

The night of the event, I was working the front door. The front door of the Residence at the British Embassy. I felt really cool. I tried to hold it together — I was one of the faces of the organization and had to maintain security as I checked everyone’s tickets against our guest list — but I couldn’t help feeling awesome.

Then I spotted the bobbing head of Stephen Clarke in the long line. It was easy because he’s quite tall, plus I’d been a fan of his for years and would have been able to recognize him a mile away. I couldn’t believe it. One of our guests of honor was waiting in line like everyone else! How humble. How cool. My fondness for this hilarious writer grew even more.

The event went off without a hitch, and I even scored an autograph from him, like the nerd that I am.

Fast-forward six years… and now I’m being published in the same book as him. Specifically, he generously agreed to write the foreword to the new anthology I’m in, That’s Paris: Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light. I don’t know if he agreed to it because he remembered the frantic girl from the charity event all those years ago, or if he’s just a nice guy who likes to support charities (author proceeds from That’s Paris are donated to Room to Read).

Either way, I’m grateful he’s participating in this project. And if it’s possible, I feel even cooler than I already did. Which has just been undone by me writing that sentence. Merci, Stephen Clarke!


Amazon best-selling author Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising two French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. In her three minutes of spare time per week, she writes, sips bubbly, and prepares for the impending zombie apocalypse. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charming daughter, all of whom mercifully don’t laugh when she says “au revoir.” She penned two books, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, in between diaper changes and wine refills. She writes about the ups and downs of life in the City of Light at VickiLesage.com.