Thursday, July 23, 2009
Paris - Day 4
Wednesday morning, I had it all planned out: plane departs at 12:15 pm, get to airport by 10:15, get on train by 9:30, be on subway by 9:00. I had woken up before 8am and paid for the previous three nights (Zach and Summer were staying for another night, so I didn't check out completely). They walked me to the metro station; we stopped on the way for one last cafe au lait and pain au chocolat.
When I got to the train station (Gare du Nord), I found each car stuffed with travelers. I stood back, eager to wait for the next one, because I was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. But I heard an announcement (and the subsequent English translation confirmed it) that there was some electrical problem. The train would be delayed "25-30 minutes."
Given how crowded it already was, I decided to go outside and catch a taxi. Of course by now there's a whole queue of people with luggage waiting for taxis. Cabs frequently appeared, but they seemed to stop at random; sometimes they'd pass by, no passengers. At some point (as often happens when people are sharing the same frustrations) we started talking with the people near us in line. I was standing next to a young couple from Norway; they had an 11:20 flight and had reason to be upset - but they were nice and friendly all the same. We decided that we'd share a cab when it was finally our turn. And when the driver told us it was a flat 35 euro rate, we looked at each other in awe (the couple and I each contributed 25, so he got a nice tip).
Charles de Gaulle Airport seemed to have many more security checkpoints than Cincinnati's airport, but really I think it must be the same; they just have far more mobile officers, checking your things in stages, rather than doing everything at one or two different stations. Still, given how long it took me to get to my gate, I fear that my Norwegian friends missed their flight.
I was flying standby again, so I wasn't sure of my seat until a half-hour before boarding. I've gotten spoiled these past few trips, getting first-class seats because of the buddy pass. I sat up front on the way there, and for the first time, I actually slept a decent amount on a plane. But coming home, I had an economy seat. I became reacquainted with screaming children, cramped leg room, bad food, and annoyed flight attendants. A little boy, three rows ahead of me, kept jumping up on his seat, turning around, and waving at his sister in the row in front of me. Two hours into the flight, the guy sitting next to him managed to get the boy the seat next to his mother.
I was in the middle section, and immediately across the aisle was another little boy and his mother. She fell asleep somewhere over Iceland and the little boy started getting antsy. The flight attendants were "nice" and gave him little packages of Tobelerone. He climbed out of his seat and began swinging in the aisle. Flight attendants passed him but didn't say anything. Mom kept sleeping. I finally pulled out my journal and tour out a blank page; I handed this to the boy, along with a pen, and asked if he wanted to draw something. He looked at me and said, "Why?" I took it back, drew a silly face, and gave it back to him. He began drawing intently on both sides of the paper and then gave it back to me. "Here," he said; it was for me. I asked him his name and would he write it on the paper? He spelled out "Andre" in random spots on the page (an "A" here in one corner, an "n" near the top, etc.)
His mom woke and saw what we were doing. She said, "That's the best thing ever" and whispered something to Andre. He then gave me one of his Tobelerone packages (one of the best things ever, I thought). We exchanged more pictures and I gathered some more information. Andre must have been about three years old, given the letters and scribbles he made. He was also bilingual in Spanish and English and was very happy when one of the flight attendants, Diego, conversed with him. He was a very sweet and intelligent child, but I can see why his mom would fall into a deep sleep.
Later, back in Cincinnati (Northern Kentucky, technically), as I waited in line at customs, I saw Andre being led around by a woman in uniform. They appeared to be searching for his mother, but Andre looked happy as a clam: they walked out of the room towards where we'd come from and then Andre came back later, with a man in uniform, toward the front of the non-residents line: I can only assume they found his mother.
Anyway, short, good trip. I'm still reflecting on things, but I needed to get everything down before I sort the pieces. And as it's almost 6:30am in France, I suppose I should go to bed :)