25 August 2010

At least you weren't traveling with a crying baby: an epic

Note: most of this was written at Charles de Gaulle Airport and is probably badly in need of editing but my battery is dying and it's either computer or light (there's only one plug in here!) 
edit: this is me editing it. yay!
This morning/ yesterday morning, I’m not really sure which, I got up at 4am, and left for the airport 30 minutes later. The sky was a dark purplish grayish blue and the full moon was low in the western sky. The world was silent, and the hills of San Diego were shadows against the darkened sky. One dedicated biker rode through the predawn calm. I arrived at the airport, checked my bags, hugged my dad, and then went through security which for once in the history of ever moved a bit too quickly for my taste. Since I had an hour to kill until boarding I got myself some coffee, a cinnamon twist, and a bottle of water. I downloaded a book for my kindle, utilized the awesome free wifi to read twitter and watch some youtube videos, and admired a beautiful Labrador retriever service doggy.  I even took a picture of my beautiful city as the sun rose. (I’m kind of having an everything is beautiful and amazing day, bear with me through this perhaps over-the-top chipperness).
As my plane took off, I admired the ocean and then the wonderful dimpled landscape that is San Diego. I watch Cowle’s Mountain recede into the distance. I even enjoyed the desert that followed (see, I told you). Then I watched my first movie of the day: “Just Wright”. Which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. The most interesting thing about it to me was the fact that most of the main characters were African-American which made me realize how most movies feature mostly people of much lighter skin. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s interesting how a silly movie about *spoiler alert* a physical therapist who falls in love with her basket ball player patient, can make you think about things you’ve never bother to think about before. I was amused by the polka-dotted landscape of somewhere rural America, with its circles of watered land. Then I wrote an email, watched my neighbors watch the new star trek movie on their ipad, and then I read.
As we descended through the clouds into New York, some strange effect from what I don’t know made the Atlantic appear to be rainbow striped in one area and beautiful shade of light purplish blue everywhere else. We landed and it took a remarkable amount of time (during which I discovered that instead of printing my second ticket, I had printed the first one, twice) to taxi in.
While I made my way to my next gate which was conveniently located on the opposite side of the terminal, I talked to my mom. I got my ticket printed out without a hitch and went in search of food because I was STARVING. I ended up getting a tuna salad salad which didn’t live up to my dreams of grandeur which were completely unfounded because it didn’t look that awesome (though the price (9$!) suggested otherwise). And the tuna tasted too much like fish, which made me sad.  AND JFK didn’t have free internet because it’s a jerk.
Then I got on my plane to Paris. Me and the young woman (saying it like that makes me sound so formal! But she wasn't a "girl", and woman makes me think middle aged, and she was really about my age, maybe a few years older) traded seats with two children so they could be next to their family, which put us on the right, instead of the left side, and one more row back. This ended up being totally worth it (it being not really anything at all), because this family had fussy baby and while I pity them I was glad I wasn’t sitting right in front of the crying child. We then sat in the plane for an hour before taking off because of traffic control, the baby wailed through most of it. And I had to sit there doing more or less nothing because about 20 min before take-off they told us to turn off all electronic devices, and my book is electronic! #firstworldproblems
During this flight I watched two movies (How to Train a Dragon which was cute, and 27 dresses, which I had seen before), an episode of the office, and the majority of an episode of 30 rock (the sound stopped working 5 minutes before the end, thanks a lot, American Airlines). I also ate a dinner of chicken with penne pasta, three crackers, and a brownie, and tried to sleep (and failed because HELLO. I may have gotten up at 4 in the morning but that doesn’t mean I capable of falling asleep sitting up in a not completely dark plane at 6pm, or 7, or 8). A couple hours later I ate a “breakfast” of a warm croissant, orange juice, and disappointing coffee. I wanted to point out to them that by my time it was 9pm and that they should stop pretending that we had a real night on this flight.
As we approached the coast of France we flew over clouds that reminded me of slightly damaged cotton batting. Soon after the sun rose, or perhaps we flew into it, and I saw dawn for the second time in less than 24 hours.
if you are really awesome and use your imagination a little, you can see france beneath the clouds
The French countryside looked more or less like rural America from the sky, but I felt the plots of land were more square and orderly in America. The French countryside was like a crazy quilt with plots of land cut every which way. There weren’t very many circular plots though, silly water inefficient french. Every once in a while there were small clusters of suburbia speckled in the fields. There were also forests; clusters of tall trees in the midst of flat farm land. As we got closer to Paris the suburbs became larger and more frequent.
Once we landed, I had to navigate my way through the almost deserted maze of Charles de Gaulle Airport. Along the way there were many guides, most of which immediately addressed me in English, which struck me as odd, but I guess I was giving off a bewildered-american vibe. Ultimately I was glad for this because my brain decided it had been awake for long enough and was not working quite normally.  I got through customs in a flash, in fact, it wasn’t even clear that it WAS customs. Mostly it was just a one bored looking guy sitting in a booth. He looked over my passport and visa and gave me a stamp. He didn’t ask to see my bag; he never even spoke to me. I don’t know where the other people on my plane went, but they didn’t follow me. I saw only one or two other non-employee people in this area of the airport.
The annoying thing about Charles de Gaulle is that they check everything over and over and over. After I picked up my ticket, for which I had to show my passport, I went to the entrance of security, where I had to show my ticket and my passport; I then put these things back in my bag because I figured they had checked it enough and continued to the security check point. The worker was truly awful. He said almost nothing, perhaps because he thought I would not be able to understand his French, there were no signs, and no one else going through to copy. He also required me to dig out my passport. My stuff came through and I put my passport away. Then I had to go over to a bag check area (apparently checking bags with xray isn’t enough? I don’t know) and  had to show my passport and ticket AGAIN. This lady, however, was kind and was the first airport employee to address me in French, which to my pleasure I understood perfectly. I went up the stairs, and I have to say I have never been more glad to see people bustling about. Yes! Civilization. I walked out of the artificially lit inner belly of Charles de Gaulle and into the glass ceilinged center of activity.
My first task was to find a restroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, it was there that I made my first culturally inspired mistake. The sink had two faucets (or so it appeared), I couldn’t imagine the reason for this so I went for the one that I could easily see how to turn on. It was a soap dispenser. I dispensed soap onto my tooth brush. I took a picture so I could show everyone how much it looked like a faucet.

What’s funny about this picture is that it shows that there are pictures clearly indicating how to use the sink and it’s many faucets, I don’t know how I missed that.
Then I went to “Paul” and ordered an apple turn-over and a CafĂ© au lait, only what they gave me was definitely a lattĂ©, which is not as yummy, and I was sad. And there was no free internet, which also made me sad. So sad that I spent my wait writing this epic.
The plane was boarded more chaotically then in the US, it wasn’t done in groups, but perhaps this was because, as I would soon find out, the plane was on the other side of the tarmac and we had to be bused to it. We then had to show our ticket and passport to get into the tunnel thing to go the bus, then to get on the bus, then to get on the plane. I stupidly put these things away after every single time.
This plane also took an hour to be given the all clear for take-off, I spent this time reading the air magazine, which was in French, and doing some French exercises in my workbook. I spent most of the flight reading. I was one of the last people off the plane because the old woman sitting next to me walked with a cane and didn’t want to get trampled or rushed, I think she may have had Parkinson’s because her hands were shaking. This meant I didn’t have to wait at all for my luggage, which was nice. I left the luggage collection area, and sat on a bench. I found the internet which was good because I had forgotten to look up where I was going once I got to Bordeaux. Opps.
My taxi driver spoke to me in English, but I persisted in speaking mostly French to him. The fare was 25 euros, so I gave him 30 and told him to keep the change because I wasn’t sure if one is supposed to tip taxi drivers and if one was how much one should give. This seemed to please him immensely, and he helped me carry my luggage in the office.
Like when Gilgamesh returns and sees the wall of Uruk my epic journey had finished.
I can’t believe I just wrote that.

1 comment:

  1. I did not tip my first taxi driver. OOPS. I was also unsure.
    I cracked up several times reading this, and I read a few parts aloud to my new roommate. She was not as amused as I was. But I was HIGHLY amused, so that makes up for it.


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