Bringin’ in a couple of kees. It’s only cheese, if you please…Mr. Customs Man. (Apologies to Arlo.)
Cab picks us up at 6:40 a.m. and proceeds to take us on the most frightening taxi ride of our lives. The guy–absolutely no kidding–fell asleep on the freeway on the way to Charles de Gaulle airport! He was slowing down oddly and drifting into the next lane. He’d been sniffling loudly, maybe coming down with a cold. I looked over his shoulder and saw he was only going 50K an hour…slower than the traffic around us.
Then I saw his eyes close in the rearview mirror!
“Sir!” I said, tapping his shoulder.
“Madame!” he cried, jumping awake.
“Don’t fall asleep.”
“No! No! Not sleeping! I am from Tokyo, Japan! Tokyo, Japan! Not sleeping!” I think this was supposed to indicate he was a good driver. I don’t know from Tokyo, honey pie, but I’m from L.A. Ever heard of that?
“I saw your eyes close,” I said, “I’m going to be watching you!”
“Tokyo, Japan!” he said again, emphatically.
Good. Fine. You’re in France now, pay attention.
Mom and I exchanged glances and confirmed to each other that he was dozing, and kept an eye on him the rest of the way. It was really scary. Kept thinking, you can’t just ask to be let off and get another ride. Had to be there on time. Whew, we made it.
Inside the British Airways terminal at the airport. What a mess getting to this place! The BA desk was completely unhelpful. We checked in at automated ATM-like things. I had to insert my passport to get my e-ticket print-out. You just think, Okay, it’s not going to shred it. It’s not going to shred it.
Then we got into the line to go to our gate. Stood there for about 15 minutes when a French man came up and started talking to me. In French first, and I thought he was asking me a question. I was trying to explain that I didn’t speak French–this happened to me several times there, people asking me questions in French so it’s not as absurd as it might sound–when he switched to English.
We were in the wrong line! We had to check our baggage in a different line at a different gate. Well… huh! But how utterly nice of him to make the effort to a) tell me and b) persist in spite of my telling him where to check in electronically and generally not comprehend for a few minutes.
This, my friends, is typical of the treatment we experienced in France. At least the same amount of helpfulness and concern for strangers as you’d find anywhere else in the world…maybe even more than in some places.
So we got into another line. A massive, nearly un-moving line. As we rounded a curve in the bend a couple of women tried to get into the line in front of us, pretending that they didn’t understand the line was behind us, and acting like they didn’t speak English or French, which possibly they didn’t. Who knows? They were physically trying to push ahead of 2 or 3 parities of passengers, and we all turned around and scolded them. This emboldened me to take a stand. If they had been nice at ALL about it, I would have let them in ahead of me. But the older one actually pressed her luggage cart against my legs.
Okay, game on, lady. I told Mom to be ready with our cart when the line moved and I pushed back on the other’s cart with my elbow so she couldn’t move forward, then stood in front of it with my calves against the rail at the bottom. It sounds petty, but their behavior was just so rude when everyone was feeling pretty desperate that we had to get through this line and the other massive line in time for our flights.
Another pair of American women were next to us and we got started talking. Easing up the tension, because it’s so weird to actually fight back against that kind of rudeness. But at that point I’d thought it wasn’t going to be any more upsetting to me to stand up for the right thing than it would to cave to someone’s rudeness.
After about 15 minutes of inching forward, lo and behold! The rude women realized they were in the wrong line and left, bickering between themselves on the way to the line for what I think someone said was a Turkish airline. A little chorus of laughter followed them, along with phrases like “poetic justice” and “instant karma.” Sheesh.
We finally get inside the terminal above after inching through the security checks, only to find that we have 1/2 an hour before boarding and there are no restrooms inside. Post 9-11 airport redesign fails again. There’s no question of going back into the main terminal and coming through security again. It would take too long. Suffer, suffer.
Okay. You don’t realize it, but I took photographs of 90% of the meals we ate in restauarants in France. Even new habits die hard.
This brioche-bread, ham and cheese sandwich was actually pretty good. But the coffee.
It’s what we would have wanted when we first arrived, but oh, did it taste weak after three weeks of dark strong French brew.
May I refrain? O, how the mighty are fallen.
And I should explain. I did carry a couple of soft French cheeses home in my carry-on backpack. Wow, was the one ripe-smelling by the time I got to L.A.! Good thing they didn’t open that bag!