Diaries Magazine


Posted on the 03 August 2013 by Ellacoquine @ellacoquine

Every summer when I leave for the States, flying stand-by, I declare that it is for the last time. Summer travel out of Europe is a bit hairy for paying passengers, so for me, the low man on the totem pole, it is a total nightmare.
Arriving at Charles de Gaulle, the check-in line was about 100 customers deep but was moving somewhat steadily. During my wait, I did however notice the terminal now has two PCs and printers! The computers were mostly being utilized by passengers who had forgotten to register for their ESTA in order to authorize entry into the United States, but one man who gave no impression whatsoever to be catching a flight took it to the next level. He took up one of the machines to watch Russian YouTube videos of stock auto races. The other passengers looked less than thrilled when he paid for additional fifteen minutes. Me on the other hand was envious of the extra time he appeared to have. The buffer time I allocated myself with was stolen at on the peripherique due to an accident, and we sat in standstill gridlock 20 minutes.
With my non-assigned boarding pass, much to my horror, I arrived at customs with a line that snaked around 14 times. The clock on my phone was moving faster than the actual line and with only 30 minutes to get to my gate, I had to think fast and act smart. Taking a risk, I left the line to speak to one of the airport personnel to explain that my flight would close soon and to ask there was a line for passengers whose flights were soon departing. Just as I arrived, I saw her shoo away a man who was barking at her a request to cut the line because his flight was also about to talk off. She was so not having any of it. Merde.
Having no other choice since I had already abandoned my place on the line, I approached the woman anyway. Pulling out all sorts of polite French tenses and sentences, and not expecting much, I calmly explained my case. I knew that I was most likely not even going to get onto the oversold flight, but I wanted to at least try. The guard listened, looked at my boarding pass that read NO SEAT and had me follow her, explaining that it would be at the discretion of the customs officer. She walked me to one of the counters and proceeded to explain to the unamused officer. Without so much a facial expression, he extended his arm out for my passport, stamped it and wished me good luck getting on the flight. That was not at all expected. I think I said merci about ten times before they both shooed me away. I guess I was overdoing it, but I was sincerely grateful. Not being a full paying customer or even an actual airline employee, I have zero clout in an airport. So on the rare occasion when someone is actually nice to me, I tend to go into shock.
Now I was on countdown. Breezing through security, I situated myself in a corner to prepare myself for the hustle I was about embark on. I traded out my kitten heels for flat espadrilles, stuffed my cardigan in my bag, tied my hair up in a high ponytail, and pressed play on my internal soundtrack; that English Beat song that is that  climactic final scene of Ferris Beuller's Day Off where he is racing his parents home by running through the backyards. That song is my official "beat the clock" jam and I have to say, it adds a little adventure to what would otherwise be a stressful situation. 
With my roller board in tow, I hauled ass through the terminal; weaving in and out of other passengers practically hopping over their suitcases, children wandering away from their parents served as unexpected mini obstacles, taking a moment to frown when passing at La Durée, sad that I didn't have time to pick up some macaroons, and then breezing past duty free even more sad that I wasn't going to get bring home some booze. 
I was at gate 59 and had to get to 31. So this race for time continued on for some time...
I arrived at the gate with fifteen minutes before take-off, which in air travel time for an international flight is the very last minute, and I swear the Gods were looking down on me because guess what I heard as I was arriving? My name being announced over the intercom by the gate agent. Rumor at the terminal was that a connecting flight was cancelled, which had freed up 25 seats.
The flight serviced 35 kids who were part of a teen missionary group from Utah, and I was stuffed between four of them. I enjoyed eavesdropping on their adventures and their interactions, especially when they referred to me as the lady drinking the wine, as if I couldn't hear. For some reason them calling me this made them laugh uncontrollably and you know what, I understood why. I remember being a teen and being so easily amused, where almost anything could get me laughing, especially if I thought I was getting one over some lady drinking wine alone. Or maybe I had something in my teeth. I am known for red wine mouth. Either way, they had a good laugh at my expense and I didn't care because I had my wine and Robin Thicke. (Side note: Are you guys loving "Blurred Lines"? For me, it officially replaced "Get Lucky". Just sayin'.)
So, who wasn't exactly impressed with the teen missionaries was a French teenager sitting directly behind me who also was sandwiched between them. In a crisp white button-down, a cardigan tied over his shoulders and perfectly sculpted eyebrows, he tolerated co-existing with his American counterparts. Several times during the flight my seat would jerk forward and would look back to find them passing cookies and scrapbooks, and at one point, to poke and insult each other over the French teen while pushing forward my seat. The French teen practiced his most impressive huffs and puffs, while reluctantly succumbing to the cookie pass.
And then, they started to sing. All of them. Albeit gently and softly, I immediately whipped my head around to get first reactions of the French teen. He. looked. horrified. 
Watching too extreme cultures respond to each other was the best in-flight entertainment, as I kept leaning forward to get reaction shots. Maybe I still am easily amused... 
Believe it or not, it was one of the easier trips back to New York during high season, and walking through JFK and seeing the big sign that read WELCOME TO NEW YORK...I believed it! Damn, it feels good to be back, now get me to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog