Thursday, June 30, 2011

Let's Start at the Beginning....

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There was a little while there that I began to wonder if I was actually going to go on my trip to Paris or not.

A few little details just weren't coming together.

Like, say, my flight itinerary.

Because my Awesome Brother Who Used A Chunk of His Frequent Flier Miles to Get Me To Paris had been the one to book my tickets, I was a bit limited on where to call and how to clarify some little things. And one little detail that kept concerning me was the very short layover time on the very first leg of my flight. If I were even a few minutes delayed on that first short flight, the rest of my flight schedule over would become a series of missed departures.

I tried making the requisite phone calls on the general airline phone numbers, only to sit on hold for time and time and time, listening to the Muzak butchering of the hit pop songs of my youth.

It makes me feel old, to hear Duran Duran set to orchestra.


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Finally, Mike and I were able to find an actual communicating human being at one of the numbers who was likewise concerned about my very short first layover, and, yes, she agreed that it would probably be cutting it too close and that, yes, she would love to change me to an earlier flight but, no, she was so sorry, she wouldn't be able to do it but we could always tromp out to the airport and go to the desk there and see if they could get me an earlier flight.

So 12 hours before I was actually supposed to leave, Mike and I headed for the airport to plead my case with an airline agent.

All to find that the airline desk had closed 3 minutes before we arrived.

We finally found a couple of airline agents hiding out down in baggage claim and began to explain our tale of concern. One of the agents in particular started out hostile and defensive, telling me that there was plenty of time for me to change planes. But then, inexplicably, she softened and became incredibly sweet, going over my itinerary, clucking her tongue at the circuitous route the use of frequent flier miles was taking me on. She told us that if there was a problem with layovers the following day, there was a direct flight that would be much easier from Houston, and if my connecting flight were late getting me to Houston, it would be on the airline to get me most directly to Paris.

She was a jewel, wrapped in a hair shirt of jadedness and bite.

And her information was priceless.

Because come the next morning, after getting up and slapping on a face-full of cosmetics and stuffing more items in my carry-on, I wandered over to the computer, pulled up the airline website and clicked the mouse to check on my flight.

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And found that it had been cancelled.

As in, cancelled.

As in, not going.

As in, not even late, not even delayed.

Cancelled.

A series of frantic phone calls then ensued. Any of the earlier flights I had tried to book the night before were now completely full. There was not enough time for me to get to Houston to get to Montreal to get to Paris.

My itinerary began to read like fiction.

But because of the previous night's run out to the airport and because of my encounter with the Jaded One, I knew.

I knew there was a way.


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It involved throwing everything in the car, kissing the kids fast, and driving with Mike like a wild woman to Houston, 3 and 1/2 hours away.

Where there was a direct flight to Paris waiting for me.

No multiple, frequent flier layovers necessary.

We wheeled into the parking garage, busted through the doors of departures, got my new tickets printed up and took a breath.

And after a teary goodbye on my part to Mike, I shuffled my way through security, found my gate, ate an Auntie Anne's pretzel, checked my passport for the 758th time and boarded my flight to Paris.

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It turned from afternoon to evening to morning all in that 9 hour flight. I arrived in Paris at 8:30 in the morning, nodding like a narcoleptic and conversely hopped up on coffee, somewhat bewildered to find myself actually in France given the previous day's events.

But there I was.

And there she was, my precious 1 of 8, my oldest, my first baby. Dark brunette pageboy with a saucy flip, dressed in the requisite French scarf and somber tones, she spotted me coming through arrivals, her green eyes lighting up. She navigated me through the RER rail system, heading us back to Paris. We dropped my bags at her pied-a-terre and headed back to the Metro, exiting a couple of quick stops later at the Arc de Triomphe, emerging from the subterranean tunnels into crisp air to stand at the base of the iconic monument Napoleon commissioned in 1806 in honor of the Battle of Austerlitz. I pulled out my big camera, taking in the stone work, clicking away, trying to remember my French history, trying to attune my ear to the language being spoken around me. 1 of 8 and I then headed toward the stairs of a tunnel that would take us under the traffic to another corner of the Champs Elysees.

And then 1 of 8 yelled at me.


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For one of the first times in our mother-daughter relationship, 1 of 8 yelled at me.

For good reason...

And I'll tell you more about that...

Later.


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