And Back Again

This has been a weird month. Weird enough that my last transatlantic flight seemed astonishingly easy. Heck, weird enough that I can use a phrase like “my last transatlantic flight.” ?áa suffit.

(Not incidentally, somewhere along the line this became a travel blog. I’m not entirely thrilled with that, but it seems to be what I’m doing, so I may as well ride the wave for the moment.)

As I said somewhere buried in the comments on another post, the only difficult part of the trip from the MLA back to Paris was making sure that I didn’t sleep through the airport stop on the train. Somehow I managed it, got off the train where I ought to have, got on the little air-train to the EWR terminal, checked in, found my gate, and stood around waiting until we boarded. Got on the plane, ate a little, and… I don’t much remember the rest of the flight. And I was actually pretty functional when I got off of it. Which suggests to me that I actually slept, at least some, a pretty remarkable turn of events.

Here, however, is the major lesson learned from that particular crossing: planning to meet up with someone at CDG requires more than simply “I’ll meet you outside the international arrivals area in terminal 2A.” You need contingency plans, if-then statements, worst case scenarios. We had none of that, and managed to make it work, but only through sheer stubbornness, I think.

The story: R. flew in from Prague on the morning of the 30th, and was set to arrive at CDG at 11.50 am. My flight from EWR was expected to arrive at 11.20. My best guess was that, by the time my plane took the world’s longest taxi, and then I made it through passport control, baggage claim, and customs, R. could have made it over from terminal 2B to meet me outside arrivals in 2A, so that was the plan. The only contingency we added in, for good measure, was “if you’re not there, I’ll wait for you.”

More specificity would have been good. For instance: “if it turns out that my flight is significantly early, and yours is significantly late, rather than pointlessly waiting outside arrivals at 2A, I’ll make my way over to 2B and meet you there.” And, for that matter: “if you emerge from arrivals in 2B and I’m not there, make your way over to 2A. If for any reason we miss one another, make your way to the train station, and I’ll meet you outside the ticket office.”

But no. All we had was “I’ll meet you outside arrivals in 2A.” And, of course, my flight was 40 minutes early, and I was the first person through passport control, and my suitcase was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor belt, so I was through customs and outside arrivals well before my flight was even set to land. R.’s flight, by contrast, was slightly delayed, and then his baggage took forever to arrive. When I emerged from customs and saw that his flight wasn’t going to land for half an hour yet, I contemplated just heading over to 2B and waiting for him there, but we hadn’t made any of those contingency plans. There were no if-thens. There was only one go to. And the consequences of a failed deviation from the script — what if I go to 2B, and he doesn’t look for me, and I happen to be looking the wrong way, and he gets by me and goes to 2A, and I’m not there? — seemed worse than the tedium and anxiety of continuing to wait at 2A.

After an hour and 15 minutes, though, and after being repeatedly psyched out by every tall man with a shaved head and glasses (of whom there are more than you might expect), I finally decided to move toward 2B. I would go slowly and deliberately. I would scan the oncoming traffic relentlessly. I would be vigilant in the extreme, and make absolutely certain that he could not get by me. I would —

I took about twenty steps in that direction, rehearsing the improvisation (I know), and there he was.

I have almost never been happier to see him.

In any case, there were minor adventures getting on the train (ticket machines that hate my credit cards), minor adventures getting to a taxi (three flights of up, including two non-functional escalators and one very heavy rolly bag), minor adventures getting to the hotel (in which I managed to pull the name of the street our hotel is on completely out of my ass), but none of it mattered. I was completely suffused with the ecstasy of having successfully made a connection that should in no way have worked.

And once we arrived at our hotel — a smallish, funky, thirties-inspired place with the most attentive staff ever, who I’m not sure realize yet that I’m never leaving again — well, what could be better?

Paris is great. Life is great. Thus far, 2007 is great. I’ve resisted posting until now in no small part because of the way each post both requires a removal from the flow of things and marks the passage of time. I’m working very, very hard on lingering in the moment and not allowing any anxiety about the ticking of the clock to creep in and undermine things.

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