We left the flat this morning at 9, headed into the various queues that make up pretty much the entirety of the CDG experience. The taxi was fine, the airport was fine, the boarding was fine. And the first flight was fine: 10 hours, CDG to IAH, during which I ate some and read some and dozed some and generally pouted a lot.
The flight, it turns out, was our pilot’s last; upon his arrival at IAH, he was officially retired, after 29 years of flying for Continental (and some unspecified number of years in the USAF before that). It was really quite sweet — there were “a salute to your pilot!” flyers on each seat as we boarded, detailing his career, the flight service manager made an announcement early on congratulating the pilot on beginning his last flight (producing round of applause number one), and the pilot himself, as we began our descent, in addition to the usual weather and time of arrival announcements, thanked the Continental customers, the crew and the rest of his colleagues, and his family, several members of whom were on the flight (prompting round of applause number two). Just before touchdown, the flight service manager fired up the P.A. again to say, “okay, folks, here comes the captain’s final landing as the pilot of a commercial airliner,” which was followed by the absolute gentlest touch-down I think I’ve experienced (followed by round of applause number three). And then there was the end: it’s apparently an IAH tradition that, when a pilot retires, the plane is flanked and hosed down by two Houston firetrucks as it pulls into the gate. This, of course, produced the last round of applause, which rolled gradually down the length of the plane. It was pretty cool, and quite dramatic, and I did my best to squelch my kneejerk SoCal “my god, the water!” response.
We’ve got three more hours to kill in IAH, alas, and by the time we get to ONT, it’ll be after eight in the morning in Paris, almost a full 24 hours since heading out. The worst of it, though, is that just now, sitting here, I got the “TripNotes” email from Continental about the flight that I’m taking on Friday, the very thought of which just makes me want to curl up in a small ball and exercise every ounce of my earthly rights as a being protected by the law of gravity.