Monday, July 18, 2005

Needles in Haystacks and other adventures or, I hate Charles De Gaulle Airport!

My friend Eric is living in Aix-en-Provence for the summer (he has a pool-- I hate him). Eric and I go to the same university in the states and are both French and Film Studies major/minors. I haven't been able to see a lot of him, but I have talked to him quite a bit since I've been in Paris (and it's been a real help to have a friend nearby). So, Eric calls me late Saturday evening. His sister and her best friend, visiting family outside of Paris) had missed their flight and no one had spoken with them in several hours-- they were missing. Eric asked me to go to the airport and find the girls (they are 16 and 17 years old).
Now, the last time-- okay, only time, I was at Charles De Gaulle airport I was arriving in Paris. I left the arrival gate, picked up my baggage and walked out the front door. I encountered no customs officers or any other employees for that matter (I had to search for someone for information about the shuttle!). So, I had no idea where I was going or even what train to take to get there. When I finally got to terminal 2E, after missing my station, hopping a couple ticket barriers, and wandering around a few hallways (random, blank, white hallways leading nowhere), it was completely empty. I was the only person there, aside from 2 security guards and a bomb-sniffing dog (who was so cute in his little uniform!). In France, even large int'l airports close at night and I had to walk down to terminal 2C to find someone from Air France.
But here's the snag, the girls weren't flying Air France, they were flying Delta (and on stand-by), I had no idea what flight they were trying to get on, what flight they missed and I wasn't a family member so even with then, no one would give me any information. I was finally able to convince security I didn't want to cross their barrier, but would only like to speak with someone in English regarding my emergency (two missing girls!) and had them sweep terminals 2C and 2D-- they assured me that no one was in any of the others. The girls were nowhere to be found and their families were really getting worried (this was going on 12 hours!) but I had no idea what to do-- in fact, I was convinced they just got on a later flight and would be arriving in the states at any minute.
But that was not the case. I had to take a taxi home that night; I missed the last RER (and got home around 1:30 a.m.) and I felt awful that I hadn't found out any information about the girls, no one had seen them, they weren't in the system, ect. and I didn't have any good news for Eric or his dad. Around 8 a.m. the next morning, Eric calls me and tells me they are still missing!
And so, I return to Charles De Gaulle-- an old hat by now. Just as I arrive, Eric's father calls me and tells me he received a phone call from the girls, they are safe and will meet me at baggage claim in terminal 2E (which is now buzzing with people-- hundreds and hundreds of people). I head down to baggage claim and wait...and wait...and wait. They never showed up! So I frantically begin to re-search the terminal (and can't help but think there is something very wrong with me, that I can't find two very American girls in the middle of a French airport! It should not be that hard!). Finally, I walk out of the elevator (my sprained ankle is killing me), and I hear, "Serena! Oh, thank God!"
Neither one of these two girls speak French (and I think this is the first time either of them has traveled alone), so after missing their flight, they were kicked out of the airport (I have no idea), and directed to a shuttle bus that took them to a hotel (for around 30 euros/night, it can't have been a wonderful experience), but their phones weren't working and they couldn't figure out how to use the public phones-- which are a pain in the ass in France, and spent the afternoon and rest of the night there.
They then proceed to share with me that even thought they never got on a flight, their baggage is lost and have to meet someone at baggage claim in two hours. So, after getting an overpriced snack (in a different terminal), we walk back to 2E to meet up with the family friend the girls had been staying with, Gerard.
In order to get the girls' luggage, we need to talk with someone at Delta. So we get in the only Delta line there is, and wait...and wait...and wait.
We are directed to two more places, each time waiting a little longer than the last, and finally, scared that I might miss the RER again, I left the two girls in Gerard's hands and wish them luck.
When it rains in Paris, it pours, and Sunday was no exception.
I got on an RER and headed back into the city. But, the train stopped and made an annoucement that there was an accident on the tracks and that we would be heading back to the last station.
To get to my house, you have to take the RER. There is no metro station or bus nearby-- just the RER. I can either take the RER all the way home or take the metro and change at the last RER stop before my own to get home. That's it. But in order to get to the metro, I had to walk about 10 city blocks (again, my ankle is killing me and I haven't eaten or had anything to drink in several hours).
Ahhhhh, finally I got home, took a shower (which I didn't get to do that morning), eat and go to bed-- immediately; I was so exhausted and it was around 7:30 p.m. by then.

I can only imagine how tediously boring this posting must be to read, but hold on, it's about to get worse...

Last Friday, I had an appt. at some official building (I have no idea) to pick up some official papers I had submitted with my carte de séjour application. I wanted them back, and for some reason, had to go to an office on the other side of the city than the one I submitted them at. Well, I forgot all about it. And, today, I was hoping they would let me just walk up to the window, explain my situation and, then, give me my papers. But no. First, this awful woman refused to speak slowly (and I asked her politely several times). Then, she scoffed at me, and asked me why I even bothered showing up today. I explained to her I wanted a new appt. and she just glared at me. I asked to two more times before she spoke to me and then it was just to tell me where to exit. I finally got my appt. but it's in late August (that Bitch!), and, hopefully, I won't forget this time.

And so, today, three hours was wasted traveling across town (it's so fucking hot in the metro! [sorry, I've been swearing like a sailor, lately), waiting in line and having a staring contest with a very unhappy frenchwoman.

All I wanted to do today was my laundry, and maybe go for a walk (but thanks to my earlier excursion, my ankle is fat and in pain).

But, tomorrow, Doug (the first person I met in Paris) will be in town, and we are going to hang out. Probably just a beer at our Irish pub, but I haven't had a beer since the last time he and I hung out (woman don't really drink beer in France), so that should be fun.


Blogger Serena said...

* travel tip: pack light! If you can't carry it on with you, you don't need it! It's summertime: go naked (boys, pack a tube sock).

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Eric Cockhill said...

Thank you so much for all you did to help us. It was very nice, and had you not been in Paris, I probably would have been on the next train...thanks so much. See you in Paris next week.

3:07 PM  

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