Greetings from Charles de Gaulle airport on the outskirts of Paris.
As I write this sentence, it’s 10:40 a.m. — nearly time for my flight to Nairobi to depart. But that ain’t happening yet. We’ve been delayed at least an hour and perhaps longer.
This makes three out of three flights this trip that have had delays. At least I’m consistent.
I started out Friday afternoon in Norfolk. The plane that was to take us to New York was delayed getting to Norfolk from New York in the first place. There were weather issues and traffic control issues, we were told. So we sat and waited.
The air conditioning in our part of the terminal was out, so it was pretty steamy in there. I chose to plop down on the floor out in the corridor, where it was much cooler. A man sitting to my right wad groovin’ to his iPod. And farting repeatedly.
So at least I had some entertainment while I waited.
Finally, we were off. It took us only an hour to get to JFK, but then we spent another hour trying to get to our gate. Planes were so backed up that they were blocking the taxiways. What a mess.
Luckily, I had a bit of a layover scheduled. This gave me plenty of cushion. Which I needed: The inside of JFK was an even bigger mess than the outside. In order to get to the international terminal, I had to leave the security area and walk to the next building. Down an uncovered sidewalk. In the rain.
I’ve been through JFK two or three times, but I don’t ever remember having to do that.
I was flying Air France from New York to Paris. Our carriage was a nice, big widebody Airbus.
It’s not raining in that picture because I actually took it this morning in Paris, as opposed to last night in New York.
But we were delayed a good half-hour or so boarding. And then, once we were all ready to go, we backed out of the gate, joined the que to the runway and… sat there. With nothing to do but take pictures of ourselves.
Each seat was equipped with its own screen so you can dial up whatever movies or TV episodes you like. Before takeoff, however, the player is inoperative. All we could do is sit there and watch the tail of the plane in front of us.
By the time we were airborne, we were a good 90 minutes or more behind schedule. Luckily, I had a nice layover scheduled in Paris as well. If this happens on the way back, however, I’ll be toast.
As luck would have it, I was in the very last row. The good news: I had no seatmate, meaning I could fold back the armrest and stretch out a little, horizontally. The bad news: The seat won’t recline at all. And — as is the case these days — I had little or no leg room. My knees were pushed up solid against the seatback in front of me.
This is a real problem for me when I fly coach. And I’m only 6-foot-1. I don’t know how really tall folks deal with it.
My large belly also gives me problems with the seatback tray. I usually can’t get mine fully lowered. Last night, I simply used the one to my right.
And man, was the food great. And the service was great, too. This was only my second time flying AirFrance. Those guys run a top-notch airline. Even if they do put me in the very last row.
I watched an episode of the Simpsons, an episode of Big Bang Theory and the movie Easy Rider, which I had never seen. Mostly, though, I tried to sleep. I did the best I could in my tiny little seat.
Here’s something I’ve not seen in years: An ash tray built into the armrest of my seat.
This was sundown, with the lights of New England trying to burn through the clouds…
…and this was sunrise, just off the coast of Ireland.
And here we are flying over the French countryside, not far from Paris.
We landed a good hour behind schedule. Folks were desperate to get off the plane and run for their connections. This airport is so huge, though, and the security lines were longer than they were in New York. I doubt some of my fellow passengers made their flights.
You know you’re in France when the first thing you run into when you get off the plane is a painting featuring a naked woman.
You also know you’re in France when the second thing you run into is a woman in the men’s bathroom.
I wanted to freshen up and change clothes. I was standing in line inside very crowded men’s room when I spotted a large, handicapped stall. That’s what I needed — something with a private sink and room to open my carry-on bag.
Just then, the door opened and the occupant walked out. A woman.
No one seemed surprised except me. Welcome to France, y’know?
I felt a lot better after I changed clothes, picked up my boarding pass for the last leg of my journey and stood in yet another security line. They served us a tasty but small breakfast on the plane. I wanted something to eat. And I have at least one reader out there in blog land (Hi, Allison!) who taunts me for eating at McDonald’s.
I couldn’t find a McDonald’s here in Terminal F. However, I did find Bert’s, a French sandwich shop.
I ordered a Coke Light, a piece of chocolate cake — because I was so far behind in my carb intake — and, just because I felt like I should — a croissant.
You guys would have been so proud of me. I even managed to speak mostly French to the guy behind the counter. Until my debit card wouldn’t swipe through the machine. At that point, we both had to revert to English.
French might be the international language of food and love. But English remains the international language of credit and debit cards.
I bought myself 90 minutes of internet time and checked my messages. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to do this.
But I did. Mostly because my flight from here to Nairobi has been delayed.
Since I started writing this post, I left Bert’s, walked to my gate and I’m sitting there now, watching the Kenyan Airlines employees mill around with nothing to do.
I’m not quite sure what’s causing our delay. Seems to be the norm this time around. But that’s OK. My schedule allows it. In fact, it’s probably helping to keep me relaxed.
I’m told there will be someone to meet me at the airport in Nairobi tonight and drive me to my hotel. I’ll have Sunday to sleep off my trip get oriented and perhaps post a few more pictures before I need to prepare for a great week of teaching infographics.