This was written just after Christmastime, at the start of 2007, as I travelled from Boston to Marseille after spending a short week home.
Alright, let me preface my “travel thoughts” section with the somewhat-obvious point that I arrived safely and am now sitting in my room in Aix feeling very sleepy but wonderful after a nice long shower and tooth-brushing. God I love hygiene. Anyway, so there you have it. I am safe and sound and back in France. I’m sending you my travel thoughts, because they might be amusing…especially since I was extremely tired while writing most of them! I love you guys so much, and I miss you already!
How often do people sit alone in a seedy Boston airport diner called Houlihan’s? Well, pretty often . . . apparently. I’m definitely not the first. I’m not even the only one to be doing this right now. Go figure. Nothing like travel. You step off of national soil, and step onto an airplane with hundreds of other people from all over the world. Yes sir, there’s nothing like flying to open up the world . . . and make you realize how small and insignificant you actually are.
I get a real kick out of airports. You know the movie Love Actually? I love that movie. It’s true: arrivals gates are fun places to watch all sorts of people welcome their haggard loved ones. Still, arrival gates? Come on…they’re overrated. What about departure gates? I’ll bet you don’t have too many people crying broken-heartedly at arrival gates, do you? There’s always at least one at every departure gate (ahem…yes, I have done it before). I think it’s nice though. It lends a touch of tragedy, and if I’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that tragedy sells. But you don’t just have tragedy at departure gates. You’ve got the whole range of emotions: love, sadness, hatred, anger, excitement…and (my personal favorite) panic.
I just watched an old woman have her panic-moment of the year. Seriously. There she sits. After the third consecutive time that an airport door-alarm has sounded for high pitched 10 minute periods, her nerves are on edge. She sips her little plastic bottle a little faster…begging the question of what is in said bottle. But that’s not even the end of it. Oh no. If you have ever traveled, you know that the news station is constantly on in any airport and playing a continuous stream of depressing news (just to enhance your travel experience). So, there we’re sitting when the perfectly coiffed newscaster goes into a ten minute discussion of an uncommon rash of tornados that are “sweeping” across the country, inhibiting much travel. She didn’t stop there, though. Oh no. Then she told us about two missing airplanes that have been assumed lost. Apparently, this “freak occurrence” is “evidence that horrible accidents can always happen, despite all our best efforts.” I’m not going to lie. I laughed. I wonder how many beats that poor woman’s heart just skipped.
But it only makes departure gates even better. People leave countries in a strange state of mind. They are angry, sad, honeymoon-ing, you name it. And in the midst of it all, I am sitting at Houlihan’s nursing my strawberry smoothie (that tastes suspiciously like alcohol) and a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea. Can it be that I’m getting used to travel? Impossible. But I have transitioned. I am no longer the sobbing first-flight, ticket-clutching touch-of-tragedy girl that I was the first time I flew out of country. Oh no. This time I am the tea-sipping, computer-typing, bag-slinging cheerful person who gets waved through the security line without any pat-downs or feel-ups or wand-checks (…actually, without even going through the second check-point in the security line…) because most airport security people realized that such an incredibly white, happy New-Yorker who is named Abigail Adams is probably not the next terrorist to pop up in America’s Most Likely. Thank goodness some people are still logical. Gosh.
But really, you gotta love travel. Now I’m going to chug the rest of my tea (which I’ll regret later when I get a claustrophobic attack in the airplane bathroom cubby) and get in line to board my next plane. Catch you on the flip side!
Frankfurt Airport (or Frankport, as I like to think of it)…aka: the Flip Side
I guess you could sort of call this the flip side. I’m waiting in another departure zone in Frankfurt. After about 11 hours, I have a slightly less rosy view of airports in general. Some places grow on you. Airports stomp on your spirit. Just kidding. Sort of.
I flew the whole way here next to a very sweet girl named Christiana. She’s a German law student who is practicing in Boston to be near her boyfriend…and she is beyond terrified of flying. Our first exchange involved us switching seats so that she wouldn’t have to look out the window. Then I proceeded to watch her put up a picture of her loved ones in front of her and pull out a well-worn stuffed animal of a British soldier which she held onto for dear life. (It ended up being some cutesy story about her boyfriend giving it to her for “protection”.) She was practically crying when we took off, so although my book and i-pod were calling, I decided they could wait and Christiana and I talked about lots of everything.
You know what’s amazing? It never fails what country or what language, but the names that are paged over the intercom in any airport are always impossibly to understand or pronounce. “Would Mister Stoner Von Mildersaday contact airport security?” “Would Michana Legivovichicala contact the terminal?” Seriously. And they must never recognize their butchered pronunciation, because the poor woman usually has to make the announcement at least 5 times. Thank God for modern convenience. Sigh.
I read a 200 page novel on the plane. Thus, consequently, I did not sleep. Right now it is about 10am in Germany and I feel like my teeth are growing some unknown new species of fungus, my face might just be able to oil a frying-pan after the in-flight meal that was served, my palms are blistered from carrying my carry-ons around and my inner eye-lids have turned into sand-paper. It sounds like I’m complaining, but I just want you to get a clear image of me right now. I just sat up and gave up trying to use my computer case as a pillow. I am sitting at departure gate E6 and a large group of Japanese tourists/businessmen (?) is playing an unbelievably animated card game behind the decorative palm trees. The pinstriped, buttoned-down man behind me is reading a book (in French) about Hinduism while the German news is going full force. The only words I can understand from the news real is “Bush”, so maybe it’s a good thing I can’t understand.
It’s actually not so bad. Once I finally got my second boarding pass (apparently my flight got delayed so that my lay-over is now for 6 hours instead of 2) and got through airport security, I slept for about an hour and a half on these little benches. And I found a rest-room (even if the girl in the stall next to me was puking her brains out), so that was nice. All in all, I’m fairly ready to arrive in France. Or even to just depart from Frankfurt.
Oh and I now have a German stamp in my passport. And I haven’t even had a beer. Not to mention I can’t find Frankfurters anywhere in the Frankfurt Airport. That seems a little contradictory, eh?
Home: 14 Rue de la Mule Noire
Well, after the 6 hour layover, in which I actually did sleep a little bit, I got onto the last flight back to Marseille (THANK GOD). I actually stepped onto that tiny little plane and my seat (17H) had a big sign taped to it that said “DO NOT OCCUPY” Soooo, that threw me for a little loop, but me and one other lady ended up getting bumped up to the front of the plane. Normally that would mean we were in first class, but since it was an eensy-weensy little baby plane, It basically just meant that they gave us water in a glass instead of plastic and we got offered tea multiple times instead of just once. It didn’t matter though, because I slept almost the entire way…well, for about an hour of the hour and a half flight. Once I got off the plane and collected my eggplant colored luggage, I changed my dollahs at the airport and took the first bus home.
I actually think that the walk from the bus station to my doorstep seemed like the longest part of the trip. My back might never be the same! But now I’m half unpacked and squeaky clean, so it was all worth it!