Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Now that I've given notice, I’m free to share with you the secret of why I really missed my flight in Toulouse. It wasn’t my desire to scrub my thumb clean, nor was it the fault of the security guard who voluntarily escorted the woman behind me and her perfectly content and well-behaved toddler to the front of the security line because apparently a visit to the grandparents' is more exhausting than wearing a suit and heels all day while hefting about bags of documents. In France, if you’re pregnant or have proof of having been so within the past decade in tow, you get priority, save the metro where Parisiens refuse to give up their seat for anybody, the official policy being you’re not required to do so for riders under the age of 75 which is a bit harsh considering the average life expectancy for a French male hovers around 76. And don't even think about relying on the goodness of your fellow Parisiens, I once witnessed a mentally challenged man be ignored by one commuter and then heckled by the next for requesting a folding seat. He even approached them with his state-issued disability card to prove he was deserving, he'd obviously learned the hard way that this was necessary. I was horrified but unfortunately not speechless. It was less than a year after moving here and my French was pathetic. As I stood there yelling the words "handicapé" and "asshole" in turn, I'm still surprised the entire metro car didn't jump up to offer me a seat. I'm certain I sounded as if I were asking for myself.

The real reason I missed my flight is because I was, yes, in a hurry, but more importantly I am an idiot who didn't take the time to read the screen on the automatic check-in kiosk and blindly took the "boarding pass" it spit out. I was already cutting it close and a little antsy, but while waiting in the security line instead of being annoyed by everyone around me I could have made constructive use of my time by reading the rectangular piece of cardboard in my hand. Upon reaching the front of the line, I handed my pass to the security guard, which he examined, as I piled my jacket, shoes, and briefcase into the plastic box. He waved me through, but then I was stopped for a little extra strip search. Despite all of this, I made it to my gate just in time, but for some reason my boarding pass didn't work. I let out a huge sigh and nearly let my guard down long enough to allow my face to fall into my booger coated hand.

Alas, my boarding pass was not a boarding pass at all.

Rewind: apparently back at the kiosk, the paper I had received was actually a stand-by voucher directing me to the ticketing desk where I would be placed on the waiting list for the flight. Instead I went straight to the security line, waited, was searched, and proceeded to boarding. It wasn't until they scanned my voucher at the gate that they (and I) realized I didn't have a boarding pass! I was told that I'd have to see a ticketing agent, on the other side of the secured section, to see if I could get on the next flight. Of course, every door I tried was locked. The only way to get back to the unsecured section was to go through security. Backwards. This did not go well.

I tried telling them I just needed to go to the ticketing booth to change something. They weren't buying it. They wanted to see my boarding pass again. I didn't want to show it, partly out of embarrassment and, partly, because I knew it was going to be a major issue. They were just as baffled as I was as to how I could have gotten through security without a boarding pass. The head security guard came over and refused to let me go until I named names. He was pointing at every member of the security crew, I just kept saying "je ne sais pas", "non, je pense pas", "je ne comprends pas" - my eyes briefly met with the employee-of-the-month, he clearly recognized me but looked down and played innocent. The agent finally got sick of me and let me go. I may be an idiot, but I'm no collaborateur!

I ended up getting on the next flight without incident. And, when I finally stepped out of the Orly airport and hailed a taxi to go home, my driver informed me that he needed to stop for gas like we were buddies on a road trip. I wouldn't have minded, of course, had he come out of the mini-mart with a Big Gulp and sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, the only thing he was carrying was some nasty B.O. and a major attitude because he was still upset with me for my audacious request that he stop the meter while he re-fueled.


Anonymous said...

good thing you were no collaborateur...although the French do wonders with the hair of collaborateurs.. think vogue..sinead o'connor, etc. :-)

Signed, Riley

joy suzanne said...

Ah, Paree.

You made me want a big gulp soooo bad.