So, you think you’re flying to Paris? I was looking for Hemingway's "Moveable Feast," so I had plans of flying to Paris.
Our flight plan had two legs, Birmingham to Atlanta and Atlanta to Charles DeGaulle. Eazy-peazy, right. We planned to board the plane at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, have dinner during the layover in Atlanta, and arrive in Paris midafternoon Wednesday. We would check into our little Hotel de Sevres St. Germaine in a quiet neighborhood on l’abbe gregoire.
Instead of French baguettes et buerre this morning, and coffee so strong it tastes like espresso, I’ve awakened to a tiny one-cup coffee maker in this dingy hotel room in College Park, Atlanta. Not a Krups coffee pot. Not anywhere close. But after yesterday I was glad to see it. We didn’t get into this hotel room until 1:00 a.m. today, Wednesday, and we left for the airport in Birmingham at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. I didn’t notice the coffee pot at all last night. Who cares at that hour? I turn into a pumpkin at nine nightly, so I could barely turn back the covers.
A storm grounded all flights in Atlanta last night, and we missed not just one but two flights to Paris. As soon as we learned at the Bham terminal that we were going to miss our straight shot to Charles DeGaulle, we re-booked on KLM through Amsterdam. Three planes were trying to leave B.ham for Atlanta and all were stuck without permission to leave. One plane ahead of ours loaded and unloaded twice. You can imagine the sweetness and light surrounding that particular gate, right. Bedlam truly. Somehow our plane got bumped up to first horse out the gate. At about eight o’clock a Delta official who’d been fielding irate and weary and handicapped customers for hours suddenly became animated. He threw the phone down, jerked up the microphone, and announced boarding instructions with an urgency that might suggest the impending savagery of a tornado. “We have a ten-minute window to get boarded…” and continued to bark directions to the gathering crowd. The crowd, too, became alive. They texted, they zipped up bags, closed computers, got up off the floor, trashed fresh drinks, and jockeyed for a position closest to that opening our gate.
Naturally my group of four got waylaid and set to the side. We were different. We had two boarding passes, the old flight we’d missed and the one that we were going to miss if we didn’t get in the air by 8:30. The attendant assured us that it was truly only a twenty-five minute flight to Atlanta and that we should make it.
I’ve never seen such disorder and haste in a boarding process. It was such a small plane that large carry-on’s were simply thrown to the side to be put elsewhere. My carry-on held this laptop and I wasn’t about to part with it, so I just stuck it in front of me—it would not fit up top nor underneath the seat. Attendants usually so persnickety about where that item goes didn’t even blink an eye. They were shoving things and pressing flyers to get seated. By some miracle and more than a little chaos, we had eight minutes left to spare on the runway to get into our “slot.” My party of four relaxed for the first time since we’d heard about the flight delay. Nicholas, my grandson, offered me his personal pillow. Ah…rest…
…until we began to speculate about the large cities of light below us: there aren’t that many big cities between Bham and Atlanta. And then came the fatal announcement. “We are in a holding pattern with several other planes and will be circling Atlanta a bit before we’re able to land.” Clock watching again. Tick tock. Will this plane run out of gas? A plan began forming. “Gran, my jacket is above us. You grab it. I’m going to bolt out the door first, check the board, and start running to the international terminal. You check with the guy outside for directions to the terminal.” I imparted his plan to my husband and daughter seated behind us.
Have you ever raced through Atlanta’s airport? Nicholas at eighteen was way ahead of us as planned. The Delta attendant waiting to greet us with information had to use the board himself. The board said “BOARDING, F-9.” Fortunately the tram and escalators got us there in record time, but my heart rate had not been that high for that long since before I fell and crushed a kneecap over a year ago. At one point my daughter stopped long enough to ask for a ride for me in an empty vehicle not being used, but got fluffed off by some employee trying to make it home herself, no doubt.
When we got off the last escalator under the huge chandelier in Concourse F, my daughter lamented, “There’s Nicholas. We’ve missed our flight.” She had spotted Nicholas and his demeanor told the story.
Now I find that this wretched little coffee maker won’t even work. I was so happy to see it, filled up the paper cup, ignored the dust that had collected, pressed the button and no red light. I changed the plug-in. Still no red light. I restrained myself from screaming and throwing it through the window.
We were sent to this hotel by a disgruntled airline employee. I’m the only one awake here. I’m drinking a Dasani water from the vending machine downstairs that sells sodas and condoms (Nicholas noted as we entered last night they were sold out of condoms!TMI.) and munching on a bag of mini-pretzels from the plane.
I’m wearing my new pink raincoat (as a robe since my luggage was checked in Bham) purchased at Burlington Coat Factory just for this trip since it is expected to be rainy and cooler in Paris.
I’ve had a very unsettling thought: where is our luggage?