Thursday, May 26, 2011

Returning to work- or- A Very Rude Awakening

I guess I should say that the "Rude" part is because my trip this week was to Paris. And, true to stereotypes, the French were rude, rude, rude. Well, let me qualify that. The Air France and CDG airport employees were rude. I was only in the city for a day, actually not even 24 hours. I was there for a meeting at the CNG the Centre National de Génotypage, a meeting that didn't end up happening. I found out last night as I was strolling down the Champs-Elysées (that sounds cool though, doesn't it?) It was too late to leave last night, and so I thought I'd leave this morning. I'm not using a travel agent, and so I thought I could come to the airport early, pay any change fee for the ticket, and head home. Wrong.
First, I couldn't get a boarding pass printed. What printed was a Coupon d'assistance. They should have called it a Coupon de l'obstruction. Because that's what I got. Air France said they couldn't help me, even though it was their flight (in partnership with Malev Airlines.) Malev said they couldn't help me and sent me back to Air France. Air France said I had to leave the terminal to find the Malev ticketing counter. The women back at the Malev baggage drop said there was no Malev ticketing counter. I actually had a ticket for a flight, and yet, no one would even give me a boardng pass for that flight. Why not? They told me I was too early. Clearly… I should have slept later, and gone sightseeing in the city.

Once I got a boarding pass, I could go through security and spend the next 6 hours cruising the duty free shop and reading a Wall Street Journal I found on one of the chairs. I put on a little Gucci perfume "Guilty" and bought some chocolate. Gretchen tells me that a smile has the effect of 16 bars of chocolate. There are very few smiles to be found here at the CDG airport, and so I was required to buy my endorphins.

Then, suddenly a soldier was standing next to me, complete with combat fatigues, black boots, black beret and automatic weapon. He said "Parlez-vous français?" and I said "Nem", because that's the language in my brain closest to my tongue right now. He looked a little embarrassed, and we started Charades. He motioned to my belongings, made motions of picking them up and then shooing me away. I said, « I have to leave ? » He said « Oui, Madame. » Then a woman came over to say they were evacuating the area because of a suspicious package. Then I noticed 5 or 6 heavily armed soldiers, talking to other people in the area. So, we all packed up and scurried away like rats heading for higher ground. This was a step-wise process ; they decided that they needed more space between us and the package, and so we got moved a couple of times. Then, they got the « All Clear » sign and everyone went back to life in the airport. One more hour and my life in exile in the Paris airport is over. I hope the plane is on time.

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