Flying back to the States for a few more weeks of onsite work.
Almost didn’t get there
It’s a short walk from our apartment to the buses. Along the way I pass a sign advertising The Walking Dead (LES SEULS BON MORT SONT DES MORTS MORTS – shows get localized quickly now, especially if zombies are involved.
The bus from the Gare St. Charles to the airport wouldn’t start. After a couple of non-starts, the driver turned everything off, shut down all electronics. The LG display at the front of the bus loses it’s fancy gui to show us that behind it all is the blue screen of WindowsXP, rebooting in safe mode. An omen? But just after advising us to get off the bus, for the heck of it the driver tries once more and the engine catches.
From where I stand it’s about ten yards to the passport control, but I’ll walk 60 yards before I get there. The ten yards are only if I were to walk straight ahead. Instead I’m in the rat maze of silver stands connected by the separator ribbons. Back and forth, left to right. With each pass I get two feet closer, but I still traverse the width of the room each time. Of course there’s no going under all the ribbons, that won’t do. Back and forth. By the fifth pass I am almost there. Back and forth. It’s almost as bad as the grey path at Ikea. Tacking is not just for sailors.
There’s an English family waiting at the gate for the flight to Gatwick. Mom, Dad, daughter1 (about 12), son1 (about 9), daughter2 (about 4).
Mom, daughter1, and son1 are absorbed in ipad, iphone, and iphone respectively.
Daughter1 to son1: Why do YOU have angry birds installed and I don’t? (they all sound like characters in a Hugh Grant movie).
Son1: Mum said I could install it.
Daughter1: Mum, how come HE gets to have angry birds and I don’t?
Mom: (not looking up from her ipad) Quiet both of you, or I’ll take those away.
Son1: That’s okay. When my iphone is taken away, I play with my DS. When my DS is taken away, I play with my iphone.
Meanwhile dad is chasing daughter2, who is running from window to window looking out at the planes. She’s not yet contaminated.
Didn’t get there
Three hours is not enough of a layover time if your originating flight leaves Marseille thirty minutes late and arrives at Gatwick sixty minutes late due to severe winds. When your connection is at another airport (Heathrow) and you must pick up checked luggage then go through customs because you have in fact entered the United Kingdom. When the Gatwick to Heathrow shuttle is late and in spite of all that you get there fifteen minute before the flight leaves, but we’re very sorry sir the flight is already closed. The ticket agents are kind and polite but can’t get me on the flight. Please go see the other ticketing agent over there, sir, about getting on another flight, pointing to a line several parsecs long.
British Airways put me up in the Crowne Plaza near Heathrow. After dinner I’m too fried to read, watching the telly. The show is called Top Gear on the Dave Channel. Two guys driving around in various Lancias, and talking about them, then driving some more. The older Lancias have nice lines. It’s wonderful, dumb fun. This is a show Tony and I should do.
You’re spewing if you’re the bowler
Watching cricket, I’ve been warned and amused by reading Bill Bryson. The announcers are great: “Up goes the finger” (referring to some gesture by the umpire); ” You’re spewing if you’re the bowler”; “Boundaries, 11 Fours, 1 Six”. What?
The onscreen stats don’t help: one stat shows a player has 12,036 runs, and I think they mean in that game. What is the shuff? What are balls faced??! More stats sound like a Hobbit’s daily eating plan: “innings, overs, fifties, hundred, rr, high tea, second dinner.”
Player stat: “strike rate 4th, Test Fifty, 1 hundred” – got it.
XP again, sideways this time
Terminal 5 at Heathrow is a pretentious mall. Its stores include Tiffany’s, Harrods, Cartier, Bvlgari, and Montblanc. I was intrigued by World of Whiskies, but I resisted. After a breakfast of salmon, eggs, toast, and a bloody Mary,
I’m headed for the gate. I pass another large LG screen which is showing XP rebooting, this time landscape style. I hope the pilot is able to start the plane.
Don’t be like Dulles
From the terminal we must take buses to get out to the airplane. The line waits until each bus is filled, then that bus drives away and a new bus pulls up. This is a slightly worse system than Dulles’s old plane mates (or portable lounges), which are mercifully mostly phased out. Those people movers remind me of the Chariot from the tv series Lost in Space.
After getting bumped up to business class at the last minute, I try to seem as if I belong there instead of being a class crasher. The couple in the adjacent pod, looking British and inbred, give me a cool look, and are already seated, drinking, and plugged in. The last time this happened to me Pan Am was still in business. It’s a nice change from steerage. In those funny half moon pods there’s shoulder, hip, and leg room. I can recline, I can sleep, and there’s no one oozing over the armrest into my space. The electronics take a few minutes to figure out, but I know immediately what to do with the complimentary champagne.
Flying East to West it’s one long day. After landing at Dulles and driving past Leesburg, over the Potomac into Maryland, I’ve landed in an Andrew Wyeth painting: brown rolling hills, farms, lots and lots of open space.
It was a drag to leave everyone in Marseille, but damn the baguettes there are good.
*One Man’s Meat. E.B. White wrote about life on his coastal farm in Maine. His style was writing in snippets, sometimes just a few lines, each section ending with a series of asterisks.