The saga of the return

The girls and I and my mother-in-law just returned from a two-week river cruise through Europe from Prague to Paris. Long story extremely short: awesome trip. There will be a post about it once all of the nearly 2,000 photos that Julia and I took are sorted and uploaded and vetted, but this is not that post. No, this is the post about the return trip while it’s fresh in my head. This will be a long ride, in more ways than one.

Our morning started fairly early at 6:00am since our shuttle from the hotel to Charles de Gaulle was at 6:45. We were the last to arrive at like 6:47, of course, but that’s just us. That part was just fine, a smooth, quick trip to the airport though it did feel like we did a few laps of the entire complex before we actually reached the parking area.

We debarked and that’s when the first little thing started. The girls and I were flying Air France operated by Delta directly to RDU. Grandma Louise was flying Air France to Montreal. Though she was definitely scheduled for our bus, they had no record of her flight in the Viking records. The Viking folks were understandably confused, but soldiered through. We started making our way to the check ins.

Most of us were slotted off to a special group line to be checked in at Delta. Our Viking rep took Grandma to a kiosk and used her passport to look up her reservation. The three of us got checked in and were told to meet Grandma at a particular place for passengers who are requesting assistance since she gets a wheelchair at airports due to the amount of walking.

So we do this. We find them waiting their turn to check in here. Grandma is sitting in a chair and the rep is standing in line with her luggage. I agree to take over the line-standing in his stead and he bids us farewell and good flight.

Roughly 2 minutes later Grandma asks if we have her passport. 

Oh, joy. Yes, the Viking rep never gave it back to her and was now “elsewhere” in the enormous complex that is CDG Airport in Paris.

I get my boarding pass and passport and head off to the parking area we came from in the hope that I could find him there while Cat did what she could from their end. I of course had no joy but was able to spot another Viking rep who knew the guy and she started calling around. While she was on the phone I heard the guy’s name being paged over the PA system so Cat was busy, too. The Viking rep found someone who said he was last seen back at the check in area we’d checked in at so we high-tailed it there and tried to spot him. The airport was jam packed so it was tough to spot anyone. Still no joy.

(An aside, the Viking folks were always willing to help. This lady dropped everything and wandered around helping me until the situation was resolved.)

Finally, I spotted a familiar looking person and, yes, it was him and he was returning from giving the passport to Louise. After ensuring we were all accounted for the Viking reps made their way to their regular jobs again while we completed the check-in process for Louise. This blew roughly an hour.

(Among the silly indignities and weirdness was the luggage, where they asked Cat of all people to hoist Louise’s luggage atop a 5-foot stack of bags herself while a burly guy stood and watched her do it. Ugh. This was while I was off trying to find the Viking guy, of course.)

Anyhow, we complete Louise’s check-in which is good because while we started with plenty of time we were now down to 2 hours before our flight which, with the crowd I saw trying to get through immigration, was going to be cutting it close. The person who checked Louise in came with us to the immigration entrance to try to help us get priority access due to the wheelchair but ran smack into the face of the bureaucracy in the form of a woman who would only let Louise and ONE assistant through, no matter how much the check-in lady attempted to plead the case. I’d actually figured this would happen and was asking earlier about letting Julia and I get a head-start through security because I figured they wouldn’t let us all through that way, but oh well. Louise and Cat continued through the priority lane and Julia and I made our way through the throngs to go through the regular way.

Here’s where things go even worse. 

We made some progress through the various lines for about 15 minutes. Then a single security guy starts talking loudly in the crowd and gesticulating in French. Making motions about moving back out. I’m all like “my ass” at this point. This continues for a while with few people actually taking him seriously but reinforcements slowly arrive all with the same message: “move back out of the security area and back into the departures area because there’s a bag someone left that no one claims and we have to dispose of it.

Oh hell. I mean, sure, it obviously could have been far worse, but for inconvenience this was fairly high up there. For the next 45 minutes to an hour, they completely cleared the security area, herding everyone further and further away. In my head I’m already seeing us missing our flights, rescheduling, etc.

Cat and Louise were at least thankfully past all this so Louise shouldn’t be impacted, but her flight was two hours later than ours anyway. I told Cat what was going in because we were now separated.

At this point Julia and I are trying to position ourselves advantageously with the rest of the world. We’re only about 40 feet from the start of the entrance area, having tried to balance the safety factor with the inconvenience factor.

They finally give the all clear and that’s when the herd mentality asserted itself. I was keeping a hold of Julia’s backpack in front of me as we got pushed and shoved into the press of people. It was an utter madhouse. We finally made it through the initial choke point after a few minutes and I was relieved that we were finally in the orderly queuing system of the lines.

Problem solved, right?

You think too highly of your fellow humans. I admit, by the time I got through passport control I’d lost every bit of faith in humanity. We’re egocentric animals, period. If our society ever does experience any kind of serious blip in infrastructure we’re just doomed.

You can picture the type of lines I’m talking about, right? The snaking back and forth with the posts and fabric “tape” that can be pulled across at various angles? During the initial rush, most people walking in orderly fashion across through the maze. Not everyone, of course. The important ones ducked under the tape. Cut through from front to back. They’re important, right?

Things devolved quickly from there. This wasn’t an orderly process at any point. It was a human press of bodies. Then came the fun shenanigans. We’d work our way a few feet along and then realize that some jackass had simply opened the line at a crossing. Oh yay! Rather than an orderly line you have one herd of idiots trying to merge with another herd of idiots. And this happens several times.

I called out a few people. Before the whole “line collapse” thing I saw a guy and his family squirt through in front of us. I rode his ass for a little while to the hoots of the crowd, but they were unashamed. Why should they be ashamed? They’re better than us! They need to get through more than the rest of us!

I felt bad at one point. I had a nicely dressed French man ask me to open the line that was beside me. I was ticked. “No, no thank you. I’m not going to stoop to their level.” He kept trying to convince me, in French, but I was just pissed and resistant. I clearly didn’t understand what he was trying to point out. Finally I turned my head to look behind me. That section of “barrier” that I was standing beside was the only one still standing. The herd had already opened all the rest. I laughed without mirth and opened it. Oh well! Just another thing. I apologized to the guy for the rest of the line for acting an ass. He was kind in his acceptance of it.

Roughly 25 minutes before our departure we got through passport control. I honestly didn’t think we’d make it and really the only reason we did was because I didn’t file out as far as they were pressing us to. I’m not sure what to think of that, frankly.

We still had to make it through the security checkpoints and take the shuttle to our actual departure terminal. We do. We arrive at our gate with maybe 10 minutes to spare. Cat had thoughtfully gotten breakfast for us since we obviously didn’t have a chance.

So, all that’s left is to scan our tickets and climb on, right? So we do. And Julia gets randomly flagged for the bomb sniffer. Cat and I made it through before we even realized she got turned back. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Obviously, since they need to be as inflexible as possible we are not able to return out with her because that would be bad. I’ll skip over the rest, but it was just an extra little smooch of delight from CDG Paris.

We finally got seated, finally can relax. Anything else?

Well sure. Can’t have a 9 hour flight without a shrieking baby in the seat directly in front of me, can we? It was honestly almost laughable after the duet of shrieking babies behind us on the way to Paris and Prague. Honestly, given the circumstances, the baby in front of me was almost angelic. His mom didn’t bring toys, food, water, or seemingly anything and spent the entire flight watching Scandal on the in-flight entertainment. The baby was very unhappy a few times on the way over but not constantly.

We landed safely after what felt like forever, our luggage showed up, we hopped into an Uber and walked in to greet our kitties. Only snag at home was instantly having to clean out the entire pantry because ants had taken over, because that’s what you want to do when you’ve just crossed the Atlantic!

I definitely missed the relative ease of Qubie.

One Comment on “The saga of the return

  1. I have only had one trans-Atlantic trip that went without any sort of hitch. Most of the time, I just assume that it is gonna be a complete Charlie Foxtrot, so I am not surprised, and I am rarely disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: