11 June 2008

"How to check in at the airport", 101

On Tuesday night after I finished repacking, I went downstairs and talked to the front desk guy about what time I needed a taxi to get to a flight that left at 10:20 am. The conversation started in English and moved into French once we both figured out that we both spoke French. He told me that he would call the guy and would have him at the hostel by 7:45 at the latest. It would take 25 minutes or so to get to the airport, and that would totally be enough time.

The next morning I walked out of my room at 7:36 with all my stuff. I rolled it all over to the elevator...which was out of order. I looked at my suitcases and laughed. There was no way in the world I was going to lug all that down three flights of stairs by myself. I carried the two small bags down, then went back up to get the suitcases. Just as I opened the door to upstairs a couple walked past me, grabbed something from their room, and headed for the stairs again. I had learned my lesson, I apologised for interrupting them and asked if they could help me get my bags down the stairs. They agreed and the guy reached for one of the suitcases, I got the other.

Downstairs, I waited for the taxi driver to get there. After five minutes, I grabbed a glass of orange juice. After ten, I grabbed a piece of baguette. After twelve minutes, another girl needing a ride to the airport showed up, and we agreed to share the taxi whenever he got there. He didn't come until 8:20. I forget what his name was, I'm not even sure he told us, but he bowed once he stepped into the hostel lobby. He cited two accidents on the road up to the hostel as reasons for being late. I guess I believe him.

On the way to the airport he asked me which terminals our flights were in. Neither of us had any idea, we just knew that I was Delta and she was American Airlines. He drove first to Terminal 1, and ran inside to ask. Nope. Both were in Terminal 2. He drove us up to where he knew AA to be. It was then 8:55. He helped us out of the car, apologising that he didn't know where Delta was. He asked if I wanted help with my bags, but I, envisioning a surprise charge or even just being more late, politely refused.

I walked in to the terminal and walked left, checking with an official looking woman wearing a nametag as to where the Delta Airlines check-in desks were. She told me to walk the other way. I turned around and walked the other way before stopping a man with a nametag and asking where Delta was (this is all in French by the way). He pointed me back the way I'd just come. "I'm pretty sure it's in 2E, but you should talk to the info desk lady hidden behind that wall to make sure." I found the hidden desk and sure enough, I needed to be in 2E, whereas at present I was in 2A. They're on the same side of the terminal, but on opposite ends. The woman pointed me in the right direction and told me to walk 12 minutes that way.

12 minutes later, sure enough, I found the Delta desks. I went through the mini security checkpoint, let the lady sticker my bag, and because I was flying stand-by was led out of the normal line and told to fill out a piece of paper and then to talk to the guy at desk 12. He smiled when I asked if I could borrow a pen and I thought, "Sweet! A nice French person!"

And then he looked up at me and said that he couldn't get my bags on the flight. It was too late. I asked if he was joking. He said no, but that he would call. He made two phone calls and came back with a negative. No-go for the bags. I asked him, with my snazzy use of French subjunctive, what I had to do next. He laughed at me a little (Americans don't really grasp the subjunctive, and I'm pretty sure I pronounced my conjugated verbs with a silly sort of self-satisfaction) and told me to head over to the Delta desk to see if they could get my flight changed.

I pushed my cart of suitcases and carry-ons behind all the other people happily checking in, let myself out of the barrier, and went to talk to the desk lady. Again, in French. So proud of myself. I handed over my papers and explained the situation, and in under two minutes I was set for a flight going to Cincinnati. I went back to the mini check point, and back in line for the stand-by desk. The man was gone and a woman had taken his place. When it was my turn, she just barely glanced up at me. I swear she rolled her eyes at my accent, too.

Then she handed back one of my papers and told me that she needed a date. Date? Date of entry into the company, she said. I was flying stand-by on a buddy pass from Gwen, who loves me, and I hadn't put in the date of when she started working for Delta. I looked at the page and sunk a little into the ground. I didn't know the date, much less even Gwen's last name. The woman told me to go talk to the Delta desk to see what they could do.

I knew that there was no way they were going to be able to help me if I didn't even know Gwen's last name, so I stepped again outside of the check-in area and sent my mom a text message (calling wasn't working). Then I stood there, waiting for a reply. After four or so minutes, she replied, and in less than ten I had all my information. For the third time, I made my way through mini security, where I think they were almost starting to recognize me. The woman was still there, and she took my papers this time and I was all set to go through. The only problem I had after that was that one suitcase was 20 kilos, and the other was 24. The limit is 22. A little bit of switching was necessary, but in the end I got everything onto the conveyor belt and I myself headed to real security. I almost lost my ticket on the ground, and I could barely move because of the 70 pounds of carry-on baggage I was carrying on my shoulders (yeah, it was fun dropping things on the ground and trying to pick them up without putting things down).

Once through to my gate, I had no energy left to go and buy chocolate, as I had wanted to do. That's the thing I hate about airports. You can't leave your bags anywhere. People freak out if you do, and that means that it's that much harder to go to the bathroom and to shop. Even buying a bottle of water was difficult, since of course there was a minimal amount of room between the counter and cafe-style chairs. I think I spilled a couple of drinks then. Oops.

From there everything went smoothly. I flew first class from Paris to Cincinnati (thank you, Gwen). Oh, man. If you can fly first class at all, do it, but flying internationally was just fantastic. Free movies, I got to choose my lunch, AND I got to lay down to sleep and listen to music. Best thing ever, not even joking.

Cincinnati was fine, I learned my lesson in Paris and before I even took more than one step away from the security point, I went up to the info guy and asked him which terminal my connecting flight would be in. Saved: twenty minutes of lost walking. On my flight home I sat in normal class next to an older man who talked to himself and his seatbelt. He'd put on the belt, look down at it, and mumble, "Yeah, that looks good. That's where it goes. Right there. Yeah." It was kinda...interesting. I spent my time looking out the window, trying not to fall asleep.

My family was waiting for me in Denver, as was my friend Stephanie, who hid behind a pretend tree and then jumped out at me when we walked by. We drove home and had dinner with the Rudds (enchiladas.....I don't think I've ever been so happy to eat spicey food....yum...).

No comments: