DC to NYC to London to Paris
23.08.2009 - 26.08.2009
DC bus to the metro, to the Chinatown bus--strike up a conversation with Japanese couple (hajimemashite, genki desu ka?) and thanks for the kleenex, as I start to get sick thanks to 65° inside after 90° outside, 5 hours of abusive air conditioning, headache, congestion, bumpy ride, can't sleep after previous nights of lost sleep making last-minute preparations...but whatever, I made it, packed and ready to go! Arrive in NYC, get on metro, switch to L train (thanks to all 4 guys who helped with suitcase on stairs!)--and hello 1st avenue and 14th!
Down to Fourth World Movement house, lovely welcome from former colleagues--hi, hi, hello, OK goodnight and off to eat 1st meal of the day. Couple of hours later with belly full of veggie couscous but head pounding, drag myself back to the house and prepare to sleep...
10 hours later, on the way to recovery, looking at to-do list, more calls, errands, etc. Finally, healing late lunch at fave NYC cafe, 24-hour Ukrainien Cafe Veselka. Devoured borscht, chicken noodle soup, perogi's, staring at eye candy (not in Kansas anymore!), phone calls--too long, too relaxed, not waching the time (why couldn't my phone have died then? alas, it lasted a remarkably long time)...ticking, ticking away, starting to feel really on vacation... suddenly realize the afternoon is over, not much time before group dinner with old colleagues, but I absolutely must cross off more from my list!! So...buy gifts, no time to have them wrapped but do it anyway --"squeeze it in!"--as if time could be squeezed. No, time doesn't want to be squeezed or hugged or pleaded with or even approached--only obeyed. Join others for dinner, of course of all the luck so many people that I hadn't seen in years are there, just by chance...how could I possibly just stop by and run? That would be rude...throwing my things together can wait, right? I'm already packed, that was part of the point of taking the bus first and leaving the next day...no stress, no rush, right? So put it off, it's worth it, such good jovial conversation with such respected people, really miss that community... isn't it about time that I left? Sure, yes, oops already past my planned time to go, ah well not supposed to take more than an hour to get to JFK right? that's what I was told. Make sure I didn't forget anything, OK really have to say goodbyes now, bye, until the next time!
Helped with damn suitcase to subway, first train, second train, OK just one more and I should be fine...waiting, waiting, where is it? Every single train in every direction arrives but the one I need, the A train to JFK!
Now, now, I'm pushing it, but time doesn't like to be pushed...at last it arrives, all the way to airport, then airport shuttle, then which terminal? (1 hour 45 minutes total) DELTA in caps on top of ticket, must be this terminal of the 3 marked Delta...rush to line, only to hear "you've missed the luggage check" and of course with my klunky suitcase there was no way around it! Different line, Delta reps taking their time, finally--anything at all you can do for me?? no! Later flight? anything? anywhere in France? anytime soon? NO, no, no! Your ticket is gone, your money is no good, your weeks of planning mean nothing to us, $2,000 for another ticket, not even available for 2 days, etc.
How could I have let this happen?? staring at the counter, the fake wood panel stares back at me. Tears, useless pleas... beyond anger and self-frustration, just emptiness with a vision of my trip like an untouchable dream, too good to be true. Almost 3 years without vacation, thankless jobs since last year but somehow I don't deserve it. How can I be angry when I'm lucky to have had the chance? So I blew it, now deal with it. Picking up pieces of my heart but leaving behind my dignity, I shuffle away. Giving up is not an option--would rather have to work a minimum-wage job upon my return than face the embarrassment of losing what I had to blab about to everyone.
In any case I ended up in the wrong terminal, it was supposed to be Air France, the one in small print halfway down my ticket...clearly! Time to find least worse remedy. Back to Terminal 1, no Air France can't help you, maybe Delta in terminal 4 but it's after midnight so wait until 4am when they re-open. Turkish guy also stuck overnight was a small comfort, kept me calm...he went to smoke and that was that. Troubled few hours of attempted rest on airport bench. 4am, wash up, go back to Delta, wait, and this time yet another response: yes of course we can deduct the amount of original ticket BUT with added $250 you-loser-we-had-to-change-your-ticket fee. Looking, looking for another way out, anywhere in or near France...still outrageous but maybe 1-way ticket? Sure, whatever...then I'll get the return later, in advance and cheaper, might as well extend the vacation while I'm at it...nothing satisfactory, try the 1-800 number. Find an outlet, recharge phone, ask again, anything, anytime soon?? Finally, finally, one possibility: London, $150 more than original ticket, 1-way, not even to Paris, leaving this afternoon--I'll take it!
Detour to Cincinnati. Mission: find a laptop to buy London-Paris ticket. Email through phone to Emmanuel, his advice: last minute, Easyjet is cheaper than Eurostar train, go figure. Young man with laptop. OK don't look too desperate. Look here's my situation...an angel with as much time to kill, waiting for his flight. Shared his time, advice, and internet. Also pointed out, lo and behold, two gates away is a Delta plane going straight to Paris. Huh, despite what all the Delta staff had told me. His mother worked for Delta, checked their internal site--a dozen seats available! Things change that fast? Or did the Delta staff not bother to tell me the truth or try to help? At the Delta info desk, nothing to lose, trying to beat logic and compassion into their skulls, to no avail. I already paid all the extra fees! The seats are empty anyway! please?? No ma'am, we must follow policies, procedures, protocol, can't risk my job, don't give a shit about empty seats or your original destination, the seats are worth more, either pay $1400 more or give it up already, blah, blah, blah. Fine then, nevermind. Thanks for your "help".
Plane to London Luton, switch terminals, train to London Gatwick...
...then wait (yes, wait...no distractions, just wait!) Plane to Paris...
...airport to RER train, switch to metro, switch to tram, at last, at last, at last, to Emmanuel's neighborhood in the 15th arrondissement.