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Air Travel Leaves Little Room for One's Pride
Oh dear! It’s only 4:30 a.m., and I’m wide awake. Actually, my body’s telling me that I’ve overslept, that it’s 10:30 a.m. because it’s still on French time. At least I didn’t wake up even earlier as I’ve often done after past trips to Europe. Last year friends Bill and Jean called at 6:00 a.m. after our return and said plaintively, "We’ve been awake since 3:30!"
The problem is caused by the rapidity with which we pass through time zones. In the old days, people traveled leisurely by ship. Now there is no time for one’s body clock to adjust. Also, spending seven hours in an airplane is an assault on the nervous system.
Some people find air travel exciting. I consider it to be merely the fastest distance between two points. I’m sure that Orville and Wilbur Wright did not deliberately set out to create an instrument of torture when they invented the airplane. When I first started flying I worried about whether this thing was going to remain airborne. Now I wonder how miserable am I going to be?
One of my visions of Hell is to spend eternity crammed like cattle in the middle seat of a jumbo jet with a minuscule amount of leg room near a baby who squalls throughout the flight and with seat mates who continually wriggle and squirm and nudge me with their elbows. I envy those who are rich enough or have enough frequent flyer miles to sit in first class where the spacious seats recline.
My one goal is to sleep as much as possible so I can forget how awful it is and avoid flashes of claustrophobia. Last November a Frenchwoman took pity on me and gave me earplugs which are like a disc of wax that fill the outer ear. During our trip home this time I was ever so grateful as there were three screamers on board. I also use a sleep mask. Other people watch movies to get through the time.
Then there’s some mediocre food. Breakfast reached a new low. I didn’t think that anything could be worse than the frigid muffins that one airline serves, but it was. It consisted of yogurt, a "tropical" fruit salad of hard bits of fruit in an over-sweet juice and an egg biscuit that Bill called a "doughy lump that sank like a stone to the pit of the stomach." We’ve agreed to pack our own breakfast the next time we have an overnight flight.
Our trip home was hectic. Getting around at the huge Charles de Gaulle airport was complicated by the construction of a new terminal. One of the smartest things I ever did was to forget my pride several years ago and start asking for a wheel chair in large air ports because the distances are so long. Also, the wheelchair pushers know the ins and outs of getting there. Bill and the boys loved it when we were sent to a faster customs line.
It’s a good thing that we asked for a wheel chair at Charles de Gaulle because we would never have found the plane in time. A charming young woman rushed me through the labyrinth of corridors with Bill and the boys hurrying behind. Instead of getting on a tram to go out to the plane, the young woman pushed me onto a truck whose bed was like a big cage. She refused to accept a tip and wished us bon voyage.
We drew up next to the plane. The cage was actually a lift that raised us to the level of the plane’s door. One of the grandboys said, "I don’t believe this!" I replied, "Stick with me, kid!"Two by two we were sent across a gangplank into the plane. The crew met us there and cleared a way through the passengers who were boarding conventionally so that I felt as if I were being treated with as much pomp as Franklin Delano Roosevelt might have been.
When we arrived in Detroit and went to check in we were told that our flight to Indianapolis had been canceled. They would have flown us to Chicago to catch another flight, but we chose to be put up in a hotel and fed at the airline’s expense rather than sitting half the night in another airport.
Oh, oh, oh! The last thing that I did before leaving home was to put my wallet in a safe place as I take only essentials over seas. I don’t have the foggiest notion of what I did with it. Welcome home!
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