Sunday, December 29, 2013

We have arrived!

Actually, we arrived a bit ago and I am now sitting on a balcony in Lucerne, Switzerland, fighting off a cold with vitamin C and alcohol.  Karen has the same affliction except that she is a day behind or a day ahead or something.

If you have to be sick, we are in just about the most beautiful location to do it.  Of course, we'd still prefer not to be sick.

The boat was wonderful and more on that later, but it had sporadic internet.  As in, in blinked off when ever it was important and then the little swirly thing would swirl it's little heart away, content that that was all it had to do.

The flight was incredibly long.  We did have great seats in business class, but the basic problem is that they were still seats on an airplane and an airplane that you had to be on for eleven hours.

There is something life draining about being on airplanes.

I start to decay the minute I board, my hair starts to get flat and tousled at the same time (don't ask me how), my clothes start to get seedy and can see wrinkles appearing on my face.  After a few hours, people passing by my seat probably wonder why the family paid for a seat for the body rather than shipping it air freight.

The crew all look really fresh.  Of course, I have noticed how the stewardesses appear to be getting older.  Maybe they are all 22 year olds who have flown one to many international flight.

We did have individual televisions in the seat backs in front of us (I suppose we also had one in the seat fronts in back of us).  Karen likes to watch the flight map and listen to the cockpit and air traffic control chatter.  I can't do that.  First, the flight map seems endless and is a constant reminder that, even at 550 miles per hour it will be days before we arrive.  Second, I am concerned that I will hear something I'd rather not, as in "oops," or "oh, sh*&!"  I'm hoping that, if I was ever involved in an accident, the coroner will say "He never knew what hit him."

So, while Karen was diligently following the huge airplane blip (the size of Delaware) move across North America, I was checking on movies that I had missed and playing idiot backgammon (because, on a plane, I am an idiot).  I'm not sure who picks the movies to show, but you get the feeling they buy them in bulk and they don't spend much money.  There are a lot of names that sound vaguely familiar, but you dimly recall bad reviews or straight to video (or airplane, as the case may be).  Anyway, I was able to catch a couple of used to be big names in several films, I think one was "Nothing Much" and the other was "Still Nothing, Part Two".

I ate, drank, watched movies, played backgammon, tried to read and tried to sleep.  Then, bleary-eyed, I looked over at Karen's map.  We still had 6 and 1/2 hours to go.  I think time actually slows down in flight and the closer you get to your destination it goes even slower.  Ultimately, time stops before you arrive.  As we were approaching the end of the flight, Karen's map said we were 40 miles from the destination, traveling at 25,000 feet and 600 miles per hour.  I figured we'd be there in about a two minutes.  Then, perhaps a half hour later, Karen's map said we were 20 miles from the destination, traveling at 18,000 feet at 580 miles per hour.  We started to suspect that the pilot was doing squiggly turns as this went on for what seemed like days.

We eventually landed in Paris, about half an hour late, which was a bit of a problem because we had to switch airlines to make our Amsterdam connection.  These travel plans always look better when I'm planning them on paper than when we are trudging down the concourse, heavily laden with luggage, and Karen is staring at me with one of those "what have you done now" glares.

After our late arrival, customs slowed down to make up for it and we had to "claim" our "baggaaaage" (as the French call it) and look for the place to "recheck" the "baggaaaaage" for the next flight.  Of course, our "baggaaaage" consists of a "supply line for Barnum's heavy infantry".  I had purchased the tickets in advance and, thinking it was a short flight, we booked "economie" instead of "le premiere" with Air France.  As far as we could tell, everyone in France flew "le premiere" and we kept walking with our "baggaaaaaage" down the concourse passing line after line (with occasional stores and restaurants) of "le premiere".

It is times like this that Karen starts to mention things like, "If you had bought "le premiere" we'd already be in our seats."  Then, just to be cruel, "You'd probably already have a drink."

Finally, in the distance, the "economie" line.  We rushed down to it, mindful of the shortened time and jettisoned our "baggaaaaage", including a massive extra charge for a bag which Karen observed "we wouldn't have had to pay if we were on "le premiere"".  Tired and weary, we rushed to "securite'", slowed down incredibly and then re-rushed on to our gate.

At the gate, the "airplane time anomaly" again kicked in.  While trying to go through customs, find the right ticket line, check "baggaaaaage", pass through "securite'" and walk miles time flies by.

As soon as we arrive at the gate, though, time freezes.  Everything stops except for the physical aging process, which speeds up (except for Karen who always looks young and beautiful).  There are really only so many times that we can high five each other and say "we made it!"  Eventually, as time does not pass and we continue to stare at each other, we start to grumble, "Why aren't we going anywhere?"

I will not be surprised if I wake up some day at an airport gate with Rod Serling saying, "Mr. Barnum is about to enter the eternity of the "Airport Zone".

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